Aldridge Out, Hughes In at FB for Notre Dame

James Aldrdige had a promising beginning to his career as fullback on Saturday.  Unfortunately for Aldridge, he suffered a fourth quarter shoulder injury that will keep the senior fullback on the sideslines this weekend when the Irish travel to Ann Arbor to take on rival Michigan.  Filling in for Aldridge will be Robert Hughes – another former tailback who will make his first career start at fullback this weekend.

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James Aldridge had a nice start to his career as a fullback, but will miss at least this weekend's game with a shoulder injury. (Photo - Icon SMI)

“He will be out this week,” Charlie Weis said in reference to Aldrdige.  “You know, they tell me a week to two weeks, so he’ll be out this week and he’ll be somewhere between questionable to doubtful next week, but he won’t play this week,” he added.

Tuesday’s news was not a big surprise considering Weis mention on Sunday that he was unsure of Aldridge’s status, but that he did have a plan B ready in case the former five star recruit was unable to suit up this weekend.  That plan B as it turns out is isn’t backup Steve Paskorz.  It’s another former tailback who like Aldridge has never taken a snap at fullback in a game – junior Robert Hughes.

“Well, in the backfield we’re going to plug Hughes into that position. Obviously Robert couldn’t play last week for the first half of the game, and by the time he was able to play in the game last week, the game was pretty well in hand,” Weis told the media Tuesday.

While Hughes may not have played any snaps in a game at fullback, Weis said that the staff has had him taking reps at the position in practice prior to Aldridge’s injury.  “We’ve had him practicing half back and run back sets, so we’ll also have a fullback and two-back sets,” said Weis.

On paper the move seems almost too obvious.  Hughes is by far the biggest running back on the team at 5’11”, 244 lbs and had begun to be buried on the depth chart at tailback behind talented youngsters Jonas Gray and Theo Riddick on top of starter Armando Allen.  In practice though, it will be interesting to see how Hughes handles the blocking assignments that will be thrust upon him this week as the full back.

Hughes athletic ability certainly gives Charlie Weis some options as a playcaller for this weekend.  Weis has long stated that Hughes has the best hands out of the backfield of any of the running backs.  Hughes, however,  hasn’t been able to duplicate the late season success he had as a runner during his freshman season over when he ran over, around, and through the Duke and Stanford defenses.

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For Aldridge, this is just the latest in a line of setbacks that have nearly derailed his once promising career.  Coming out of high school Aldrdige was seen as one of the top prep running backs in the country.  A serious knee injury suffered during his senior season, however, slowed his transition upon his arrival to Notre Dame.  By the time Aldridge was back to 100%, he was getting pressed and eventually passed on the depth chart by both Allen and Hughes.

Tuesday’s news that Aldridge would miss at least this week’s game was made all the more disappointing considering that his move to fullback last weekend was widely seen as a success.

Hopefully for Aldridge’s sake this is just a minor setback and he’s back on the field next week.  For this weekend, however, Hughes has a chance to stake his claim for additional playing time this season if he can fill in capably for Aldrdige.

I’ll have more notes from Weis’s weekly Tuesday press conference later tonight.

Barry Gallup Replaces Aldridge on the Kick Return Unit

James Aldridge was paired with freshman Theo Riddick on the kick return unit this past weekend.  In his absence, Weis said on Tuesday that Notre Dame will likely use senior Barry Gallup as the lead blocker/calming presence on the return unit.  Weis has said that he doesn’t want to place two freshmen back there at the same time so they will start with Gallup as Riddick’s return-mate.  Notre Dame has also worked Shaquelle Evans, John Goodman, and Robert Hughes on the return unit as well.

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6 Comments

  1. Chris,

    Not a hater, just a critic of Weis player development/talent recognition skills. Hughes tore it up two years ago, I love that kid, I just think he’s getting short shrift from Weis/Staff because he’s strong, has great feet for a big guy and is the only guy on the roster that can get an extra yard when its absolutely critical. He’s not a bad receiver either, certainly not as good as Gray or Allen but I honestly don’t think that technique is the issue, I think its strength/balance. Maybe Allen will get better but if I had a nickel for every time he is tackled for a 3 yard gain when we needed four………….

  2. The jury is out on Allen. Personally I think he’s good enough. I do not like how the coaches have set up the backs for the run. They need more sets where even the tailback is 1 to 2 steps closer to the line. Look at film. Often on a simple handoff, Clausen turns holds the ball out for what seems an eternity, and then the back gets rolling to take the ball. It develops so slowly that the defense knows where to converge and close the gap. No wonder the linemen look like crap. The free safety can see which hole the back is going for from 20 yards back.
    The coaches could change a few little things to give the backs a better chance.

  3. Armando Allen falls down when the wind blows hard, I’d love to see what Hughes could do with 25 carries against the evil blue. Weis has developed his running backs terribly, allen is at best a change of pace 3rd down back while aldridge and Hughes who are bot more productive, languish on the sideline. Idiocy.

    1. take your pick:

      a) 4.3 ypr, 77 rec. for 6.55 ypc
      b) 3.9 ypr, 8 rec. for 3.88 ypc
      c) 4 ypr, 17 rec. for 6.5 ypc

      also:

      a) creates mismatches, great at picking up the blitz, soft hands
      b) can pick up blitz effectively
      c) can pick up blitz effectively, good hands

      i hope you would pick “a” for for both.

      aldridge and hughes are perfect for the fullback position in this offense with allen and gray as the feature back. at first i got a chuckle from your opening line because it reminded me of all the times allen was shoestring tackled from a very long run, but then i realized you were being a hater. alford seen this happen to allen again saturday and realized it was a fundamental thing these backs were lacking and is addressing it this week. trust me, it won’t be long before allen/gray are taking them all the way. i really believe this week, gray will show us all he has to offer. the same goes for hughes as a fullback.

  4. Hughes will be good and now Weis might be able to convince him to make that move permanent. Two true running backs at fullback versus converted tight ends are a better deal and so when Aldridge comes back, I’d keep hughe sin the mix. Hughes was tough two years ago and evne last year. The kid needs to get in the game more often. The tailbakcs are deep and this really makes sense. I’d love to see a few wishbone plays.

  5. Aldridge should be back in a couple of weeks and hopefully can cap of his career by helping us beat USC. On the positive side 4 star Runningback Cameron Roberson committed and will play FB for us.

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