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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Summer football studies paying off

WV QB immersed himself in weight, speed training and game films

West Valley quarterback Drew Clausen looks for a receiver at practice Tuesday. He is a double threat to pass or run and is the key for the Eagles bid to win the Great Northern League title. (J. BART RAYNIAK / The Spokesman-Review)
West Valley quarterback Drew Clausen looks for a receiver at practice Tuesday. He is a double threat to pass or run and is the key for the Eagles bid to win the Great Northern League title. (J. BART RAYNIAK / The Spokesman-Review)
Steve Christilaw

Drew Clausen made himself faster over the summer. Meanwhile, the game of football has slowed down for him. That adds up to a 3-0 start to the 2009 season for the West Valley Eagles.

The first-team All-Great Northern League quarterback a year ago, Clausen put in a summer of hard work to make himself better. Hours in the weight room made him stronger. Speed training with assistant football and head track coach Vic Wallace made him about a half-second faster in the 40-yard dash. And a healthy dose of film study has made him more decisive.

“I think the game has slowed down for Drew,” West Valley coach Craig Whitney said. “I think he’s making his reads faster and recognizing what defenses are doing more quickly. That makes a big difference.”

Clausen agreed.

“That’s true,” he said. “I’m a lot more confident in my decisions. Last year I’d know that I needed to take off and run, but I’d second-guess myself and try to hang in and try to find someone to throw to.

“I’m making my reads faster and making my decisions faster.”

That’s where the long hours breaking down game films pay off, he said.

“My dad is a football coach at Mt. Spokane, so I’ve been studying game films since I was little,” he said. “But it used to be that I would just look for what defenses were doing and what coverages they were in.

“Now I’m looking for more and picking up more. I’m looking at tendencies with defenses – who’s too aggressive and who gives a cushion. I’m finding more and more stuff that I can use in a game.”

That’s what you come to expect from the son of a football coach.

“A coach’s kid has a big advantage coming in,” Whitney said. “They’ve just grown up in the game. My son is 9 years old and in his second year playing football. Already he’s saying ‘hey dad, throw me a fade pattern’ or ‘throw me a post.’ “

Once he makes his decisions, Clausen said, the hard work in the weight room pays dividends.

“I think my first step is quicker and I’m harder to bring down than I was last year,” he explained.

There’s a difference in the passing game, as well.

“I think it’s just a case of Drew being more decisive,” Whitney said. “He’s setting up with more confidence, making his reads and delivering the ball with more authority.”

Already this season Clausen has rushed for a half-dozen touchdowns – four of them of more than 40 yards, including a 70-yard dash for a touchdown against Lakeside and a 69-yard scamper last week against Riverside. He’s thrown for two touchdowns and returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown.

This year Clausen is playing defense – another change from a year ago that pays dividends.

“Last year I just played offense, so I’d come off the field and beat myself up for throwing an interception or not making a play somewhere,” he said. “Now I’m playing defense and that takes my mind completely off of what just happened on defense. I’m getting out of my own head and just playing football and I love doing that.

“When we get the ball back, I can go back in the huddle and concentrate on what we need to do with a fresh mind.”

Film study has helped on defense, too, he said.

“I saw them run this route on film and recognized it when I saw Riverside run it in the game,” Clausen said. “I sat back, jumped the route and took it to the house. That was fun.”

This week’s practice was especially intense, the quarterback said. A showdown at home against visiting Clarkston loomed large.

“It’s been 10 years since we’ve beaten Clarkston and I want a win against them,” Clausen said. “They always come in with a big team, a physical team and a hard-running rushing game.

“But this year, we’re doing the same thing. We want this one.”

Clausen finds himself wanted by potential colleges.

“I’ve talked to a few coaches and they’ve told me to not even worry about all of that until after the season – just go out and have fun and play football,” he said. “I want to play college football, but I don’t think I’ll play quarterback in college. I can always play in the slot or something like that – I’ve always loved playing offense.”

Whitney disagrees.

“He doesn’t have the numbers big schools look for in a quarterback – he’s not 6-foot-4,” he said of his 5-10 quarterback. “But I think Drew can definitely play quarterback in college. It would have to be at a smaller school, but I can definitely see him doing that.”

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