Great Problem To Have

Imagine being a kid and being told that you only have 60 minutes to play with five toys. On top of that, during that same 60-minute span, you wouldn't be able to play with any of those toys at all. That tough situation is just what Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis is dealing with regarding his running backs this season. He has limited number of snaps to choose when to play five talented runners.

Unlike that kid, Weis's problem is a good one to have.

"We have a lot of running backs who can play and I'll figure it out," Weis said last week. "But right now it's too premature because we have five halfbacks that you could put on the field and win with any five of them. Now obviously, you can't play five running backs, but it's a little too early to etch in stone that Travis (Thomas) is going to get every snap or, ‘Hey, that Armando Allen is fast, let's give him every snap or everywhere in between; that Robert Hughes is 237 (pounds), let's give him every snap.' I haven't even mentioned James (Aldridge) or Junior (Jabbie). I would say the running back position is the one position I'm not worrying about too much. I'll figure out what to do when it gets closer to game time."

You can tell by listening to Weis talk that the Irish rushing attack will average more than the 125.69 yards per game (72nd in the nation) they put up last season.

The departed Darius Walker was a talented runner last season, gaining 1,267 yards, but it doesn't appear that he will be missed this fall. Imagine for one second if he would've chose to come back for his senior season and go after the school's all-time rushing record, how stacked the backfield would be.

Weis will have a favorite toy or featured back in his offense, but with each guy bringing something different to the table, players can find their way onto the field in certain situations. Based off the first two depth charts handed to the media, Travis Thomas has been running number one, with the other four guys not knowing who number two is. Offensive coordinator/running backs coach Michael Haywood said that's how you keep things competitive in practice. The others have been getting equal reps.

When given the chance during his career, Thomas has shown that he can be a reliable runner. Just ask Washington, USC and Navy. Aldridge admits to lying about his health last season, but says he is finally 100 percent this season. The myth of Armando Allen's speed continues to grow, that now he is faster than Chuck Norris. Junior Jabbie looked great in the spring game, and Robert Hughes is a tailback in a fullback's body. All these guys can catch the ball out of the backfield, so the flexibility these guys bring to the depth chart makes this offense very dynamic.

"Everybody has their little flair," Aldridge said. "It's always good to see other talent. Everybody has their little flair that they add to the offense. We kind of pick up things from each other. Coach Haywood is such a good coach. You just try to listen to whatever he teaches you and bring it out on the field."

What the Irish offense will look like this fall is anybody's guess, and Weis has always said he is a game-plan coach, so his attack is tough for the opposition to prepare for anyways. But expect a lot of running and screens to utilize the offensive's strength. Depending on who's up on the schedule, one runner could rush for 100 yards one week, and only touch the ball five times the next Saturday.

Haywood said all five backs deserve to be in the game plan, so all five backs will be involved in some type of play package.

"You try to get guys involved in the game plan," Haywood said. "It may be on special teams or on offense. I think that as long as you get guys involved in the game plan, they have a tendency to be happy. You really don't worry about the number of touches that they may want. You worry about the number of touches that helps our team be successful."

Seven times the Irish started games last season with three receivers. One formation you never saw was two tailbacks on the field at the same time. That's a possibility, as is seeing backs motion to a wide receiver spot. With an offense returning just four starters from last season, expect to see simple plays like swing passes to a back that have big play potential.

One thing is for sure, the ability the running backs have could make Weis as happy as a kid in a candy store on game day. Top Stories