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Notre Dame Spring Football 2016: Managing a One-Two Punch at Running Back

One starter moves on to the NFL but another returns from injury.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Spring football opens up for the Fighting Irish on Wednesday, March 16th. To get ready for the shells and then pads we're making our way through the roster. Today, it's a unit that ran for a bunch of yards last year.


Returning Snaps from 2015: Adams (338), D. Williams (44), Folston (7)

No Snaps Last Year: Brent

Lost Snaps: Prosise (461)

Early Enrollee: None

Summer Arrival: T. Jones, McIntosh

Breathing Room

A while ago during one of our scholarship posts I talked about how something had to give with all the players eligible to return at running back. If everyone had stayed there would have been 3 players going into 2016 expecting starter minutes and carries. All three could have come back knowing they've each gained at least 800 yards in a single season.

It would have been nice to have Prosise back nonetheless but his departure for the NFL clears room for Adams and Folston to carry the load and allow some younger backs to see the field in small doses. Prosise himself even mentioned in the lead up to the Combine that he may have been moved back to wide receiver and he wasn't too keen on that. So we move on.

Folston Under Yellow Flag

Tarean Folston may not be 100% for spring and even if he is that healthy there's little incentive to push him that hard during practice. Not that he can't improve but keeping Folston healthy and in-shape is more important than seeing how much higher his ceiling is in college.

The greatest beneficiary this spring should be Dexter Williams who is bound to get as much work as anyone as he looks to solidify himself as someone worthy of more than a couple touches per game. Williams flashed some enticing quickness and burst as a true freshman last fall but lacked the control and understanding to take advantage of his offensive line's blocking.

How they'll treat Josh Adams might be a bit trickier. If Folston isn't full go the depth isn't such that Adams can lollygag through spring without much work, either. Plus, this will be Adams' first spring practice and he has the ability to really improve and become a star on the offense. At the same time, you want to protect a valuable asset like this yet Adams should still get most of the first-team carries throughout spring and rest him when needed.

Stay or Go?

It feels like Justin Brent should be close to graduating by now but since he was able to sit out this past season it's important to remember he's still only a rising redshirt sophomore. The fact that he'll be participating in his third spring practice makes it feel like he's a veteran whose time is quickly running out, though.

Is it true that Brent's time is running out? That's difficult to say without knowing which position he's going to stick at now and in the future. C.J. Prosise is the exception to the rule that you can move a guy around multiple times and watch the player improve at each new position. Usually, moving someone back and forth is a waste of time.

Should Brent move back to receiver? Both wideout and running back need depth help in the spring so that's not much of a determining factor. There's been no question about Brent's physical abilities but he was rumored to have struggled a lot with the mental aspects at receiver prior to this move to the backfield last year. Is he ready to give it another shot at wideout?

If you do think his time is running out perhaps it doesn't really matter where Brent plays? He'll need a big jump at either position to move into a backup role and if that improvement doesn't occur we may be looking at one of the bigger disappointments from an offensive skill player in the Brian Kelly era.

Since we'd like to avoid that fate Brent will be one of the more intriguing prospects to watch this spring.