We will round out our series on the Notre Dame position groups by taking a look at the offensive backfied. There is true quality depth at the Quarterback position and I expect that we will see at least three QB's get time this fall. We already know that both Crist and Rees bring enough to the table to be highly effective and I really like the current potential of Hendrix as a third option. The running backs on the other hand are a little thin. Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray are a nice one-two punch but then we default straight to the two freshmen from there. Despite this I think both positions will be very productive this fall.
Listed below is the opening spring depth chart by position for the Quarterbacks, and Running Backs. Players with an * next to their class are eligible to apply for a 5th year after graduation. The only player in this group that will exhaust his eligibility this fall is senior running back Jonas Gray. Let's take a look.
10 Dayne Crist 6'4" 235 (Senior*) We have already beaten the QB battle to death so I will keep it concise. The short version is that we all know that Crist is more naturally gifted than Rees. He has the size, the demeanor and he can make all the throws. He also happens to be a poster boy great kid. It is hard not to want to see Dayne be great. The biggest strike against Dyane is that he is coming back off of consecutive serious knee injuries so his health is a legitimate concern. It says a lot about his character that he battled back from all that and has reclaimed the starting job. I hope to see Dayne have a great season this fall.
11 Tommy Rees 6'2" 215 (Sophomore) As much as I like Crist, I don't see any way not to also be a huge Tommy Rees fan. Yeah he doesn't have the greatest arm, but when the season was on the brink of disaster last fall the young freshman stepped up and simply did what he needed to do to help the Irish finish up strong down the stretch. Rees is simply a winner and reminds me a lot of a young Major Applewhite when he was playing at Texas. We haven't heard the last from Tommy and it will be interesting to watch him continue to push Crist this fall. If called upon he will be ready. This is about the best case scenario possible for a backup QB.
12 Andrew Hendrix 6'2" 220 (Sophomore*) Hendrix is a very talented QB and I, like most others, was very surprised when Rees emerged ahead of him last fall. Hendrix has a great arm and can also run the ball very effectively. Most speculate that Hendrix will make appearances this fall to run the read option and some other such plays a-la young Tebow. What will really be interesting, and most likely hotly debated, is when and how exactly Coach Kelly chooses to do that. Hendrix will likely get the keys to the car another couple of years down the road. Unless of course....
5 Everett Golson 6'0" 185 (Freshman) Say hello to Everett Golson. Everett was an early enrollee in the spring but got some of us very excited by putting his raw talent on display during the spring game. Golson is young, raw and has a ton to learn but he could turn out to be better than all of these guys in the long run. I hope that Golson retains a year of eligibility this fall as I am really looking forward to watching him run this offense in the future.
20 Cierre Wood 6'0" 215 (Junior*) Cierre has all the tools to be absolutely outstanding. It is now time for him to sieze the moment and do just that. Coach Kelly recently commented on Cierre and said that he is now a "complete" player. I expect the junior to have a huge season this fall.
25 Jonas Gray 5'10" 230 (Senior) Jonas might be the most important player on the whole team. At 230 lbs with good wheels Gray is the perfect complement to Wood and could finally emerge as a serious contributor in his senior campaign. Gray has struggled with holding on to the football in the past so hopefully those days are behind him. If he can spell Wood regularly to keep him fresh these two guys could really wear down opposing defenses and put games away in the second half.
31 Cameron Roberson 6'0" 218 (Sophomore*) Roberson is out for the season due to injury which is a definite blow to the depth at running back.
34 George Atkinson 6'1" 200 (Freshman) The twin brother of corner Josh Atkinson, George is a serious athlete with great speed. Coach Kelly has already stated that he will play on special teams but could also get some reps in the offensive backfield. If either Wood or Gray miss any time due to injuries he will probably have to.
33 Cam McDaniel 5'10" 192 (Freshman) Cam is in almost the exact same situation as George Atkinson. Cam is a little further along with the playbook as he played his high school ball in a similar system. Coach Kelly has mentioned that Cam is also a little stronger than George as a runner but he isn't quite as fast. McDaniel will also see time on special teams and also has the potential to emerge as another option in the backfield.
The ongoing battle at quarterback will be interesting to watch and I am certain that the debate there is not over. If both Crist and Rees stay healthy it will be interesting to see how that shakes out. What if Dayne starts a game badly then Rees comes in and has a hot hand? I can already hear the howls. The good news is that both of those guys are capable of winning football games. Sprinkle in a little Hendrix as a change of pace guy and the quarterback position will be very fun to watch this fall.
Despite the depth issues I am also excited about the running backs. I think Cierre Wood will run for 1,000 yards if he stays healthy. In addition I have high hopes for Jonas Gray as his number two. I am concerned about those two freshman should they get called upon to take on bigger roles early in the season but hopefully they will get to cut their teeth on special teams and with some mop up time in September so that they are ready to contribute as required down the stretch. As a unit I think it is feasible that the Irish could push 2,000 yards rushing this season.
Overall I really like this team and where the program is right now. It really feels like the arrow is pointing straight up. This is going to be a very exciting football season for all Notre Dame fans. Just a few more days.
If you missed the first four installments of this series you can find them at the links below.