A severe injury and a nagging one has given freshman defensive end Isaac Rochell a chance to play right out of the gate, but he still feels like he's learned plenty from watching the guys ahead of him.
With Tony Springmann (ACL) out for the year and Sheldon Day (ankle) barely playing in Notre Dame's last three games, Rochell has seen action in all six of Notre Dame's games this fall. But watching guys like Day and Stephon Tuitt work has helped him ease into the spotlight in South Bend.
"You're seeing them work and seeing how they handle different situations in the game as far as different blocks you'll get and stuff," Rochell said. "You really get a good idea of how you need to attack that particular situation."
Rochell hails from McDonough, Ga., about an hour drive from Tuitt's hometown of Monroe, Ga. The four-star recruit said seeing Tuitt's motor up close has benefitted him the most.
"He's just an aggressive player," Rochell explained, "and at the end of the day when all else fails he's just going to be more aggressive than you."
Rochell doesn't have anything specific he hopes to improve upon in the second half of the season, more just upping his entire game and confidence level. He hasn't made much of an impact yet, but then again, it took Tuitt a little while to get his feet under him as a freshman in 2011.
That's not to put those expectations on Rochell, given that a healthy Tuitt is a top defensive end at the collegiate level. Rochell wasn't as hyped as Tuitt (a five-star recruit) coming to Notre Dame, but like Tuitt he was a highly-rated recruit from the heart of SEC territory who decided to play college ball in northern Indiana.
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And too, both players came to Notre Dame at the same height and weight (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), according to Rivals.com.
So there are some rough similarities there. Picking up what Tuitt's doing in practice and in games will only help Rochell's growth, too.
"Seeing someone like him do that, especially at this level, you just learn a lot from it and take a lot from it," Rochell said.