Notre Dame’s First Early Enrollees “Setting in Nicely”

Notre Dame, Ind ( — While addressing the media Tuesday, Charlie Weis talked about Notre Dame’s three early enrollees — Chris Stewart, James Aldridge, and George West — stating that all three were doing well academically and are setting in nicely.

The development of Aldridge, Stewart, and West both academically and athletically is extremely important for the upcoming season and Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts the next few seasons which make these early reports from Weis very encouraging.

Athletically, all three could see the field in 2006 which makes their off-season conditioning with Rubin Mendoza very beneficial while participating in Spring drills will give them a jump start on learning the offense.

The head start on learning the offense is really key for these guys, but don’t expect the staff to take it easy on them. “As was mentioned previously, you need to throw a lot at them and see what sticks. One of the opportunities we have is that we have a veteran offense. We’re able to input a lot of things on the first day. These guys have to pick up on it as we go,” said offensive coordinator Mike Haywood on Notre Dame’s 3 early enrollees.

Stewart, the mammoth offensive lineman, should see plenty of action this Spring with just 7 healthy, scholarship offensive linemen until the other five freshman linemen report to Notre Dame this summer. “Having that extra semester to be involved with Rubin Mendoza, in our conditioning program, is going to pay great dividends come August and September,” said Weis of Stewart.

George West also finds himself in a position where low numbers will allow him to see some extensive action this Spring. Jeff Samardzija will only be participating in six of the 15 Spring sessions while playing baseball for ND. Sophomore DJ Hord meanwhile could miss the majority of the Spring due to injury. That leaves West as one of five scholarship wide receivers in Spring camp when Samardzija is with the baseball team.

At running back, Aldridge will come in and immediately be the 3rd running back with Justin Hoskins nursing a shoulder injury and Darius Walker and Travis Thomas the only healthy returning backs for the Irish. Aldridge was one of the most highly rated running backs out of high school last year and with his talent, combined with his early start, it will be hard to keep him off the field in 2006.

Travis Thomas established himself as a legit #2 running back last year, but much like Kevin Grady at Michigan last year, it will be hard to keep him down on the depth chart. Aldridge could be the backup to Darius Walker when the season starts with a full spring and fall camp to learn the offense.

Even if he does not surpass Thomas, he will see plenty of action this Spring which will give Notre Dame depth it did not have a season ago. Weis like, many Irish fans is “really anxious to get a good look at James (Aldridge). Justin’s (Hoskins) banged up anyway; (which) gives James a lot more of an opportunity to get into the mix faster.”

These three are trailblazers for Notre Dame and will get a lot thrown at them from the get-go as Haywood stated. According to Weis all signs so far point to them being able to handle it and adjusting well which is good because their success on and off the field this year is extremely important to Notre Dame’s success in the standings and in recruiting.

All three of these players will be providing some much needed depth this year and could see the field next year as true freshman. Academically, their success will allow Weis to recommend more recruits for early enrollment this year and in future years which will greatly benefit Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts.

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