"I felt like I was going to have a big beach body with a big upper body and no lower body," Aldridge said. "Everything is coming into play pretty smoothly now."
That knee injury kept Aldridge, who was an early enrollee, out of last year's spring football and the beginning of the season. He eventually saw limited action in the team's final seven games, but the five-star running back from nearby Merrillville, Ind., didn't make the kind of splash he anticipated when signing his letter of intent.
Aldridge was able to begin lifting his legs in January. He started out light, but by the time this year's spring practice rolled around, he felt like his old self again. A blue-chip running back ready to contribute.
"Just being able to lift my lower half is pretty much all the help I really needed," said Aldridge, who rushed for 142 yards last season, good for second on the team. "Being able to lift with no limitations.
"The running, conditioning and all the agilities, and being able to lift my lower body, those make a world of difference. Especially with me playing running back and me being able to make all the moves I want to make and everything."
The big move Aldridge wants to make is to the No. 1 spot on the Irish depth chart. Fifth-year senior Travis Thomas appears to have a hold on that spot but is getting a heavy push from Aldridge.
"I see it as fair game, everything goes," Aldridge said.
Irish head coach Charlie Weis is seeing a different Aldridge than the one he saw in the fall.
"It's like night and day from where he was at last year, because when we first got him last year he wasn't ever fully healthy," Weis said. "Even when he was ready to go during the season, he didn't have what I call fresh legs like he does now. So when you have fresh legs, when you're not worried about taking a hit, you're ready to go. And is he challenging, he is definitely challenging.
"He's big, he's powerful. He has sneaky speed, which he runs away from people. For a guy that has pretty good size to him, usually you don't see people running away from people. A lot of running backs have one gear. That doesn't mean that's not good, but they have one gear. I've seen guys with one gear be very very productive running backs. But he has a second gear. It's always good that when a guy does get to that opening, can crank it to a second gear. I don't know if I saw that very often last year. I saw the power running but I never saw really that second gear."
In the fourth quarter of a couple games last season, Aldridge would lower his shoulder and charge into the secondary for an impressive eight yard gain. Now healthy, he can hit the hole and take it all the way.
"My coach in high school used to call it my track gear, and I guess that's back," Aldridge said.
Though Aldridge didn't play much last season, the game-day experiences, and the preparation during practice has put him in the position to win the starting job this coming fall.
"Every rep helped, I think it helped extremely," Aldridge said. "Just getting used to the speed of everything, and not being surprised when I take my reps this season."
When Aldridge does take those reps this season, that knee brace he wore this past fall will be long gone.