West and Aldridge Hope For Bigger Impact

As Notre Dame was marching down the field on its opening drive against Purdue, George West was chirping in teammate David Grimes ear. "I was telling him if we get inside the 20, I'm going to score, it's a score for sure. I'm going to do it for you."

West was right. The Irish offense moved the ball inside the 20, and sure enough, head coach Charlie Weis called his number.

On West's first play in the game, a play that was worked on during the week of practice, the freshman from Spencer, Oklahoma took an end-around 11 yards for his first career touchdown.

West was playing because Grimes wasn't able to answer the bell with an injury.

"I hit the corner, Rhema (McKnight)made a good block and I was just excited," West said with a big grin.

"I can't even explain it. It's what I've been waiting for my whole life. For it to happen my freshman year so early in the season, I can't even explain it. All the other freshmen were asking me about it, how does it feel? I can't tell you, it's something you have to experience."

Running back James Aldridge could be the next Irish freshman to experience the thrill of the end zone. He made his debut last Saturday against Stanford after the coaches finally located him on the sideline.

"I was on the bike, they were like coach is looking for you, I was like oh for real! I'm like cool, lets get it going then."

They didn't get it going right away. Aldridge and the rest of the ND offense stood around in the huddle as NBC was running one of its many long-television timeouts.

"I was like can this take any longer, but that's how TV timeouts are," Aldridge said.

Aldridge finally got it going to the tune of four carries for 26 yards, including gains of 11 and 10 yards. On his last rush of the day, Aldridge bowled over a Stanford defender.

"I guess he was just in the way," Aldridge said with a laugh. "Football is a physical game and that's how you gotta run."

Aldridge was well aware of the anticipation for his debut from fans, his teammates and his family. His mother, who was there, told him she almost cried.

"I was like I almost cried too."

"I was pretty anxious myself, but it was a good, a sigh of relief to see the field, like a burden was off," Aldridge said.

Now both Aldridge and West will try to play themselves into more playing time.

West has started at kick returner, gaining 146 yards on seven returns (20.9 avg.) with a long of 33 yards. He'd like to impact the game more, getting reps at receiver where he is currently number five on the depth chart. He is still looking for his first reception.

"I have to pay attention to detail," West said, speaking about running precise routes and getting out of his breaks better. "I feel like I am getting better at receiver day by day. I have a bye week where I can work on my fundamentals, maybe talk to coach, watch film and go over all the little things I've done wrong. I take the bye week to learn and just get better as a receiver so I can maybe move in for the last half of the season."

West has a couple of good tutors in All-American Jeff Samardzija and ND's leading receiver McKnight.

"The problem with high school moving to college, you have to pay attention to the little things," West said. "We're all good players, we all can jump, we're all fast, you have to pay attention to the little things. Coming in early, talking with (receivers) coach (Rob) Ianello, talking with Rhema, talking with Jeff or David Grimes and people of that nature, they've kind of helped me in letting me know what I need to do to become a better receiver."

Aldridge has gained Weis' trust that he can finally play on his injured knee. Now he wants Weis to trust him as Darius Walker's back-up, a role that has yet to be earned by anyone. Aldridge is hoping he can be the guy that can spell Walker or come in and play a full series.

Aldridge knows that his size is a virtue.

"I guess I'm the heaviest back so I have to go in there in some situations," he said.

Like West looks up to the veterans at his position, Aldridge does the same thing with Walker.

"D-Walk is talented obviously so you try to soak up as much information as you can because he is just that type of back," Aldridge said. "I wouldn't say mimic him, but pick up some good traits because every back has their own style about them."

One of the main reasons why Aldridge and West are ahead of their classmates when it comes to playing time, is because they came in as early enrollees. Along with offensive lineman Chris Stewart, the three were the first ever early enrollees in ND history. Getting to enroll the last semester of last year as a student, and then getting to play spring ball, were huge opportunities for those guys.

"Priceless," Aldridge stated. "I wouldn't have as much knowledge about the offense. It was kind of tough for me getting all the concepts and everything and now I'm kind of rolling with it."

"I feel like as far as growing up just from high school, growing up and actually becoming a college student, actually getting into the playbook and knowing everything, it gave me a jump start of what I needed to be a college-student athlete," West explained. "A jump start on anything is always a plus."

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