Schwapp is a Big Man

Watching the Notre Dame running backs hit the sled during drills, not one of them comes close to driving the thing like sophomore fullback Asaph Schwapp. The sled goes up in the air and slams back down into the turf, bouncing up and down in noisy fashion.

That power is what earned the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Schwapp a major role as a true freshman. It's that same power that has the Notre Dame defense wanting to skip short yardage drills in practice.

"It's kind of fun when we give him the ball," head coach Charlie Weis said. "He is one of the guys we are going to give the ball when we get into a pound it mentality. The defense is not very happy when that situation occurs. He might only get two yards, but somebody's going to get hit."

Schwapp's got his mind right when it comes to hitting. He thrives on it. He can't wait to throw his body into an opposing defender, clearing the way for tailback Darius Walker, or to protect quarterback Brady Quinn.

"I like to think that before every play, just get myself prepared to go out and kill somebody," Schwapp said.

Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood has made Schwapp a very dangerous man, teaching him how to drive through the defender.

"When I make the impact, I have my same leg and same shoulder forward at the same time to keep my leverage," Schwapp explained. "It's a slight edge. I learned that from coach Haywood last year."

Schwapp arrived on campus from Hartford, Conn., as the only running back in last year's class. The state Gatorade Player of the Year averaged five yards per carry en route to 1,110 yards. Schwapp noticed when he was almost dismantling the sled that he would never be the featured back at Notre Dame, and he doesn't care.

"My technique wasn't too good right off the bat hitting the sled," Schwapp remembered. "As the season progressed, I noticed myself getting better and better hitting the sled. I realized that would be my calling, just lead blocking. I'm ok with that."

Schwapp helped pave the way for Darius Walker to rush for 1,196 yards last year, the sixth-highest single-season total in Irish history. Schwapp had 27 carries for 67 yards, most touches coming in short yardage. He also caught three passes for 22 yards.

The beast that he is, Schwapp still struggled in short-yardage situations, most notably against Michigan State when he failed to pick up a key yard late in the game. He spent the spring and summer trying to get better in that department.

"I try to understand my reads better, working on my cutback abilities and things like that," he said.

The weight room is another place Schwapp has put in a lot of work, not that he needed to make a lot of improvement.

"The first thing that stood out to me about Asaph is just his incredible size," Walker said. "He is really like a mini bodybuilder. You really don't see guys with muscles of his magnitude, especially that early. I think he is only 18, 19 or something like that now, and he is bench pressing almost like 500 pounds. So it's really incredible to find a player and a guy like that, who still has so much more to grow."

Weis said that Schwapp was pound-for-pound the strongest guy on the team. Schwapp struggled to think of anybody that was stronger than him. After thinking he said, "In different lifts there are people who are stronger than me, but on bench I am number one."

Schwapp didn't do any hand cleaning or power cleaning before he started the Ruben Mendoza plan. Notre Dame's strength and conditioning coordinator has added a lot of strength to a very thick guy. Schwapp squatted 550 pounds before they had him stop. "I could have done a lot more," he said.

Schwapp said all the cleaning has helped with his blocking, his explosion.

Things didn't start to slow down for Schwapp until halfway through last season. This season he is more prepared for the upcoming campaign, and has a better understanding of what he is supposed to do.

"I think a year in the system helped me learn the playbook a lot better," he added.

The soft-spoken Schwapp appears to be a man of few words. That's why he is one of Weis' favorites.

"I'm prejudiced towards Asaph," Weis said. "He's one of the guys, he never says boo. You never have to give him the ball. He doesn't have an unselfish bone in his body. All he wants to do is hit people. That's all he wants to do. And I wouldn't want to get hit by him. "

Neither do his teammates. Lucky for them fall camp is almost over. Then its just opponents that have to worry about Schwapp. And then there's the sled of course.

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