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Football: Let’s try this again

Lorenzo Reyes | Friday, August 22, 2008

Since he was thinner than the coaching staff wanted him as a senior in high school, he underwent a series of off-season workouts that helped him bulk up and add over 20 pounds of muscle.

With his added strength and size, Rudolph could be used in goal line situations, or even on short third downs when a reliable pass-catcher is essential. For this reason, Weis is looking forward to seeing him on the field.

“I’m very, very, very high on Kyle Rudolph,” Weis said. “I mean, the kid is 255, but he’s just grown into 255. He still looks skinny at 255 because he’s so big. But his straight-line speed, he gets down the field in a hurry and he’s got great ball skills.”

Robinson comes in after being with the squad for a semester as an early enrollee. An offensive guard from Elkhorn Secondary School in Nebraska, Robinson’s large frame and quick hands combined with explosive upper body strength could have him find the field early and often. When coupled with the struggles of the offensive line and the lack of depth along the unit, he could contribute early this season.

Notre Dame’s offensive line coach, John Latina, likes how Robinson has developed in his first semester with the team.

“I think he has a great attitude,” Latina said. “I think football is really important to him and obviously he’s talented. Even though he’s going to make some mistakes along the way as a young guy, he does a good job of not making the same mistake over and I think that shows a lot of maturity on a player’s part and it also shows how important it is to him.”

On defense, there are a handful of freshman that could also see some serious playing time as well in Ethan Johnson and Robert Blanton and linebackers Steve Filer and Darius Fleming.

Johnson is a defensive end out of Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore., who is already a physical presence. Johnson missed his senior season due to a sprained knee in the first contest of the season.

Despite the setback, Johnson tried to stay in shape and came into fall camp in excellent shape, ready to contribute. At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, he remains quick off the line.

“I wouldn’t say he’s been a pleasant surprise,” Weis said. “But he has definitely put himself in the mix in a very short amount of time.”

Blanton is a cornerback who could benefit from the absence of junior Darrin Walls, who is not with the team for the semester. Blanton is out of Butler High School from Matthews, N.C., who has speed and instinctual ball skills that have seen him break up a number of plays in fall practice thus far.

At 6-foot-1, he is rangy and has size to compete with bigger wideouts. Additionally, and like a true cornerback, Blanton brings some attitude.

“He has shown very good cover skills,” Weis said of Blanton. “And a cockiness that a corner needs to be able to get on the field. He’s not afraid of anyone and he’s willing to tell anyone in the whole free world that’s willing to listen. He’s a chirper.”

Filer and Fleming are a potent linebacking duo out of the Chicago area, and played for rival high schools. Fleming attended St. Rita High School, while Filer went to Mount Carmel High School.

Although Filer projects more as an inside linebacker and Fleming is better suited to play outside, they both posses excellent physical traits. Filer is 6-foot-3 and has proven to be very strong and quick.

“Let’s say he has so much athleticism that even if he’s not in the two-deep at this point, before it’s all said and done, you are hoping that he is,” Weis said. “He knows he has some work to do but there are few guys that are that athletic.”

Fleming looks to be in a similar mold of sophomore teammate Kerry Neal. Both players excel at rushing the passer and are comfortable starting in either a standing position or in a three-point stance. Along with this similarity, both players have built up a strong rapport.

“Oh, me and Fleming are real close,” Neal said. “We get along real well. We sit in the meeting room next to each other and I try to help him out with some things that he asks me of. He’s got some real physical gifts. He’s got great speed. The other day in practice, he caught up to Armando [Allen] and brought him down.”


Sophomore tight end Mike Ragone had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and is expected to miss the entire season.