IB Notre Dame Big Board: Running Backs

Analysis and rankings of the running backs on the Notre Dame board for the 2022 class
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Notre Dame is still in the process of repairing and restocking the running back depth chart. The Irish have put together back-to-back strong classes, and a third would accomplish that goal.

The Irish staff is looking to add two backs in the class. Below is the Irish Breakdown rankings of the running backs on the board. The rankings are based on analysis and grades in eight key categories. Below you'll see the ranking of each prospect, film analysis of each prospect, grades for each prospect and which prospect graded out the highest in each category.

IB RUNNING BACK RANKINGS

1) Dallan Hayden - 5-11, 195
2) Nicholas Singleton - 6-0, 200
3) Gavin Sawchuk - 5-11, 175
4) Jadarian Price - 5-11, 180 - NOTRE DAME COMMIT
5) Quinshon Judkins - 6-0, 200
6) Gi'Bran Payne - 5-10, 190
7) Emeka Megwa - 6-1, 225
8) Zach Evans - 5-10, 185
9) Damari Alston - 5-10, 205

NOTRE DAME PROSPECT ANALYSIS

1) DALLAN HAYDEN, 5-11, 195, MEMPHIS (TENN.) CHRISTIAN BROTHERS

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 100 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.5

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Hayden isn't a flashy back, but he is highly productive and has all the instinctive traits you want to see in a top back. The Christian Brothers star is a well-built athlete that runs with good pad level and he's willing to mix it up between the tackles.

Hayden isn't a burner, but his game speed is impressive. He is a north-south runner that can get to full speed in a hurry once he plants his foot and gets vertical. Hayden is an efficient runner that wastes little motion, constantly looks for vertical run lanes and can make sudden moves.

Hayden is an agile athlete with excellent balance, two traits that are musts for a back with his game and frame. He's a smooth runner that makes up for his lack of explosiveness with quick feet and tremendous vision and anticipation ability. I love how patient he is as a runner. Hayden gets downhill with purpose, but he won't turn on the gas until he sees the hole, and he does a great job setting up blocks.

The 5-11, 190-pound back doesn't catch the ball much out of the backfield, but he shows clean hands on the attempts that are made to him. I have seen workout video of Hayden running routes and catching the ball, and you can see he's a young back with confidence in his catching ability and he has the foot quickness to be a highly effective route runner out of the backfield. 

2) NICHOLAS SINGLETON, 6-0, 200, SHILLINGTON (PA.) GOVERNOR MIFFLIN

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 100 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 5.0

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Singleton filled his frame out as a junior and his ability to run with authority took a big jump. He needs to work a bit on his technique when it comes to dipping and ripping between the tackles, but his leg drive is impressive, he runs with authority and he is a tough runner that can hammer defenses.

Singleton runs mostly out of an option offense, and even when he's in a split formation in a shotgun the majority of his carries are still outside. He just has a lot more experience running in space, so there is some technical work needed. 

Singleton reminds me a lot of former Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams in that while he might not be a burner in the traditional sense, his initial burst is tremendous and he has a second gear that allows him to be a home run hitter. Having a great burst is a key ingredient for a top runner, but having the vision and decisiveness to match is what separates good backs from great backs, and Singleton's initial reads, second level anticipation and overall vision and decision making is truly outstanding.

Athletically, Singleton is a smooth athlete that has excellent agility and balance. He's also a very efficient runner from a footwork standpoint, and that combination allows him to maximize the speed he does possess. Those traits also allow him to get downhill in a hurry, they allow him to make fast cuts and then get vertical and back to full speed.

3) GAVIN SAWCHUK, 5-11, 180, HIGHLANDS RANCH (COLO.) VALOR CHRISTIAN

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 150 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.5

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Sawchuk is a one-cut and go type of runner with home run speed. Although his track times aren't quite as good as Chris Tyree's, Sawchuk has the kind of acceleration and second gear to turn a crease into a home run, no matter where the ball is snapped. His explosiveness and big-play speed is a big reason he's considered one of the nation's best backs.

I was a bit surprised to see how tough Sawchuk was as a runner. I expected a back with his size and home run speed to have a lot of wiggle and be a guy who looked to make defenders miss. Sawchuk needs to get a lot stronger, especially with his lower body, but he's more than willing to mix it up, he'll put his shoulder down when he needs to and he can run through arm tackles.

Sawchuk is a well-schooled back and an efficient runner. He is a disciplined runner that stays on his run track, and I was impressed with his patience as a ball carrier. He shows a great feel for letting blocks develop, using angles to set up defenders for vertical cuts and his vision allows him to find and explode through holes. If anything, I'd like to see Sawchuk be a bit more decisive on a snap-to-snap basis.

Sawchuk is more fluid than sudden, and you won't see him doing a lot of shaking in space. Instead, he uses his speed to push defenders to commit, and if they overpursue he has the ability to quickly plant and cut behind them. If they don't have the angle he can turn on the after-burners and outrun them to the sideline for big plays.

4) JADARIAN PRICE, 5-11, 180, DENISON (TEXAS) HIGH SCHOOL

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 200 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.5

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Although listed as an all-purpose back by Rivals, Price plays like a pure runner, one capable of making plays between the tackles, on the perimeter and in the pass game out of the backfield. Price is a highly productive back that has already rushed for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Price is a natural running back that shows good patience, vision and decision making. His patience is one of my favorite parts of his game. Price can get downhill in a hurry when he wants to, but he will get on his run track, let the blocks set up and wait until he's made his read before planting and exploding vertically. Yes, Price can plant and go immediately when he needs to, but his patience allows him to find and hit cutback lines effectively.

Despite his foot quickness and impressive agility, the Denison star tries to be a north-south runner as much as possible. Price shows a good burst when he plants and gets vertical, and when he gets a step he displays impressive acceleration that allows him to be a home run hitter.

He's not a back that likes to juke all the time, which I like, and he's a relatively efficient runner, which allows him to maximize available yards. Price can, however, make defenders miss in space when he wants to, or needs to, and he shows impressive balance, which combines with his relatively strong lower body to help him run through arm tackles on the second and third levels.

5) QUINSHON JUDKINS, 6-0, 200, PIKE ROAD (ALA.) HIGH SCHOOL

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 250 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.0

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Judkins has an excellent running back body. He's around 5-11 to 6-0, but he has a squatty build with a thick lower body. Already listed at 200 pounds, Judkins should be able to add another 10-15 pounds of muscle. His thick, muscular frame and strong lower half give him the body to be an every down back, one that can handle punishment, wear teams down and put people away in the fourth quarter.

If you're someone that values speed above all else you won't be overly impressed with Judkins. He's more Tony Jones Jr. than he is Chris Tyree in the speed department, but make no mistake, if Judkins gets room he can punish defenses.

Where Judkins shines athletically is with his foot quickness, agility and tremendous balance. Judkins has excellent suddenness, showing the ability to cut on a dime, and he has an impressive dead leg move he does in space that allows him to immediately stop and cut in the opposite direction. Those skills serve him well behind the line as well, as Judkins has the ability to quickly plant his foot and burst through the line.

Judkins is a fundamentally sound player and he possesses all the top running back traits you want in a top rusher. Judkins is a highly efficient player from a technique standpoint, he's incredibly patient and his second level anticipation is about as good as I've seen in the 2022 class. His vision and instincts stand out on film, and his timing as a runner grades out quite well. Judkins impresses with his ability to manipulate defenders, set them up and then cut into open areas.

6) GI'BRAN PAYNE, 5-10, 190, CINCINNATI (OHIO) LASALLE

IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 300 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.0

Junior Highlights

Analysis - An injury kept Payne out for the majority of the 2020 season, which drags his grade down a bit, but he's a talented runner nonetheless. Payne isn't the biggest back, but he runs with solid authority and he has the kind of frame that should allow him to fill out nicely and handle being an every down back.

Payne shows good speed, possessing a good first step and enough acceleration to hit home runs. His balance and agility are impressive, and they make him difficult to bring down in space. Combined with his toughness and lower body strength those traits allow Payne to be a highly productive back between the tackles.

The LaSalle standout hows good vision and natural instincts as a runner, and he is just as effective on outside and stretch plays as he is running downhill. His low build also makes him more difficult to get a clean shot on, which also adds to his ability to make plays after contact. His agility and foot quickness allow Payne to make immediate vertical cuts into open run lanes, and they make him a weapon in space.

Payne doesn't catch the ball a lot, but he's impressive when given the chance. He has made pass game plays out of the backfield and when lined up in the slot. Payne is a good route runner and he catches the ball naturally. In the right offense he could even play a good amount of slot.

7) EMEKA MEGWA, 6-1, 225, FORT WORTH (TEXAS) TIMBER CREEK

IB Grade: 3.5 (Top 350 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.0

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Megwa is an intriguing player because he has traits and tools that could allow him to play on both sides of the ball at the next level. As a running back there's no doubt about his best trait, and that is his combination of size and power. Megwa is a massive and cut running back with a thick lower body, which allows him to run through tackles with ease. If he squares you up in the hole there is going to be a huge collision.

At the very least Megwa should be an effective short yardage/goal line running back due to his power alone. In the right offense Megwa has the skills to thrive. Oklahoma has an offense that I could see him thriving in, but my question/concern is whether or not he has the tools to thrive in the Notre Dame offense.

Megwa has excellent balance, and that combines perfectly with his size/power to make him difficult to bring down. He shows good footwork, but he's not the most sudden back on the board, which is why he projects as more of a one-cut, downhill running back.

The Timber Creek running back doesn't show the same burst you see from other backs ranked above him. His lack of suddenness, burst and acceleration is what makes me think he's not the ideal fit for what Notre Dame does in the run game. 

8) ZACH EVANS, 5-10, 185, ROCKWALL (TEXAS) HEATH

IB Grade: 3.5 (Top 400 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.0

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Evans is a back I really like, and in other years he'd be a guy I'd like to see Notre Dame pick up. Had the Irish not landed Jadarian Price early on I would have been fine with Notre Dame looking at Evans as the second back in the class.

Evans has a nice all-around game. He has top-notch balance, foot quickness and cutting ability. He sets up defenders effectively and can make defenders miss on the second level. Evans has really impressive second level anticipation and vision.

What Evans lacks, and what keeps him from ranking higher, is his injury history, lack of size and lack of explosiveness. He just doesn't have the big play ability that backs ahead of him have in the game, and that limits his ability to not only rip off big runs, but he isn't as explosive getting downhill as other backs.

That's the difference between being a quality back - which he is - and a back you're going to ride in your attempt to beat Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

9) DAMARI ALSTON, 5-10, 205, COLLEGE PARK (GA.) WOODWARD ACADEMY

IB Grade: 3.5 (Top 400 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.0

Junior Highlights

Analysis - Alston is a really good high school running back, evidenced by his 1,507 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. I see a lot of things I like about his game, but there isn't really anything that wows me, which is why he ranks so low on this board. I'm just not sure how well his high school game - which is very impressive - projects to the next level, at least compared to the other backs on the board.

Alston is a well-built runner that has a strong upper body and strong legs. He has very good vision as a runner as well, and that combines well with that aforementioned frame and toughness running the football. Those traits are the primary drivers behind his high school success, and they will be behind whatever success he has in college.

The Woodward back has top-notch balance, and his foot quickness is good as well. He shows good second level anticipation at times, but he's inconsistent in that regard, and at times that hinders his ability to maximize yards in the run game. 

Alston reminds me a bit of Tony Jones Jr. due to his foot quickness, lack of speed (he's faster than Jones) and ability to make plays in the pass game. Alston catches the ball very well out of the backfield and his toughness as a runner should help him be effective as a pass blocker as well.

TOP GRADED PROSPECT PER CATEGORY

Size: Emeka Megwa
Power: Emeka Megwa
Speed: Gavin Sawchuk
Athleticism: Dallan Hayden, Nicholas Singleton
Vision/RB Traits: Dallan Hayden
Pass Game: Jadarian Price
Technique: Dallan Hayden

UPSIDE RANKING

1) Nicholas Singleton
2) Dallan Hayden
3) Gavin Sawchuk
4) Jadarian Price
5) Gi'Bran Payne
6) Emeka Megwa
7) Quinshon Judkins
8) Damari Alston
9) Zach Evans

Related Content

Notre Dame 2022 Scholarship Offers

Notre Dame 2022 Class Big Board

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