In order to take a closer look at Notre Dame’s roster before the 2017 season, I will analyze each position group starting with the offense. Today, I’m taking a look at the depth chart for the Irish at running back. Although the Irish lose Tarean Folston, this may be the deepest they have been at the RB position since 2012 when they had Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, and George Atkinson III. Josh Adams is the most prominent returnee as he already finds himself in 19th on Notre Dame’s all-time rushing list with 1,771 yards in his first two seasons. However, it won’t just be the Josh Adams show as Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr. provide the Irish with plenty of depth in the backfield.
1. Josh Adams
Josh Adams has nothing to prove to Notre Dame’s coaches or fans. Adams burst onto the scene as a freshman with his breakaway speed and ability to break tackles. Somewhat overlooked as a recruit due to an ACL tear in high school, Adams has been nothing but consistent in two years at Notre Dame. In fact, Adams has the highest yards per carry average of any player in program history with over 200 career carries at 6.5 yards. However, there were times last season when it looked like he had lost a bit of that speed from his freshman year, due to some of the bumps and bruises that come through two years of college football.
Now, Adams seems to be back at full health, and with a deeper backfield he should carry a lesser load. On many other team, Adams would be a workhorse back, but he doesn’t need to be. Expect Adams to lead the Irish in carries, yards, and rushing TDs. However, don’t expect him to be taking more than 20 carries per game often. Although his his numbers will go down a bit in terms of yardage, it will be better for his health and the team.
Projected Stats: Rushing: 922 yds, 9 TDs, 140 carries, 6.6 YPC, 1 Fumble
Receiving: 185 yds, 3 TDs, 18 REC, 10.2 YPC
2. Dexter Williams
In 2015, Dexter Williams was expected to be the freshman RB to make a major contribution. Known for his speed and shiftiness, the 4 star recruit came in with a lot of hype. Unfortunately for Williams, he couldn’t pass block as wells Adams and took on a limited role as a freshman. Last season got off to a tough start for Williams as well after an offseason arrest with four teammates. However, it seems Williams has matured in the offseason and is ready to take on a bigger role for this team.
At times, Williams has shown incredible home run ability. For example, last season he completely reversed field against Syracuse and was able to score on a long run. On other occasions, Williams just can’t seem to find a hole and has still looked a bit lost in pass protection. Don’t expect to see that this season. As a junior, Williams knows it’s now or never if he wants to become an NFL RB. With his potential, Williams could be one of the best no. 2 backs in America. While he might not be the guy picking up 1st downs to run out the clock in the 4th quarter, expect some game changing plays from Dexter Williams.
Projected Stats: Rushing: 632 yds, 5 TDs, 100 carries, 6.32 YPC, 2 Fumbles
Receiving: 55 yds, 1 TD, 8 REC, 6.9 YPC
3. Tony Jones Jr.
Not many teams in college football can truly go three deep at running back. However, if everything Autry Denson, Chip Long, and Brian Kelly are saying is true, it’s clear Tony Jones Jr. will have a significant role in the offense. Don’t expect Jones to only come in to give Josh Adams or Dexter Williams a breather. In fact some pundits would put Jones Jr. ahead of Williams on the depth chart. Notably, the sophomore (who preserved a year of eligibility last season) is the best pass catching running back on the team.
Usually, your best pass catching RB is a “scat back”. A smaller player who can pick up a long 3rd down on a screen from time to time. That’s not Tony Jones Jr. He combines a strong receiving skill set with a 225 pound frame that will allow him to punish defenders. I expect Jones Jr. to come in for numerous short yardage situations throughout the season. With his pass catching ability and promise as a short yardage back, Tony Jones Jr. will contribute early and often for the Irish. While it may seem like I’m just trying to cover my bases here, I would not be shocked if Jones Jr. has a much bigger season than I predict here.
Projected Stats: Rushing: 335 yds, 7 TDs, 80 carries, 4.1 YPC, 1 Fumble
Receiving: 165 yds, 2 TDs, 20 Rec, 8.25 YPC
4. Deon McIntosh
With the three-headed-monster in front of him, it may be hard for Deon McIntosh to find the field in his sophomore season. McIntosh certainly has some potential, as Rivals ranked him the #18 All-Purpose back in the country for the class of 2016. However, for the time being there’s nothing he can do on the field that the guys in front of him aren’t better at. Look for McIntosh to pick up a few carries and possibly line up in the slot on occasion, but it may be tough for him to find playing time.
Projected Stats: Rushing: 87 yds, 0 TDs, 16 carries, 5.4 YPC, 0 Fumbles
Receving: 22 yds, 0 TDs, 3 Rec, 7.3 YPC
5. C.J. Holmes
C.J. Holmes is going to be a really exciting player for the Irish in the future. However, with the crowded depth chart in front of him, I expect Holmes to preserve a year of eligibility this season. While it is rare for skill position players to stay for five years, I’m just not sure that Chip Long can find a role for C.J. in this offense. He has plenty of talent as 247 sports ranked him the #245 Overall Player in the country in their composite rankings. It may be a tough pill to swallow for such a talented player, but in following Holmes’ recruitment, he seems to love everything Notre Dame is about and will have the patience to wait his turn. Also, if you haven’t seen or forgot about his commitment video from last year take a look above for a good laugh. It might be the worst Irish accent I’ve ever heard.
Projected Stats: None (Redshirt)