Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2012.
There were nine this year who retained a year of eligibility and today we take a look at a running back who might break in to the rotation due to his size and quick feet.
Running Back, Will Mahone
Hometown: Austintown, Ohio
Weight: 211 pounds
247: 3-star, No. 28 RB, No. 32 Ohio, 87 Grade
ESPN: 4-star, No. 15 RB, No. 17 Ohio, 79 Grade
Scout: 4-star, No. 23 RB
Rivals: 4-star, No. 18 RB, No. 13 Ohio, No. 197 nationally
Composite: 4-star, No. 15 RB, No. 16 Ohio, No. 239 nationally
Need at Position: Low
Expected Spot on Depth Chart: 4th string
Mahone came out of Austintown in northeast Ohio near Youngstown as a running back who played linebacker on defense and was also a successful basketball player. He injured his ankle during his senior season and ended up missing half of the football season. Nevertheless, he averaged 8.6 yards per carry in 2011 and became the lone pure running back of the 2011 Notre Dame recruiting class.
Will is a nice young prospect with decent upside. As a senior he had good speed, especially when he got in the open field and opened up his stride. His initial burst isn't great, but his second gear features a nice get-up and he cuts and finds holes really well. He's not overly physical but he's also not afraid of contact and does a good job using his arms to shield himself from defenders for more yards after contact.
Before the backs for 2013 became part of the Notre Dame class it was looking like Mahone would have a good shot at some playing time this fall. Not long ago Ty Isaac was giving Notre Dame the cold shoulder, Ryan Green joined Florida State's class, several other backs were looking elsewhere, and we were debating about whether the Irish were even going to sign 1 top runner, let alone two.
Fast forward 7 months and even with the losses of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick the running back position is still stocked with talent and great depth. With the addition of the '13 freshman and including Mahone, that gives Notre Dame 6 viable options to choose from at running back this upcoming September.
When was the last time the Irish had that luxury?
With so many bodies, it's going to be an uphill battle for Mahone in 2013. Not that this is a major problem or unexpected for someone with 4 years of eligibility left. From what we know of the 6 running back candidates, Mahone probably has the least speed and that could be a detriment to his chances of seeing some carries early in his career. As such, his playing time over the next year or two will likely depend upon how well he does the little things and how well-rounded he can become as an overall back.
There could be a role as a power back but I've always disliked that term and often view it as a backhanded compliment for most players who in reality aren't going to tote the rock and start running over linebackers. However, Mahone could develop in to a great third down back early in his career. He's got good size for blocking and he has the hands to be a weapon out of the backfield.
For now, 4th string seems realistic and that assumes McDaniel could move positions again and Folston might spend more time at slot receiver than receiving carries out of the backfield. Minus injuries it'll be tough for Mahone to make an impact in 2013 but there's no shame in getting better and seeing the field a little bit and helping out on special teams.