Duke Hard After Top Midwest RB

As the Blue Devils continue to inch their way back to ACC respectability, the focus on recruiting stars becomes more and more crucial. Last year the Blue Devils hauled in their top recruiting class of the last few years. This season Duke is again targeting the best players early and digging in for a long battle. One such prospect is among the nation's top running backs.

"I've got offers from around 15 schools I think," says Merrillville (IN) High School star runner James Aldridge. "Right now I know I've got one from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Duke, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Purdue, Nebraska and Missouri. I like Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State a lot, but I'm open to everyone."

And so, despite being absent from this 6-foot-1, 215lbs star's early list of top choices, the Blue Devils have none the less begun the process of working towards finding favor. The usual pitch of Duke's combination of academics and athletics has been examined early on, and then there is familiar retort of all top Duke prospects:

"I think Duke is on the rise as a program," says Aldridge. "They just need to keep recruiting top players. They think I am one of those, and that I can come in and help them early."

That the coaches believe Aldridge can help early is no surprise after a junior season that yielded 2,067 yards and 20 touchdowns on 281 carries. He also caught 11 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns, and even completed one pass for 36 yards. But he's not all about the numbers.

"I like to block whenever I can at running back. A lot of people don't expect me to be as fast as I am for my size, but I'm real quick. I've got great vision because a lot of the stuff that I do when I run the ball, for some reason, I don't remember actually doing it. You know what I mean? I always leave room for myself to improve and get better."

Sporting a 3.0 grade point average, but having yet to take a standardized test, Aldridge says he, like many in his situation, is looking for a school where everything just falls into place. He'll have to look fast as he's targeting a spring semester enrollment in early 2006.

"I'm looking to graduate early, so I'll try and have this done by the summer," he added.

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