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Football: Red 44

Kate Gales | Wednesday, October 4, 2006

At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal.

Asaph Schwapp left the field on Sept. 9 against Penn State. After the game, Irish coach Charlie Weis said it seemed like the running back’s leg “locked up on him.”

But Schwapp hasn’t seen playing time since the 41-17 win, and Weis is now considering a medical redshirt for the sophomore.

“His injury is an injury that will be with us the entire year,” Weis said. “The question is simply this, OK: Can he play with it or can’t he play with it?”

Schwapp had four rushes for 15 yards in two games. Last season, he made his first start at fullback against USC. He played in all 12 games and had 27 rushes for 67 yards along with three receptions for 22 yards.

Tuesday, Weis said he would prefer to redshirt Schwapp if he won’t be able to play through the injury. Because the injury occurred early enough in the season, he will be eligible to apply to the NCAA for a medical redshirt.

“If I feel he can’t play with it, then I’m better off to go ahead and get it fixed because if I get it fixed then I’m going to end up losing him for the rest of the season,” he said. “If he can play with it, then we go through the whole year, we practice and we play and then we fix it after the year is over.”

Weis expects to make that decision after this week.

Weis was faced with a similar situation last year with Rhema McKnight, when the receiver went down with a knee injury against Michigan on Sept. 10, 2005. McKnight was granted a medical redshirt and returned to the Irish for a fifth year. After leading the team in 2004 with 42 catches for 610 yards and three scores, he has 32 catches for 433 yards and six touchdowns in 2006.

Weis said Ashley McConnell will likely see more time as a result of Schwapp’s injury.

“Once you get your opportunity, all of a sudden you’re two [on the depth chart] and you’re in good shape and you have a good attitude,” he said. “Our philosophy has been: somebody gets hurt and you just put in the next guy. And [McConnell’s] the next guy, and he’s taking the opportunity and running with it.”

McConnell has played in five games this season, rushing twice for two yards with one receiving touchdown. Last season, he played in three games and had one rush for three yards.

The fullback trimmed down this year, which Weis said has made him better than he was a year ago.

“I’m not sure exactly what [weight] he is right now, but he came back in great shape, and all of a sudden he just played himself into the picture,” said Weis, estimating McConnell has dropped about 20 pounds.

Like his new frame, Weis said McConnell’s performance this year has been “solid.”

“He’s been solid in blitz pickup and he’s been solid as a lead blocker,” Weis said.

It’s likely McConnell will see increased action whether or not Schwapp is redshirted – a practice Weis said he didn’t think is necessary for most of his players, barring injuries like Schwapp’s.

“[Many players] graduate in three and a half years in a lot of cases,” he said. “So a lot of them want to move on and start their real life after that. If they don’t see themselves playing in the NFL, a lot of them want to go take jobs and get working.

“So what benefit do you have if you save a year with a guy if he’s going to graduate in four years and go take a job anyway?”

However, the medical redshirt may help future depth at running back if Schwapp isn’t able to return this year.

Regardless of what happens with Schwapp, Weis has confidence in his fullback – whoever it is.

“Really it has not been a noticeable difference with him in there [compared to] Asaph.”