I'm sure by now you've heard the rumors. It sure sounds like 4 star Dexter Williams is going to be the second running back Notre Dame has been looking for in the 2015 recruiting class.
Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like it will be made official until signing day, even though Louis Nix and Cierre Wood may have let the cat out the bag too soon. Since this is recruiting, and I still remember the sting of Lorenzo Booker being set to choose Notre Dame before announcing for Florida State on ESPN, I'm not going to assume anything until he actually announces it and his letter of intent has been sent it.
With that in mind, I'm not sure what the plan is going to be if Notre Dame fails to sign another running back in this class. Maybe they can survive the season with three like they were fortunate enough to do this season, but that's really playing with fire and puts a lot of pressure on the Notre Dame staff to try and get two or more running backs in the 2016 class.
The most likely scenario would be that they are forced to move a player to running back from another position. The one player in this recruiting class that seems like an obvious candidate for the move is projected cornerback Nick Coleman.
Coleman is listed as an athlete by most recruiting sites and that's because he excelled on both sides of the ball at Archbishop Alter (Ohio). While he certainly showed some great potential on defense, he shined more for his team on offense. In his senior season he rushed for 1,125 yards and had 13 touchdowns.
You can check out Coleman's senior highlights below:
That's not a rare thing for many prospects. There are several future defensive backs that are also big time players on offense for their high school team and are often relied on more on that side of the ball. At the same time, there are reasons why teams project those players on defense and the reasons are obvious for a player like Coleman.
For now though, let's concentrate on Coleman in the backfield because there may be a need at the position if Notre Dame doesn't come through with Williams or another back down the stretch. Can Coleman play running back at the next level?
Why maybe he can
Athletically, Coleman is one of the most talented commitments in this class for the Irish and it's on display when he has the ball in his hands. He shows very good speed and the ability to run away from people when he gets a step. A lot of that is helped by how outstanding his lateral agility is and how little wasted motion he has when he changes directions. He is able to accelerate and eat up ground with his long strides without losing much time when he cuts in the open field.
If he is given room, Coleman shows he has the traits to make people miss and gain a lot of yards.
Why he probably can't
There are a lot of unknowns with how Coleman would project at running back at the next level and it starts with his size. He's listed at around 175 and looked like it on his senior film. I don't think he has the body type that is best suited for the position.
Other smaller backs have done so though, so why not Coleman? Mostly because we don't know how he'll be as an inside runner. It's uncertain whether his body can take the pounding or if he has the vision to run inside since he was often the pitch man in his high school's option offense and that's where most of his big plays came out of.
It actually reminds me of former Notre Dame running back, and now current slot receiver, Amir Carlisle. Carlisle put up big time numbers in high school as a running back. He ran away from defenders with his superior speed, but also played in more of Wing-T type of offense that often relies on counters and misdirection that confuse a defense. They might not know who had the ball and then all of a sudden Carlisle was taking it to the house in the open field.
It was obvious after his first season playing at running back at Notre Dame that he did not have patience and vision to be an effective inside runner. He's a much better fit now as a receiver.
Even though Coleman rarely caught the ball in his high school offense, what I saw from his film suggests he may be better suited as an athlete to play as a slot receiver if he did play offense at Notre Dame. He could be an effective runner, but more in the manner that CJ Prosise ran the ball this season than lined up in the backfield.
I don't think there will be a need at slot receiver with Prosise, Torii Hunter Jr., likely Carlisle if he returns for a 5th year as expected, and fellow 2015 commitment CJ Sanders all competing for reps at the position.
I expect Coleman to play cornerback at Notre Dame. He has the raw tools to develop into a very good player because of his length and his overall athleticism. He has quite a bit of work to do with his technique, but KeiVarae Russell did not have much experience playing cornerback and look what Kerry Cooks was able to do with his raw tools in 2012 and 2013.
I don't think Coleman is an answer as a running back at Notre Dame. If Dexter Williams ends up signing with Notre Dame, then hopefully the question of Coleman playing there will never have to be raised.