Those are the words that every Notre Dame fan thinks when the Irish gain a commitment from a running back who suffered a serious injury before coming to South Bend. Not another one. Not again.
They remember 5 star running back James Aldridge. An Indiana kid with explosive ability...prior to tearing up his knee in high school. Aldridge enrolled early at Notre Dame and was supposed to be a big time back in Charlie Weis' offense. He never regained that burst he had before his injury. He didn't gain 1,000 yards rushing over his four year career let alone in a single season.
They remember Florida speedster Armando Allen. He reportedly ran a 4.3 forty during his junior year of high school and seemed like a big play waiting to happen...until he broke his ankle after a horse collar tackle in high school. Other than a kick return for a touchdown in the Hawaii bowl, Allen never produced the kind of plays that were expected from him. He never averaged over five yards a carry in a single season and only scored eight rushing touchdowns during his entire career.
And now, here we are again with running back Josh Adams. Adams looked like a big time running back with great size and speed during his junior season. Then he tore his ACL six games into the season.
Despite his injury, Notre Dame kept recruiting him and recently gained his commitment. It's understandable given the recent track record of players like Aldridge and Allen that Irish fans would be a little bit skeptical of how he might recover and what his future will be like in the Irish backfield. It's also extremely unfair to think that he won't recover and end up being a great player at the college level. And if he does fully recover, he has the chance to be an impact player at running back.
I go into more detail about the skills Adams possesses here. Adams may have a 3 star ranking because of his injury, but he shows 4 star talent on film.
Here is a specific example of what the big back showed he was capable of:
Adams is lined up as one of two split backs in the backfield with the quarterback lined up in shotgun. It's fairly obvious that Adams is a huge physical presence at running. He looks all of the 6'3" he is listed at.
Adams is is running a simple flare route out of the backfield. The big back is going to get a chance to catch the ball out in space. (Props to the camera man for getting the shot of the goal post in this play.)
Adams has the ball and you can tell he is on his own for the most part. He's going to have to make somebody miss in order to get positive yards out of this play.
The corner comes up and has Adams dead to rights. This play should be over except for the fact that Adams does an outstanding job of getting his pad level down to take on the contact. Look how low Adams is able to bend when planting his foot in the ground!
The first of these two frames looks ridiculous. Adams is in the process of spinning out of the tackle and the corner who was trying to tackle him is heading for a face plant directly into the grass. The second frame is the aftermath of the spin move. Adams is now in the open field with a lot more space and the corner is rolling around the ground already thinking of how embarrassing this is going to be when his team reviews the film after the game.
Adams is able to bust outside. He turned a play that would have been a loss or a no gain to a big chunk play.
Adam is eventually brought down after a gain of over twenty yards. The arrow in this frame? I added that to indicate that this was a third and long play. He turned a negative play into a gigantic conversion on third down that now puts them into a position to score on this drive.
Adams flashed good feet, great balance, and an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield on this play and during the rest of the six games he played last season. He also showed he has the speed and vision to be a potential homerun hitter if he gets a crease. That kind of talent is why he is worth the risk.
There are no guarantees that he will recover and be the same player that he was athletically prior to tearing his ACL. There is also no guarantee that this is going to seriously screw up his future as a football player. My wife is a physiotherapist and she has reiterated to me repeatedly that each athlete is different and there is nothing that indicates that a teenage athlete who tears his knee is less likely to recover than any other athlete of a different age. In other words, every individual is different and there is nothing to say that a running back that tears his knee in high school can't fully recover.
The good news is that we will get to see a season of Adams in high school to see how he has progressed. The South Bend Tribune's Tyler James did a nice feature on Adams which mentioned that Adams is now cleared to resume full workouts and is expected to be full go at the beginning of his senior season.
Adams may never recover to be the back that he was before the injury, but he also may get back to where he was and earn the 4 star composite ranking he would already have if he didn't get hurt. We'll all just have to wait and see what happens. If he gets back to how he was, then he has the chance to be a special player in the Irish backfield.