James Aldridge never envisioned playing fullback when he came to Notre Dame, but heading into his senior season, Aldridge is ready to do whatever he is asked to help the team.
And before spring practice started, Aldridge was asked what he thought of taking some reps at fullback when he is not at tailback.
“They kind of just threw it out there and asked me how I feel about it,” said Aldridge. “I said, ‘Look, whatever you all want to do, let’s do it. And especially if it’s going to help the team.’”
Aldridge split time at tailback with Armando Allen and Robert Hughes, who are both in the class behind him, in 2008 and with a similar looking depth chart heading into 2009, the coaches thought the added role would be a way for him to see more playing time.
“We've talked to James about if getting closer to the end of his career here, and he was buried behind Armando or if he got behind Robert and rather than sitting there in third, we talked about using him as a regular fullback,” said Charlie Weis.
Aldridge has no problem with it.
“I’m embracing it. I think it’s an opportunity for me to get on the field,” said Aldridge. “Whatever they say, I’m going with it.”
Aldridge’s new position coach Tony Alford has been impressed with the way the senior has handled the situation.
“James is a great kid, he had a great attitude about it,” said Alford. “He took some reps at fullback [on Monday.] It’s new to him obviously, so there’s going to be some growing pains there for him. But he’s a tough guy, he wants to play, he wants to help this football team be successful. Hopefully it will be a good move for him and for the football team.”
Alford stressed that Aldridge was not being moved to fullback full-time.
“It’s not wholesale, all playing fullback,” said Alford. “He’s going to be playing H as well, he’ll be playing some tailback as well. He’ll be in a dual role.”
Aldridge, who stands at 6-foot, 225 pounds, is slight smaller than Hughes, who checks in at 5-11, 237, but the Notre Dame coaches felt Aldridge was the better fit at fullback.
“James is much more of a straight-line guy, in a lot of ways,” said Alford. “So that’s a guy that we said if we had a guy that we could maybe move around and do a couple more things with. Again, that’s not to take him out of the tailback role, that’s just integrating him more into the offense in a different capacity.’
Aldridge believes that his experience and aggression also made him a candidate to take on the responsibility of learning another position.
“I’ve grasped the offense so I think that has a lot to do with it,” he said. “Me being relentless in my style of play, that has a lot to do with it too.”
Aldridge trusts that his coaches will only do what is best for him and for the team.
“I know they’ve got my best interests, for the team and for myself, at heart,” he said. “So I’m just going with it. I like it a lot.”
When Asaph Schwapp decided not to apply for a fifth year of eligibility, junior Steve Paskorz was left as Notre Dame’s only scholarship fullback, prompting the staff to look for other options. Although Schwapp did not get the ball much when he played, Aldridge could be a threat as a runner and a receiver.
“I’ll try to find my way to get the ball,” he said. “We have the opportunity to create some mismatches now, that’s a big deal for the offense.”
Not only does Aldridge have two positions to learn now, he also has two groups of players to compete with, but that’s another positive the way he sees it.
“Now I’m competing with the other running backs and the other fullbacks. It’s fun, I like it that way,” he said. “My life has kind of been a grind here anyway since I walked through the door. Just more of a grind, I like it.”