Tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee says that he is comfortable with his unit even after the loss of preseason number one Mike Ragone.
"You hate for it to happen, but something goes wrong, someone's got to step up," Parmalee said. "Of course it hurts your depth because that's one body lost, but as far as the plans, we have confidence in every guy that steps on the field. We've been fortunate enough the last few years to have guys to go in that were quality backups or guys that weren't number one to go in there and be very productive."
Ragone injured the knee during the summer, but tried to gut it out in an attempt to put surgery off until after the season.
"He tried to play with the pain. He's a tough kid, but with the brace he couldn't get it done. It was hard for him to cut on it and things like that," said Parmalee. "You feel bad for him because he worked so hard to get to that point, but we just talked about it and said, ‘Get it fixed and come back strong.'"
Now the number one spot goes to freshman Kyle Rudolph. When asked about why Rudolph was able to jump up the depth chart so quickly Charlie Weis said that his speed was the number one factor, but Parmalee seems most impressed by Rudolph's intelligence.
"He's a smart kid. He understands our strategy and he understands everything that we put in and that just makes it that much better," Parmalee said. "You know that guys have the talent, you just don't know how they're going to handle everything. Some guys come along faster than others, but he's been one of those guys that's been taking it all in and absorbing it.
"He surprised me. I didn't think he'd be this far along. He's a big guy at 6-6, 250-something and to move like that, he's really going to help our offense."
Parmalee said that Rudolph reminds him of his favorite player from last year's team, John Carlson in a way.
"Really just the smart aspect of it, understanding the game," he said. "That was something that John was really good at. For him to be a freshman and do those things, it really helps your position as a whole."
O-LINE WANTS TO ‘POUND IT': If any group on the roster was happier than the backs to hear Weis's plans for his offense on Monday, it was the offensive line.
"When Coach Weis said that we want to pound the football, as an offensive lineman that's good news for us," right tackle Sam Young said. "That's what we've been working on."
According to Young, the Irish offensive linemen are prepared to have that kind of pressure laid on them because they also have a better grasp of what the team is trying to do.
"I think we understand what we're doing and just what to do against different defenses a lot better," said Young. "Instead of reacting, we're anticipating now, which is a big thing. Being able to run the ball consistently is something that we will be able to establish and help our confidence."
O-LINE INSPIRES BACKS: Sophomore running back Armando Allen said that as the offensive line has proved itself to be one of the most improved units on the team, that has motivated the guys in the backfield to bring it to another level.
"With the offensive linemen being so much improved, it kind of gives us confidence as well," Allen said. "So when we step on the field for practice it's like, ‘OK, the offensive linemen have stepped it up so we've got to step it up.'"
"We look at us as a group. It's not just, ‘You're the starting running back' or ‘You're the second-string running back.' We're just one collective group," he said.
Weis has said that if one back were to get hot he would stay with that guy. Allen spoke about what it is to get in that zone as a runner.
"It's very, very important to get that groove as the game goes on and kind of get a feel for the game," he said. "If one running back is ever hot and he's in the game for a long period of time, we're rooting for him because right now he's producing for the team and that's what it's about.
"It's a great feeling. Your confidence level goes up as the game goes and you finally start to feel like your producing. When you're producing everybody is having a good time."
IT'S JIMMY'S HUDDLE: Jimmy Clausen's increased knowledge of the playbook has him feeling more comfortable on the field, in the huddle particularly.
"When you're a quarterback on any team, you've got to take some sort of control. When you walk in the huddle everyone's quiet. That happens everywhere, not just Notre Dame," Clausen said. "Last year I was a young guy and just trying to fit in, trying to gain knowledge of the playbook. I really have the knowledge right now and I think that helps me be able to control the huddle.
"Last year, I really didn't have the knowledge to be able to take control of the huddle. That's one of the big things that I worked on and Coach Weis and Coach Powlus helped me on this offseason was being able to control of the huddle. That only comes with getting knowledge and understanding everything throughout."
Young has noticed the difference too.
"In the huddle, it's Jimmy's huddle," Young said. "I think that's a good thing that's happened this year is that he's controlling the huddle and everybody's listening."
FLOYD DOES IT EVERYDAY: Wide receivers coach Rob Ianello said that the ascension of freshman Michael Floyd up the depth chart was based on his consistency and his knowledge.
"Michael comes to work everyday. He's focused, he works hard, he works at running his routes, he's got very good ball skills, he's athletic. So those things have helped him a lot," Ianello said. "He's picked up the offense well so far and it's been able to help him play fast because he's not thinking all of the time about what to do."
Clausen was also impressed with the way that the freshman quickly grasped the offense.
"He's a great athlete. A great athlete and I think his knowledge of the game of football is really good," the quarterback said. "He's been able to pick up the offense and it's a pretty tough offense to pick up."
AZTECS BEAT UP: The Irish staff is going to scout San Diego State's personnel more than schematics when the Aztecs open against Cal Poly on Saturday. The Notre Dame coaches will see a much different team than the one that San Diego State had hoped to field this season.
Two starters up front will be out. Left tackle Mike Matamua has been lost for the season after having surgery on his and starting center Tommie Draheim is out until October after shoulder surgery. Starting defensive tackle Siaosi Fifita has struggled with a knee injury and is considered to be a game-time decision for this week's game.
LOCAL ENDORSEMENT: Per NCAA rules, Young cannot endorse anything until after he loses his eligibility, but once he does one local eatery will want to snatch him up. When asked about how the line was able to pack on so many pounds during the offseason, Young gave a shout out to his favorite pizza spot.
"I've definitely got to say thanks to Bruno's for all of the pizza and pasta," he said. "Every week we'd go to Bruno's and hit up the buffet. That stuff will definitely put some meat on your bones. It helps you with injuries, it helps with being more physical. Also I think just the idea of eating together you kind of have that idea of camaraderie of sharing a meal together."
But what does the bottom line look like for the restaurant after a bunch of offensive linemen eat all they can?
"I'm not in charge of that," laughed Young.