Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – Saturday not only marked the fifth win of the season for Notre Dame, but it also marked the debut of highly touted freshman running back James Aldridge. Aldridge, a consensus top 100 player a year ago, only got four carries, but he showed a lot of promise and should continue to see more carries as the year progresses.
Charlie Weis had hoped to get Aldridge into the Purdue game after Aldridge was cleared to play after coming off a knee injury, but messy field conditions made Weis think twice. Not wanting to put his freshman in a position to potentially reinjure his knee, Weis waited till this past weekend when he could ease him into some contact situations.
There’s been a lot of talk and I’ve gotten a number of emails about Aldridge wasting a year of eligibility by playing meaningless action, but this is just the start for Aldridge this season. Simply put, Aldridge is the most highly touted back to grace the Notre Dame sidelines in a very long time.
There was no wasting of eligibility with Aldrdige’s four carries for 26 yards. This is a very talented back, and if he lives up to the hype, there is no way, baring injuries, that Aldridge would have come back for a fifth year – he’s simply too talented.
Getting Aldridge healthy and some carries is huge for the Notre Dame offense. All season long, one of the major problems with the Irish ground attack was a lack of depth.
Most top 10 teams generally do not count on a single back as much as Notre Dame depends on Darius Walker. Sure, top teams have go to backs, but they also have other backs that they can use throughout the game to give their star back a rest.
Up to this point in the season, the only half back other Darius Walker to get meaningful carries prior to Saturday when Munir Prince saw some real carries in the first half of the game. Prince despite having a ton of potential and game breaking speed, is not suited too well to be more than a third down back. Prince showed a great burst with the ball in his hands Saturday, but with his size, he goes down on first contact.
In contrast to Prince, Aldridge is already a good sized back at 6’0”, 210 lbs and is built to handle a larger share of carries at this point. He also showed nice cutting ability and some power in his brief appearance Saturday.
If Aldridge can keep the knee healthy, he can develop into a number two back that could see around 10 carries a game and lessen the burden on Darius Walker allowing the junior tailback to be fresher throughout the game.
Bottom line here is Notre Dame fans should be very excited about seeing Aldridge line up in the backfield for the Irish more and more as the season moves on. Notre Dame has not had a back with this kind of potential in a while. Even Julius Jones, who turned in a stellar senior season after an up and down career, did not come in with this much hype.
James Aldridge is going to be a great back before all is said and done in his Notre Dame career and we got a glimpse of that Saturday. Granted he only got four carries, but in looking at him on that final drive I got the same feeling I had when I saw Julius Jones get some garbage time carries as a freshman.
The lack of depth at running back really can’t be stressed enough. If Notre Dame is to seriously challenge for the national title this year, they are going to need a running game that can run for at least 100 yards against teams other than Purdue and Stanford; and Aldridge could be a major piece of the puzzle for the Irish ground game.