News and Notes: 10/31/2007

James Aldridge

Sophomore James Aldridge did not play in the 38-0 loss to USC. Aldridge suffered a high ankle sprain in the loss to Boston College and wasn't healthy enough to give it a go for the Trojans contest. Head coach Charlie Weis said if Notre Dame did have to play last weekend, it would have been up in the air as to whether the sophomore would have been able to go.

But now, Aldridge, who is the team's leading rusher with 249 yards, will be ready for this weekend's contest against Navy.

"He's back and ready to go," Weis said of Aldridge. "It was encouraging watching him run around. I let him know last week that on Monday it was important for him to get out there and run around. Judging by yesterday, he's ready to go."

***The brother of Notre Dame running back Robert Hughes unexpectedly passed away, Irish head coach Charlie Weis informed the media at the beginning of Tuesday's press conference. Earl "Tony" Hughes passed away and Robert's uncle came to campus to pick up the freshman on Tuesday morning to take him back to his hometown of Chicago.

Weis said the Hughes' family is in the Notre Dame family's thoughts and prayers. The freshman running back is third on the team with 42 rushing yards and has one of the two touchdowns on the ground for the Irish. Weis told Hughes to come back to campus when he's ready to come back.

"Anytime something like that happens, how can you give him a time frame?" Weis asked. "He might be back tomorrow. He might be back next week. I made sure we covered ourselves with academics. But when a tragedy like that happens, the most important thing you can do is worry about the kid and not him as a football player."

***Weis said after the USC contest that he would try to get more players into the mix in these final four games of the season. The hope is to build these players' experience and confidence heading into the off-season and spring practice in March. But the experimentation and finding out what works won't come in games. That'll happen first during the week on the practice fields.

"You do that more in a practice than in a game," Weis said. "You put them in those situations there because in a game, I can't be thinking, ‘Well, who is out there on this play?' I don't even know if Armando is going to be out there or not unless I say, ‘Regular Armando.' The important thing is that when you get to a game, you can game plan a specific thing but normally you're calling plays as the game takes place."

Of the 18 players in the freshmen class, 11 of those have seen action on game days. During the bye week, some of these players got a few extra reps in practice. It's still up in the air as to whether the seven freshmen who haven't played on Saturday yet will see action in the final four contests of the year.

"I don't know how many more will join the mix," Weis said. "I do know that more than 11 can play. That was pretty obvious. There's a couple of those guys, like a few of those lineman, that can play. Emeka (Nwankwo) hasn't played yet. Emeka can play. There's definitely guys that can play but you just have to pull the trigger on that one way or another."

***Notre Dame has been downright bad in the first half. The Irish have been outscored 137-24 in this time period through eight games. Another bad sign is this stat from the Navy media notes: the Midshipmen are 22-2 in their last 24 games when they've scored first. The only two losses came in overtime, one to Tulsa in 2006 and the other to Ball State this season.

"You better hang right from the start and then things hopefully settle down," Weis said.

***This will be defensive coordinator Corwin Brown's first go-around with the option offense this year. Up to this point, Notre Dame has seen all types of systems, from Michigan State's power running game with Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick to Purdue's spread attack. The Irish have an asset in defensive line coach Jappy Oliver, who coached at Navy from 1984-86 and Air Force from 1995-2002.

"Coach Oliver has been around the option game the most," Weis said. "Obviously, Coach (Bill) Lewis has been more indoctrinated in it the past few years. But we've leaned on Jappy and some on his resources this week. He's definitely the one who has had the most familiarity with this system."

***An interesting stat: the Navy defense has not forced a Notre Dame punt since the fourth quarter of the 2004 game. In the contest at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, D.J. Fitzpatrick punted with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter. It's a time span of 126 and 20 seconds in the rivalry series.

***Weis on facing two straight option offenses in a row after a bye: "Air Force is a little different. They've been throwing the ball a little more. We haven't spent anytime on Air Force. In the past, what I would do is prepare for some of this stuff in training camp. But because the bye week was set up right before the Navy game, it gave you an opportunity to hold off until now. Anytime for there to be a connection going into the next time, that would be a good time to have a connection."

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