Thoughts on Notre Dame football, Fighting Irish recruiting and college football topics
STATE OF RUNNING BACK RECRUITING
It has been a pretty eventful week when it comes to running back recruiting at Notre Dame. The Irish came into the week with a "Big Three" group of running backs on the board, and the hope was they would land one.
Yesterday that big three dwindled down to one when Dallan Hayden committed to Ohio State a little over a week after his Notre Dame visit and Gavin Sawchuk committed to Oklahoma days before his scheduled visit to Notre Dame.
That means Nicholas Singleton is the only back left on the board.
Well, he's the only uncommitted back left on the board. It seems in much of the discussion about the running back position that current Irish commit Jadarian Price has gone overlooked. It was the commitment of Price that put Notre Dame in position where it could focus on the "big three" at the position. What that means is the landing Price a class after signing Audric Estime and Logan Diggs means Notre Dame is in great shape at running back.
Price is a talented runner with over 3,000 career rushing yards heading into his senior seasons. Getting him early was big for Notre Dame, but it also means he's now part of the "overlooked" group in the class, which often happens to early committed players.
This could be the last season for starting back Kyren Williams and it's likely the last season for C'Bo Flemister, who enters his senior season. Should Williams depart early and Flemister not return the Irish would have four scholarship backs on the roster in 2022. That's a good number but the ideal spot is five, but it's not a depth chart issue that is forcing Notre Dame to seek a second back in the 2022 class.
Notre Dame is pushing for a second back because of the quality of the players on the board, and Singleton is a player the staff has been involved with for a very long time. He was the only running back on the board to earn a 5.0-star upside grade on my big board, and he enters his senior season with over 4,200 career rushing yards. Notre Dame has been pushing for him and the other "Big Three" backs was about their talent being too good to pass up.
Singleton had a tremendous visit to Notre Dame this past weekend and the Irish staff put themselves in a strong position to land him. Penn State - the in-state program - will work hard this week to try to get back on top for Singleton, but the Irish could ultimately be too tough to beat.
We are barely a year past the moment when Notre Dame running backs coach Lance Taylor got beat by Clemson for running back Will Shipley, the player the Irish coach went "all in" on in the 2021 class. When Shipley picked the Tigers it left Notre Dame in a position where it was all but starting over from scratch due to its over-emphasis on Shipley.
Fast forward seven months and Notre Dame had rebounded in impressive fashion, signing Logan Diggs and Audric Estime. Two months later Price committed to Notre Dame and the future of the running back depth chart looked very bright.
The final piece to the complete rebuild at running back is landing Singleton. The Pennsylvania native would be the most talented back to pick Notre Dame since Chris Tyree jumped on board and would be one of the highest ranked backs to choose the Irish during head coach Brian Kelly's entire career in South Bend. It would be an impressive achievement for a position coach and staff that just a year ago was in dire straits from a depth chart and recruiting standpoint.
Should Notre Dame land Singleton you'd be hard-pressed to find many running back depth charts with the kind of talent the Irish would be putting on the field in 2022 and beyond. Even if the Irish miss out on Singleton the Irish staff has quickly rebuilt the depth chart that just two seasons ago (2019) was arguably the biggest question mark on the entire roster.
NOTRE DAME RUNNING BACK RANKINGS
Speaking of Notre Dame running back recruiting, let's take a look at the composite rankings for all the running backs to sign with Notre Dame in the Brian Kelly tenure.
Here are the leading rushers at running back of the Brian Kelly era:
Josh Adams - 2015 - 3,201 yards, 6.7 YPC, 20 TD (3 seasons)
Tarean Folston - 2013 - 1,712 yards, 5.0 YPC, 11 TD (4 seasons)
Dexter Williams - 2015 - 1,636 yards, 6.4 YPC, 20 TD (4 seasons)
Tony Jones Jr. - 2016 - 1,481 yards, 5.5 YPC, 12 TD (4 seasons)
Kyren Williams - 2019 - 1,151 yards, 5.4 YPC, 13 TD (2 seasons)
Cam McDaniel - 2011 - 1,117 yards, 4.4 YPC, 8 TD (4 seasons)
There are two other players that were recruits during the Kelly tenure that rushed for over 1,000 yards, but both were quarterbacks. Ian Book (2016) rushed for 1,571 yards (4.2 YPC) and 17 touchdowns in five seasons, and Brandon Wimbush (2015) rushed for 1,156 yards (5.4 YPC) and 16 touchdowns in four seasons.
LOOKING AT NOTRE DAME OPPONENT BACKS
Notre Dame is loaded at running back in 2021, and it certainly returns a group that is more productive and talented than its opponents. There are, however, some talented backfields or backs on the Irish schedule.
Here's a look at some of top returning backs or newcomer backs for Notre Dame's 2021 opponents, going in order of when the Irish play those opponents:
Florida State Backs - Florida State doesn't necessarily have one back that you have to worry about, they have three. Veteran Jashaun Corbin is a solid back that has 884 career yards at Florida State and Texas A&M. Rising sophomore Lawrance Toafili rushed for just 356 yards as a freshman, but he averaged 9.6 yards per carry and is poised for a breakout season. Auburn transfer DJ Williams rushed for 599 yards (4.9 YPC) and five scores in two seasons with the Tigers.
Bryant Koback, Toledo - No back on the Notre Dame schedule has more career rushing yards than Koback's 2,626 yards (5.6 YPC). Koback rushed for 917 yards (6.0 YPC) and 14 scores as a freshman and 1,187 yards (6.1 YPC) and 12 scores as a sophomore in 2019. He rushed for 522 yards in just six games this past season, but he should get back on track in 2021.
Jalen Berger, Wisconsin - The rising sophomore rushed for 301 yards (5.0 YPC) and two scores in just four games as a true freshman. He's a talented runner that can be a big play threat and his production should take a jump this season.
Jerome Ford, Cincinnati - An Alabama transfer, Ford carried the ball just 73 times last season but he averaged 6.6 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns. Ford is a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
Keaontay Ingram, USC - A transfer from Texas, Ingram rushed for 1,561 yards (5.5 YPC) and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Longhorns, and he also caught 56 passes. He went for just 250 yards this past season, but if healthy he provides the Trojans with a talented dual-threat back.
Ty Chandler, North Carolina - The Tennessee transfer has rushed for 2,046 yards (4.9 YPC) and 13 touchdowns for the Volunteers. North Carolina's system and veteran line should allow him to have the most productive season of his career.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech - A rising sophomore, Gibbs is poised for a breakout seasons after rushing for 460 yards (5.2 YPC) and four touchdowns in seven games for the Yellow Jackets.
Austin Jones, Stanford - Jones is a fast back that can be a big play threat. He rushed for 550 yards (4.4 YPC) and nine touchdowns in just six games last season as a true sophomore. He also caught 21 passes this past season.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
In our Friday Free-For-All Notre Dame Mailbag one of our listeners had one of the most savage comments I've seen. In it he roasted Notre Dame's biggest rival ... Southern Cal. You can listen to the whole podcast below, but here's the gist of what he said!
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Our mailbag this past week was jam-packed with a ton of great questions and conversations! If you missed it check it out now.
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