James Aldridge was very successful in his first season at Merrillville high school after transferring from Hazelwood Central in St. Louis (Mo.). We asked Aldridge if he noticed a difference between playing football in St Louis versus playing at Merrillville.
"There's more speed and more athletes in St. Louis. Here the offensive lineman are bigger, and as a running back you have to like that," said Aldridge.
When Aldridge was at Hazelwood, he played with A.J. Jimmerson (Michigan State) and Nick Patterson (Ohio State), so he knows what it's like to play with great high school talent. Aldridge will certainly get attention from Division I schools, and as James explained, there is likely more talent at this northern Indiana school.
"There are probably three guys that are being recruited right now; our quarterback, Evan Parker, Brandon Jordan, 6-4 285-pound offensive lineman, and Dexter Larimore, 6-3, 245-pound defensive lineman," responded Aldridge. "Larimore is also the top ranked wrestler in the nation at his weight."
How about Aldridge? What schools are beating a path to his front door?
"I get mail from all over the place -- pretty much everyone is recruiting me," he said.
Aldridge explained that he's going to take his time and he's going to gather a lot of information about the schools. Since he knows a couple guys (Jimmerson and Patterson) who have gone through the recruiting process, he does have some good insight into the process.
"I did go to a junior day at Ohio State, but I'll probably skip most of the others," Aldridge said. "I went to Ohio State's because Nick Patterson was there and he was able to show me the behind the scene stuff there. Instead of going to junior days at schools, I'd prefer to go watch the teams practice. I think you end up getting a one on one interaction, and you get a better idea of the program and how the coaches work with the players.
"I'd like to see Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC, and Iowa. I'd also like to see some of the schools in the SEC, but I doubt I'll have time to do that.
"I'm not positive on camps, but right now I think I'll go to Purdue, maybe Michigan and Nebraska. Again it depends on how much time I have," he responded when asked if he would attend any summer camps.
Although James excelled at running back last year, he has played quarterback and safety in the past. In fact, his first offer came from Missouri as a quarterback. The question is: Where is he being recruited and does he have a preference as to where he plays?
"Schools were actually recruiting me more for safety last year. Now schools are recruiting me as running back or safety," he responded.
"I actually like safety as much as I like running the ball. It really doesn't matter where I play. On offense you need to have your number called in order to make a play. On defense you can make a play on every down. I like to hit, and I have the aggressive attitude for defense.
"When I carry the ball I'd rather hit you before you hit me. If a player is between the end zone and me, he's going to get run over. If I'm in the open field, I can make you miss. I think I have good hands as well.
"My dad says that I run like Bo Jackson – power and speed," Aldridge responded when asked to compare his running style with another player.
I asked James if he had seen Bo Jackson play.
"Oh yeah. Bo knows," he responded
If he is in the situation where his college coach gave him the choice to play safety or running back, which position would he pick?
"Wow, I'd really have to think about it," said Aldridge. "I guess, probably where I would have the chance to play first."
Did he have a favorite school growing up?
"My dad always liked Michigan and Florida State, so I kind of grew up liking them," said Aldridge.
With all the attention he's receiving from schools, I asked James what his opinion was of Notre Dame, and if he had any interest in playing for coach Weis?
"Well, he was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots so that's an attention getter. He has the Super Bowls and connections to pro scouts, so that's very attractive," answered Aldridge.
"I am interested in Notre Dame," added Aldridge. "Notre Dame has never been a bad program even though people make it out to be that the program has been bad, but it hasn't been."
What are Aldridge's top schools at this time?
"Purdue, Ohio State, Iowa, USC, Tennessee, Michigan and Notre Dame," said Aldridge.
"Education is obviously important. I'm going to use football to put myself into position," he added.
"I was thinking about staying in St Louis with my grandparents. But I came up here and checked things out. I liked the coaches and weight room and facilities and thought the move would work."
Comments: Aldridge is a great interview. He's well-spoken and can carry a conversation. On the field, he's probably just as good as evidenced by the schools recruiting him. He has the "I just want to play" attitude that coach 's love. I really think he's wide open right now, but I'd venture to guess that Notre Dame is a little behind a couple other schools.