On Monday Charlie Weis told the media that there were five players he’s been watching closely during this early stage of training camp – James Aldridge, Mike Ragone, Dan Wenger, Darius Fleming, and Ian Williams. In each case, Weis said that he was looking for something different and was pleased with what he’s seen so far.
Here’s a quick recap of what Weis has been looking for in these players and what he had to say about their early practice performances.
- James Aldridge (FB) – Weis said that he was interested to see how Aldridge would adapt to his new fullback position. After spending his first three seasons as a tailback, Aldridge has been moved to the starting fullback postion. Weis said that he won’t look to do the same things with Aldridge as he did with 2008 starting fullback Asaph Schwapp. Schwapp was never much of a threat as a runner or receiver over the past three seasons. Weis brought up a comparison to Rashon Powers-Neal – the only fullback to be a threat in the running game during the Weis Era. Weis also praised Aldridge’s skills as a blocker stating that he does things in the blocking game much better than the other backs.
- Mike Ragone (TE) – Weis talked about wanting to see how Ragone would handle being the #2 tight end after missing all of last year. Ragone’s ability to lock down the #2 spot and be an effective blocker and weapon in the passing game will be a major factor in determining how successful this offense will be. When Weis has had two capable tight ends, this offense has been much more effective. Weis made mention that Ragone looks the best he has looked since his freshman year. He isn’t slipping in and out of breaks and is substantially bigger than he was when he arrived at Notre Dame.
- Dan Wenger (OG) – With Wenger losing his starting spot at the start of camp, Weis is watching him to see how he handles a new position and a diminished role. If his demotion can light a fire under him, it will create some great competition along the offensive line. Wenger fighting to regain his starting position
- Darius Fleming (LB) – Fleming missed all of the spring and will be playing strong side linebacker (SAM) after being a nickel defensive end last year. Despite missing the spring, he has been running with the first team defense so far with Steve Filer running with the second team.
- Ian Williams (NT) – Weis wanted to see if Williams’s conditioning was as good as he thought it would be and commented that he is in the best shape of his life. Williams stayed on campus the entire summer and really hit the weight room hard and the results are clearly evident according to Weis.
While these five players might not all be top line players this season, they are five very important players who will have a big role in determining how successful Notre Dame is in 2009. If Aldridge can play the role of Rashon Powers-Neal this year, it will make this offense much better by giving the defense another player to account for. Defensive coordinators didn’t lose much sleep over the past three years worrying about stopping Schwapp, but if Aldridge is anything close to what Powers-Neal was in 2005, he will have to be accounted for each week.
Ragone’s importance cannot be overstated even though he won’t be starting this year. This offense has been at its best when it’s been able to run two tight end sets. If Ragone can flash some of the speed he had before he injured his knee last year, he’ll give the offense another weapon to use and another weapon that will need to be accounted for.