Sunday, August 03, 2008

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Running Back

Previously Covered

Spotlight: James Aldridge


Also Returning: Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, Nikolas Rodriguez
Lost: Junior Jabbie, Travis Thomas (graduation)
Gained: Barry Gallup, Jr. (position change), Eras Noel (walk-on), Jonas Gray (freshman)

With all the attention given to the talent of Armando Allen and Robert Hughes, it's easy to forget that James Aldridge was Notre Dame's leading rusher last year, and is the likely starter going into this year. Aldridge is once again the elder statesman among Irish halfbacks, and one would think that that experience would give him the leg up as a blocking back in passing situations. That is, of course, unless linebacker-come-fullback Steve Paskorz or perhaps converted wideout Barry Gallup don't take those blocking responsibilities. One storyline to watch this year is Aldridge looking for his first career touchdown. Aldridge has over 160 career touches, but the offense deferred to Travis Thomas and Robert Hughes on goal line situations.

Speaking of Hughes, the hard-nosed big back rumbled his way into Irish fans' hearts last year, and it will be difficult to keep him off the field this season. The lightning to Hughes' proverbial thunder is Armando Allen, a talented speedster who hopes to break out as both a runner and a pass catcher out of the backfield. But Allen will have to trust that speed if he wants to succeed in 2008, by running around defenders instead of running into them.

The wildcards are Barry Gallup and freshman Jonas Gray. Gallup had trouble getting on the field as a wideout, mostly appearing on special teams last year. Gallup and Gray will really have to impress in practice, though, if they want to beat out the top trio of Aldridge, Allen, and Hughes.