News and Notes: 10/16/2007

Sophomore James Aldridge was injured in the loss to Boston College on Saturday. The running back suffered a high ankle sprain on a rush attempt in the second quarter. Aldridge tried to come back into the game but was quickly pulled for the remainder of the contest. On Tuesday, head coach Charlie Weis said it's doubtful the sophomore running back will play this weekend vs. USC.

Since Notre Dame went back to being more physical after the blowout loss to Michigan, Aldridge has been the lead back. The sophomore leads the team with 249 yards on 67 carries. Aldridge does not have a rushing touchdown this season as the Irish as whole have just three scores on the ground.

With Aldridge doubtful, this means more reps for the other running backs against the Trojans fifth-ranked rush defense. Freshman Robert Hughes and Armando Allen both will be getting their first taste of the USC rivalry. Allen is second on the team with 126 rushing yards while Hughes scored a touchdown against Michigan State. Weis said expect a little more out of Travis Thomas in the rotation. The fifth-year senior has only 18 carries on the year.

"I think that we would go a little heavier with Travis being involved in this mix, more than he has this year" Weis said. "I think that that would be part of that combination. I'm not saying by committee, but I think that he would probably take off some of the pressure of James, and obviously Robert and Armando would be much more involved."

***Weis said that both Maurice Crum and David Grimes have a legitimate chance of playing this week. Crum was injured in the UCLA game despite his huge individual performance after being kicked in the shin. The senior linebacker tried to play in the Boston College game but was pulled in the first series. Grimes has been out since the second half of the Purdue contest with an ankle injury. The junior wide receiver has 15 receptions on the season for 117 yards.

"Mo is walking without a limp this week, and that's a good thing," Weis said. "And David was close to being able to go on Saturday, but it's always tough when you haven't practiced all week long to try to go when you haven't had a meaningful rep in practice. So I'll have to wait until after today's practice. I'll probably have a better idea and be able to answer that one tomorrow."

Another player who has been injured is Dan Wenger. The sophomore offensive lineman injured his ankle in the Michigan contest and hasn't played since. On the depth chart, Wenger is listed as the backup center to John Sullivan. But Weis said the sophomore is back and could play at several positions if there was an injury.

"I think if I needed a backup inside, Danny would be the first backup inside at all three positions," Weis said. "I know I only list him at one. I list him as the backup center but he'd probably go in first at right guard and he'd probably go in first at left guard, as well."

***After the UCLA win, a lot of fans were wondering how Notre Dame would respond to their first win of the season. Weis also got in-depth on the issue. NBC's Alex Flanagan reported during the Boston College game that the Notre Dame head coach consulted with a psychologist after the Bruins victory. Weis became aware of a characteristic common on teams that win a contest after a an extended period of losing. The Irish head coach immediately let his players know about this in the lead-up to the Eagles game.

"People always talk about the psychology of sports when you're losing," Weis said. "Well, there's also a psychology of sports when you've won. It became knowledge to me that there's a syndrome called the ‘relief syndrome,' where when you've been losing for a while and then all of a sudden you win, a lot of times there's a big letdown because you won.

"You would think there would be a big letdown when you've lost after you've been winning for a while, but I guess that works both ways, and that was something I was not really familiar with. I was made aware of it, and that gave us a chance to address it right off the bat."

***Coming into the season, USC was loaded at running back. The Trojans had nine highly recruited backs on the roster. The logjam was so bad that even before the season started, Emmanuel Moody transferred to Florida. But a rash of injuries has given a lot of opportunities to the running backs.

Stafon Johnson leads the team in yards with 378 but has not played in the past two games because of an injury. C.J. Gable has also been banged up. Last week, the two lead backs were Chauncey Washington and Joe McKnight. Washington, a 6-1, 220-pound fifth-year senior, is more of a bruising back and is second on the team with 362 yards and first with six touchdowns. McKnight, a freshman speedster, lived up to his recruiting hype last week against Arizona with a 50-plus yard run and punt return. The combination of the two is like old times in the Trojans backfield.

"They're not the same," Weis said. "You talk about Washington and you talk about let's say Joe McKnight. They might have the same offense. That's like in the modern day vernacular, compare them to LenDale and Reggie. That's how different the two backs are. Washington is a lot more like LenDale and Joe is a lot more like Reggie. When the different backs are on there, there's definitely a change."

***Weis on why there are few offers out there for the current junior class in high school: "Because we don't have very many numbers to be able to give out. That has a lot to do with it. When you have 70 guys on scholarship and you're going to have a full 25, you can be more aggressive. But next year that number might be 15. So you've got to be very cautious because all of a sudden -- let's say this year we're taking four or five offensive linemen. Let's say next year we're taking two. It's different when the numbers change. If you're trying to get five, you have to think about ten. Well, if you're trying to get two, you have to think about four. There's a big difference in numbers.

"When you start to get the numbers right, which we're about ready to be, now it's like one guy leaves, you replace that guy, and it hasn't been like that to this point. That's why you have to be a little slow when your number is going to be low as far as how many guys you're going to be able to take."


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