The competition wasn't stiff last Saturday. The Cardinal had the worst rushing defense in Division 1A. But the sight of Aldridge out on the field and accumulating a 6.2 yards per carry average had to be encouraging for head coach Charlie Weis.
"The fact that he came out of the game with those few touches not being sore, that means now I can give him more," Weis said on Tuesday. "You have to make sure you can give him what he can handle, first of all. I wanted to try to get him eight touches in the game. I got him four. I wanted to get him eight in the game. Unfortunately the game really wasn't put away yet. I wanted to make sure the game was put away.
"It was a nice day. The field was firm. My intent was to give him eight touches. Four was enough where I could get him in the training room, they could go check on him, see where he was. He came out of the game pretty good. I think that means you can up the ante a little bit."
That ante might spell some rest for starter Darius Walker. The junior has been carrying the load this season with 119 carries and an additional 37 receptions in the passing game for a total of 156 touches. Linebacker Travis Thomas has seen limited time back at his old position, totaling just nine carries. Freshman Munir Prince has 12 attempts for just 21 yards.
For the season, the Irish rank 86th in the country with 106 yards per game on the ground. The presence of Aldridge on the scene adds much needed depth and an added power dimension to the running game. It also helps that Thomas can stay over on the defensive side more.
"I'd say the door's still open but there's less of a need," Weis said of Thomas getting carries on offense. "I'd say the door's still open. He's going to be back out there practicing today. Now he's getting ready to go play in his next game. He hasn't played in a couple weeks on defense. Now the number one thing is get him ready to be our starting Will linebacker."
* Tuesday's press conference was heavy on recruiting news. It's no secret that Weis pores over video of opposing teams to find their strengths and weaknesses. It's part of the strong work ethic of the Irish head coach. Weis uses the same philosophy in recruiting when deciding to ask a potential recruit to come play football at Notre Dame.
"We don't offer a scholarship to anyone that I haven't watched on tape," Weis said. "We have a protocol. It's very simple. The area coach goes and finds the players. He brings the information back. We then get videotape of the players. That guy watches it first. The position coach watches it second. If we still believe he's an offerable guy, then the side of the ball watches it. If it's a defensive player, the whole defensive staff watches the guy together.
"If it gets through all three of those things and gets kind of okayed by admissions, then I watch the tape. I watch the tape and then they get mad at me because about seven out of 10 times I send them back and say, ‘I don't know what you're looking at, but we're not offering him.'"
*Speaking of that work ethic, it's common knowledge that Weis gets to the office bright and early in the morning. The actual time is not known but a good guess is between 4:30-5:00 a.m. A lot of people are still sleeping away the hours in bed. Others might be just ending the night after a long night of partying. Weis has had one such encounter with some drunken revelers.
"Probably the most interesting one I've had so far were guys on reunion weekend trying to steal my golf cart at 4:30 in the morning coming back from the bars," Weis said. "I looked at them and I said, ‘What the hell are you doing?' ‘We're trying to steal the golf cart.' I said, ‘It's mine.' I actually put them on my golf cart and drove them over to the dorm and piled them into a garbage can, got them back there."
*The head coach of Notre Dame is always going to be a popular figure on the national stage. The situation, in turn, leads to Weis getting a ton of mail from fans. Some of it's good and some of it's bad. It's the same for any celebrity. Weis acknowledged on Tuesday to receiving mail from fans but there's a selective process as to which ones he reads.
"I ask not to be given the mail," Weis said. "How is that? I only answer mail as it pertains to more personal issues, somebody dying, somebody sick, some kid's going through a tough time, his dad is in Iraq. Those are the ones that I ask for. I really don't care what people think positively or negatively because what can I do about it? I can't change their opinion. My job is to try to do as best as I see fit to run the program accordingly.
"What will happen, if I read them, I'm going to start getting mad at people I don't even know. You think about it; I just can't spend the time and energy doing that."