From Right To Left

When left tackle Ryan Harris moved on to the NFL, it just seemed natural that Sam Young would flip over and man that position for the next two or three years. However, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis kept the sophomore at right tackle during the spring, where Young was the first true freshman in program history to start the season opener.

Weis and his staff wanted Young to get continue his growth at right tackle, a spot where they thought he played well and really improved at over the course of last season. Young helped protect quarterback Brady Quinn, who threw for 3,426 yards, and block for 1,267-yard rusher Darius Walker, as the Irish were selected to play in their second-straight Bowl Championship Series game.

That right tackle decision lasted all of two games this fall. Because of reasons Weis wouldn't elaborate on, he flip-flopped Young over to left tackle, and junior Paul Duncan to right tackle, for the Michigan game last Saturday. Weis said in his post-game press conference, that he expects Young to remain at left tackle for awhile.

A freshman All-American last season, it's probably permanent for the 6-foot-8, 310-pound Young.

"It's the left hand in the ground," Young said.. "I feel comfortable. Either one. So far so good on the left side.

"It's pretty much the same thing. Wherever they put me, they put me. For me, the bottom line especially when I came in here was getting on the field. From there, I'm on the field and just being a productive member of the team."

Young was certainly productive at St. Thomas Aquinas high, where he was named a first-team All-American by USA Today, and did not surrender a sack his junior or senior season. It seemed like only a matter of time before he was moved over to the glamour position of the offensive line.

"One way or another, if you don't protect the edge, the quarterback's going to get sacked," Young said. "I think that in their own respect, each position is equally important."

Young's move to left tackle could be one of the many changes Weis makes, as he tries to improve his team in the trenches. The Irish rank last in the nation in yards gained, points scored, rushing offense and sacks allowed. He played nine different linemen in the third-straight lopsided loss to open the season, the 38-0 defeat against Michigan, and said after the game that jobs were open.

***One of the jobs open this spring was the x-receiver spot opposite junior David Grimes. It took a couple weeks during the spring, but sophomore George West stepped up and earned the position.

It's a position West hasn't relinquished this fall. Though the Irish passing game has really struggled to get going, ranking 115th nationally (119.67 yards per game), West has run some good routes and made some nice catches. Through three games, the 5-foot-10, 197-pound West ranks third on the team with six receptions for 61 yards.

"Despite any plays that I feel like I've made, or any plays I feel like I didn't make, it wasn't good enough to win," West said. He had two catches for 14 yards last season, and a rushing touchdown. "And I'm not accepting that at all.

"I've grown as a receiver since freshman year. Yes I can say that, but right now it's about the team effort."

***Running back James Aldridge definitely gave great effort in the fourth quarter against Michigan. Weis said following the game that he finally saw some semblance of a running game from his team. The sophomore Aldridge was the reason.

The 6-foot, 222-pound Aldridge carried the ball 10 times, for a team-high 51 yards in the loss. In the final quarter, he ran six times for an impressive 39 yards, including runs of 10 and 11 yards. The effort catapulted Aldridge into the team's leading rusher, at 67 yards through three games. He is averaging a respectable 3.9 yards per carry in 17 touches.

"(Weis) called my number, so I went out pretty much," Aldridge said. "If I get the ball, I'm going to try and score. So that's what I did. I just went out and ran the ball hard.

"There is always room to get better. I think I ran hard, which I try to do every time I get the ball."

***John Carlson is a marked man. One of three finalists for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end, last season, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end has been double-teamed nearly every time he goes out for a pass.

Last season, Carlson hauled in 47 receptions for 634 yards, both ranking second in single-season program history for tight ends. This fall, in the Irish's stale offense, Carlson has caught only six passes for 47 yards. He caught that many passes or more, in three games last year.

Carlson said he hasn't noticed the extra attention defenses are showing him.

"Every defense is different and really every play is different," he said. "I just go out there and try and run the route, and make the block. I try not to pay attention to that stuff."

***Michigan State has won five-straight games in Notre Dame Stadium. Two years ago, Spartans players celebrated the 44-41 overtime victory by raising their school's flag into the turf, and ripping up pieces of grass for souvenirs.

"We don't need motivation from outside things like that," fifth-year senior center John Sullivan said. "We're motivated to go out and win a game."

***Aldridge and West talked about Weis sending the team back to training camp for a second time following three-straight embarrassing losses to begin the season.

"I would say the mind set," Aldridge said of the biggest change. "Coach is getting us all in the mindset where it's square one, we're getting back to the basics. So they're stressing that."

"We've been taking a lot of reps, and we've been working a lot harder," West said. "We feel a sense that we have to go out there and be a leader, everybody has to go out there and be a leader. You have to prove yourself once again to the coaches, prove yourself to the team and let them know you deserve to be out there on the field."

***Quote of the day: "It's kind of like our back is against the wall," West stated. "There's really nobody to turn to other than your teammates. And that's the biggest thing that's helping us right now. Everybody's depending on everybody, and we have nowhere to turn. We're accepting that role and we think that's the best move for us right now."

***Grimes's brother Carl is a junior receiver for Michigan State. Through three games, he has one reception for 10 yards. Top Stories