Weis Finds His Ace, and a Schmidt

Head coach Charlie Weis had been on Asaph Schwapp all spring. When he wasn't, it was offensive coordinator Mike Haywood being tough on the Notre Dame fullback, wondering where the old Ace was. On Monday before practice, Weis pulled the two-year starter, who is coming off a knee injury that ended his sophomore season prematurely, aside to let him know he hadn't been performing up to par.

From the way Monday's practice went, Schwapp should have those two guys off his back for awhile.


"(Monday) was the best day he's had all spring, and there isn't anybody that was out there at practice (Monday) that wouldn't of said the same thing," Weis said. Schwapp played in the team's first two games last fall before having knee surgery. "(Monday) was his best day. I've been not so nice to Asaph recently and he had a very positive response (Monday). It was the best day he's had. You saw no signs of a limited Asaph (Monday)."

The 6-foot, 255-pound Schwapp has now had three weeks of spring ball to work the rust off. During camp, Schwapp admitted to feeling a little sorry for himself, and wasn't playing like the guy the coaches were accustomed to seeing. Weis's chat with him on Monday was the final straw.

"I needed some motivation, I was struggling coming right off the bat," Schwapp said. "He gave me some motivation and I think it helped a lot."

Good thing, because when Schwapp wasn't playing like the old Ace, sophomore Luke Schmidt has been impressing the coaching staff with his play, creating heavy competition at fullback. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Schmidt didn't play last season, adjusting to his new position after being the featured back at Jasper (Ind.) High.

"That Asaph-Schmidt competition, that's a nice competition," Weis said. "That's a competition for one that might go deep into (fall) camp."

"I think both of them are doing a pretty good job as they exhibited today in run blocking, and catching the ball out of the backfield, and doing a few more things with chip blocks and those things we sometimes have to do with the offensive line," Haywood explained.

The last time Schmidt played in a football game, he was the featured back, leading his team to the state semifinals, running for 2,239 yards and 32 touchdowns. It was his second straight season rushing over 2,000 yards.

On top of getting used to not carrying the rock on a regular basis, Schmidt was trying to put the playbook and the terminology together.

"It's a little bit different coming from high school when you get it 20-25 times a game or whatever, but it's a new role. I'm not top dog like I was in high school, not to be cocky or anything," Schmidt said. "The college game is a lot faster and it's a whole different ballgame.

"I just improved every day. Over the winter I think I improved my strength and my speed a lot, and I think that helped a lot. I feel like I'm a little faster than I was last year. It just seems like I've improved my blocking a lot. I think coming in last year, playing tailback all through high school, it was a big change to switch to fullback. Obviously it was going to take time and I think just repetition and repetition makes my blocking a lot better."

"He's played himself into the mix more," Weis said, going as far to say that whether he is the starter or not, he will be playing for sure in the fall. "I think that last year, when Asaph went down, it left us with Ashley McConnell and nobody else really, the way things were going. At least the position we are in now, we have more depth with quality players at that position. That's a very very strong positive."

It was basically just Schwapp his freshman year as well, where he gained 67 yards on 22 carries, but was primarily used to block for Darius Walker, who rushed for 1,196 yards.

Schwapp began to see some positive signs last week when he took his first hit and popped back up. Then there was Monday's practice, finally giving him his confidence back.

"It gets frustrating at times because there is rust from you not being on the field," Schwapp said. "I knew it was going to be a slow process but you get impatient at times. I've just been trying to keep on task, keep getting better everyday and making my little progress when I do."

And help Weis and Haywood find their Ace.

"Coach Haywood and Coach Weis were always asking me where is the old Ace at," Scwhapp said. "I just used it as motivation. I don't let it get to me. I try to stay determined, try to make progress."

He has, and so has Schmidt.

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