Depth. It's kind of an important thing in college football. You could see it's impact with teams that have scholarship reductions like USC for the past couple of seasons and you definitely saw what lack of depth can do to a team this season with Notre Dame's struggles in the second half of the season.
I don't need to get into it again, but a pretty big reason for not having the proper depth at certain positions was due to not signing enough players in recruiting. It just can't happen if a program wants to compete at an elite level. That's why Notre Dame needs to sign at least two running backs in this recruiting class.
Not wants to. Notre Dame needs to. With only two scholarship running backs returning next season (Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant), it's imperative that Notre Dame adds depth at the position for next season and beyond.
The Irish currently have one committed in Josh Adams. Adams bounced back from a significant knee injury during his junior season with a huge year as a senior. There's no doubt he's great to have committed as the first back in the class. But one is just not enough. There needs to be one more and the Irish coaching staff realize it.
That's why they have been working so hard to land that second back in this class. It seemed like 5 star running back Soso Jamabo was going to commit to Notre Dame at a certain point, but when that didn't happen, Tony Alford knew he couldn't wait to see what happens and potentially miss out on someone else.
There are several candidates to become the second running back commit in this class and Eric wrote about many of them on the offensive recruiting big board earlier this week. I'm going to shrink Eric's list down a bit further and take a deeper dive into how the ones that Notre Dame has the best shot at would fit in Brian Kelly's offense, what the chances are that they will actually choose to play in that scheme, and a give a comparison to a recent Notre Dame running back to get Irish fans excited about their potential.
Before I get started, I'm going to eliminate Mike Weber (just committed to Ohio State), Cameron Scarlett (deciding next week and likely heading to Stanford), Nathan Meadors (it sounds like ND prefers him at safety), and Jeremy Smith (he doesn't currently have a committable offer and might cancel his visit this weekend).
Fortunately, there are still some really big time prospects on ND's list. Might as well start at the top.
Scheme fit: He's a back that can play in just about any type of offense, but is a perfect fit to play in a spread system. He also has the talent to develop into a stud receiver as well if that's what a team wanted from him. He's a dangerous runner that, if he gets a seam, you can pretty much light up the scoreboard with six points. Brian Kelly used the screen game a lot more this season and that fits perfectly with Jamabo's skill set. He's extremely tough to tackle out in space.
If he was on the field and Notre Dame went to an empty set, the defense would be forced to put a defensive back on him. He's not the kind of player that any team wants to have a linebacker cover one on one.
Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight. What are ND's chances? Unfortunately, not that good. It appears that he is leaning towards UCLA now and the Irish may not be able to catch up. (Sad trombone) But if he was sold on UCLA, he probably would have already committed. Hopefully Alford can work some magic.
Recent Notre Dame running back comparison: I don't think there has been a back in recent years at Notre Dame with the kind of talent Jamabo has. The closest thing to it would be Cierre Wood running to daylight against Oklahoma for 62 yards. Jamabo has that kind of big play ability every time he touches the ball.
Scheme fit: Cronkrite can run physical at times, but he's not the biggest back. I don't see him being the kind of player than can be a workhorse type in Notre Dame's offense. Then again, Kelly has not really made any back a workhorse while he has been in South Bend. The closest thing is probably Folston in the second half of this season.
He's an explosive athlete, but I don't see great patience and vision from him as a runner. I think he's more of a complimentary back and a change of pace type. The great thing about Cronkrite though is his versatility. He also is a big time hitter at safety and could be a candidate to play there as well.
Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight. What are ND's chances? It's too tough to say right now. We really won't know until he gets on campus this weekend for an official visit. It better wow him because he is still considered a Miami commit.
Recent Notre Dame running back comparison: When I see Cronkrite run, I think of Amir Carlisle's first ever carry at Notre Dame that went for over 40 yards. I know that may not be exciting to hear because Carlisle's career at running back fizzled before he moved to receiver, but I think Cronkrite is the same kind of explosive athlete Carlisle is, just a little more physical.
Ronald Jones II
Scheme fit: Jones already runs out of a spread scheme and does so incredibly well. He's the kind of back that a team gives the ball to when they are running their four minute offense and trying to finish out a game. Just give him a little bit of a hole and he'll give you more yards than he should.
He rarely goes down on first contact and could be a heck of an inside runner for Notre Dame. He shows great feet, patience, and vision yet also shows big time burst. When he gets into the open field, he's always trying to score. I love the way this kid runs with the football.
Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight. What are ND's chances? After being off the radar for awhile because of Jones' commitment to Oklahoma State, it sounds like he's considered to be the most likely to end up signing with Notre Dame. He just took a visit to USC last week so his visit this weekend to Notre Dame is going to be crucial in seeing where everything stands.
Recent Notre Dame running back comparison: The best rushing performance I saw in any recent game by a Notre Dame player was Theo Riddick versus USC in 2012. I watch Jones and I think of that.
Scheme fit: Williams has the kind of speed that destroys pursuit angles. Other than Jamabo, he has a different kind of speed than any other back on Notre Dame's board. He also has great feet and does a great job of making himself skinny when running inside, but is fast enough to burn defenders on the edge on speed sweep plays like the kind that CJ Prosise had success with this season.
I feel that he is the kind of running back that could do everything a running back is asked to do in this offense.
Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight. What are ND's chances? Probably not that great after he was supposed to visit for Louisville and then again this weekend, but ended up cancelling both times. He is going to Miami instead this weekend and has been committed to the Canes for some time now. He said he still plans to visit in January, but we'll see if that ultimately ends up happening.
Recent Notre Dame running back comparison: Tarean Folston versus Louisville this season. Folston did it all that game and I see games like that in Williams' future as well.
Other names may emerge, but I feel these are the four most likely candidates to be the second running back commitment for Notre Dame in this recruiting class. One has taken a visit to Notre Dame and the other three are scheduled to do so.
While I certainly have my preference among these four players, I think any one of them could end up being valuable contributors at Notre Dame. All it takes is one to end up Irish in the end and it will solve a significant depth issue that Notre Dame needs to have addressed.