CHARLOTTE, N.C. – An inexperienced Jimmy Clausen has been thrown into a starting job probably before he was ready and surrounded by a suspect supporting cast. It's produced plenty of mistakes and zero victories.
Forgive Clausen if he feels his rookie season with the Carolina Panthers is a replay of his freshman year at Notre Dame.
Even the miserable 0-5 record is identical.
"I've been in this situation before," Clausen said.
It's that humbling experience with the Fighting Irish in 2007 that Clausen is using to keep his confidence from plummeting with the Panthers. Given the starting job after Matt Moore committed six turnovers in two games, Clausen is off to a rough start.
The second-round draft pick has completed 47.3 percent of his passes for one touchdown and three interceptions. He's fumbled seven times and lost three, and the Panthers are averaging a league-low 10.4 points and 236 yards a game.
"I've been through that whole scenario of not being as good as you want to be and not winning the games you want to win," Clausen said. "You've just got to keep fighting through it. Strong people will come out in the end and be victorious."
Clausen was one of the most-hyped college recruits, coming from a family of quarterbacks and never losing a game in high school in California. His decision to attend Notre Dame drew plenty of attention, and he was promoted to starter in the second game of his true freshman season.
Things didn't go well. Notre Dame managed 24 points in his first three starts. He finally threw his first touchdown pass in his fourth game, but it wasn't enough in a 33-19 loss to Purdue to drop the Fighting Irish to 0-5.
"There are some times when I was doubting myself," Clausen said. "Whether I could play at this level in my freshman year at Notre Dame, whether I made the right choice to go to Notre Dame or not. There was just a lot of negativity going through my mind."
Clausen said friends and family kept him positive, and there was some improvement later in the season as Notre Dame finished 3-9.
Now he hopes to use that experience again with Carolina (0-5) heading into the bye week off to its worst start in 12 years.
"The biggest thing I took from that is just keep battling, keep grinding, keep going out there and having a smile on your face," Clausen said. "That's going to turn over to the rest of the team. And even though you guys aren't winning, it's just a matter of time until you get to that point where everything starts clicking."
If Clausen needed any more reminders of how eerily similar things are to 2007, new Panthers receiver Devin Thomas provided him a memory when he showed up this week as the latest addition to Carolina's ragtag receiving unit.
Thomas, waived by Washington last week, caught a touchdown pass for Michigan State in a 31-14 victory three years ago that dropped the Fighting Irish to 0-4.
Thomas said Clausen was one of the first people to send him a text message after Carolina claimed him Monday.
"He knew we beat up on Notre Dame and he was happy I was on his side," Thomas said, smiling.
Even if Thomas can contribute and Steve Smith returns quickly from a sprained ankle, a struggling offensive line and defenses clogging the box with run-stoppers to force Clausen to throw will make it difficult to turn things around.
But Clausen insists the fall of 2007 will prevent him from getting rattled.
"Not losing a game in high school and going to Notre Dame and, 'What am I getting myself into?' It was definitely tough," Clausen said. "I'm to the point now where I try to stay even keel. Don't get too high or too low."
Notes: The Panthers scattered after Thursday's practice for a three-day weekend that came after a warning from coach John Fox for players to "make good decisions." ... Fox was trying to keep the mood positive. "We put a lot of time and effort in this," he said. "I know sometimes on Sunday it may not appear like it."