Running Backs Hit It Off With New Coach

New running backs coach Tony Alford has made a strong impression on his new pupils. James Aldridge, Armando Allen and Robert Hughes talk about their new coach and Alford talks about what he has seen and what he wants to see from his new players.

When Charlie Weis signed Tony Alford as Notre Dame's new running backs coach, he knew he was adding a coach who would fit in well with his players.

"We had a conversation with Coach Weis and he told us he was bringing in a coach that would be perfect for us," said Armando Allen. "The first day we met him we automatically knew that he would be a great coach for us."

"We just hit it off right away," said Robert Hughes.

James Aldridge credited Weis with taking the players into consideration when he hired Alford.

"I think [Weis] knows the running backs pretty well. He knows what type of guy we would get along with well," James Aldridge said. "He did a good job of getting a running backs coach. We get along well, he's a good coach."

For his part, Alford has enjoyed the company of his new players.

"These guys are good guys, they work hard," he said. "I've been impressed with that much of it and I think they care. It matters to them and it's important to them."

Receiver Golden Tate has connected with the new running backs coach as well. When he was still at Louisville, Alford recruited Tate's younger brother Wesley, who eventually committed to Vanderbilt.

"He seems to be a great guy," said Tate. "My brother said he's a great guy, a good person to talk to. So I just kind of trusted him."

But while Alford is friendly with the players off the field, he is a demanding teacher on it.

"He's very hard-working, he's very intense," said Hughes. "When he's out there on the field, he's out there like he still wants to play. He's got a lot of energy, he's a high energy guy."

Alford knows no other way.

"I enjoy coaching, I enjoyed playing. You have no idea how excited I am to be here," said Alford. "I probably enjoy it more than my players enjoy me, but that's okay. That's kind of my personality. If some people say that's a high energy then great, if other people say that it's not, then it's not. It is what it is; it's just who I am. It's how I coach."

Aldridge does not mind the change of personalities.

"I like that, you need that out on the field," Aldridge said. "You always need somebody to kind of chew you out when you need it."

Allen enjoys being around his new hyped-up coach.

"The energy that he brings to the field is awesome; it's amazing. The feeling that he gives to all the running backs is great," said Allen. "He gives us good information, he keeps us focused and he really shows us that he really cares and that's the most important thing that you can get from a coach."

Allen, Hughes and Aldridge are competing with Jonas Gray for carries in the Irish backfield in 2009 and the new coach did not come to Notre Dame with any expectations for his players.

"I have no preconceived notions about who can do what," he said. "Now, I'm forming my opinions very quickly. It's not taking me long to formulate my opinions, which my mom always taught me to keep to myself."

Notre Dame practiced with full pads for the first time on Monday and Alford is looking forward to seeing the backfield play physical.

"I like contact. I want to see if guys are physical," he said. "In all reality, I want to see them speed up into contact."

Alford wants his players to get away from their natural instinct to slow down when approaching a wall.

"No, I want to see you speed up," he said. "If the guy is going to make a tackle, you don't have to be the guy that gets beat up all of the time. You can deliver some blows too. That's part of the game, it's a contact sport."

But maybe more than anything, Alford strives for his players to play freely.

"This isn't rocket science, don't think too much, just go play," he said. "Read your keys, we'll teach you all those things, but all in all, go play the game and go make plays and don't make it harder than it is." Top Stories