NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Isaac Rochell is a bit of a rarity in college football. The true freshman defensive end has been on the field for all six of a possible six games to start his Notre Dame career. The McDonough, GA native has been pressed into even more extensive action over the last three games against Michigan State, Oklahoma and Arizona State after fellow defensive lineman Sheldon Day's injury.
In this final freshman Q&A of Notre Dame's first bye week of the season, Rochell discusses his growth on and off the football field since his arrival on campus.
Q: What's the toughest adjustment to playing in five games in college already after playing high school competition last year?
Rochell: "I think the toughest adjustment is just putting together a whole week. Saturday is one thing, but you also have to have three good days of practice. There's a lot that goes into it outside of just the game, so I would say it's just the whole week process of getting better, watching film, practicing (and) working out. It's just a whole process of putting everything together."
Q: What's it meant to this freshman class as a whole to get thrown into it, because (the coaching staff) has not been shy about using freshman players?
Rochell: "I think it's cool. I think, especially working out this summer, we gelled. So, it's kind of this common thing like 'we're ready, we're going to work hard'. I think it's been cool to see some guys develop and when they go in they're making plays and I think that's cool."
Q: Were you able to anticipate over the summer when you first got here that you were going to be thrown into the mix so soon?
Rochell: "It's hard when you're adjusting to focus (or) even look at that part of the season. It's hard to even think of that, so when I got here my perspective on the whole thing was just workout (and) get better. It was just such a day-by-day thing with classes and stuff, so I never really thought about it. Then when the season came with camp it's the same thing. You're just worrying about getting better. You're just worrying about the day, because it's just one of those things - it's a grind. It's fun though, but you just have to focus on your job on and off the field."
Q: I was a bit of a surprise to see your weight (280) when they gave out the rosters in camp. How much did you weigh when you signed with Notre Dame?
Rochell: "At that point I was probably upwards of 260 - 268, 269, so I was gaining and then when you get here and they get you in the dining hall in the summer - the dining hall is great. Then you're just on a lifting program where you're constantly lifting. You just gain weight. All the freshman guys gained five or 10 pounds when they first got here, because it just happens."
Q: What's the best food?
Rochell: "Training table - I like when they make pasta and they also make sandwiches some days that are always pretty good, so I enjoy that. It's all good though. Every meal is good."
Q: Better than mom's cooking?
Rochell: "Oh no, I wouldn't say that, but it's good.
Q: As a defensive line you guys have struggled at times this season, but you really seemed on task with responsibilities the other night against Arizona State. How did that come together?
Rochell: "I think, especially game six, you get to the point where you've developed all the way across the board. It just becomes instinct and you're on your key. I just think the whole D-line is developing as far as knowing their responsibilities, so now it's just like second nature. You just know what to do."
Q: What has it been like going up against guys that are upwards of 40 to 50 pounds heavier than you?
Rochell: "It's one of those things where you're kind of just thrown into it and you just do it. You don't line-up and you're like 'Oh, this guy's 50 pounds more than me', you just have your job (and) you do your job. You act on your coaching and you just do what you have to do. It's not one of those things where it's real noticeable, like 'This guy's way bigger than me'. You just get better and you just get used to it."
Q: Are you surprised that you are playing so much already this early in your career?
Rochell: "I've never really thought about it that much. You just get better and whatever happens happens. The coaches know what they're doing and they have confidence in us and we build confidence in them to have confidence in us, so we're just getting better."
Q: What have you learned from Stephon Tuitt?
Rochell: "Just watching him play and watching him work hard at practice, even at the level that he's at. That's one of the things that you really focus on, so I think that's important."
Q: How would you grade your play so far this year?
Rochell: "I don't know, it's hard to think about in that perspective, because each day you're just trying to get better than yesterday. It's hard to give myself a particular grade, so I don't know."