Today we are going to take a look at Markese Stepp as a future running back for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Even though he has been a firm commitment for a while now, his value to this class has grown as he has worked diligently to help bring in more recruits to the 2018 class. His dedication to reach out to those players that Notre Dame is recruiting speaks volumes on his leadership and character- things that are not measured on a highlight film.
The 6’0” 205 pound back out of Cathedral High in Indianapolis, Indiana is indeed a star in the making and a great addition to this class.
With an athlete like Markese Stepp, you notice immediate strong suits that warrant his four star rating. All I had to scout here was Stepp's sophomore year and a small amount of junior year film due to an injury. I did see enough in the available material to get an idea of where his strengths are, and how he fits on Notre Dame’s offense.
While watching Stepps's running style, you notice his power and strength. Stepp runs with powerful leg drive and tends to kick through tackles. He possesses “deceptive speed”and runs with a long stride that makes it difficult to tackle him low. He is not a finesse back- he runs downhill, and with authority.
Stepp is a running back that runs with great vision and hits the hole without hesitation andhe does it with his eyes up. This will serve him well in a zone-read style because he uses his patience to read the blocks being set up, and attacks with a north-south running style, thus eliminating tackles for loss. Stepps runs upright, which is not the best trait, but this is what allows him to see the field. Even when running upright, he anticipates contact and lowers his body right before the hit, which gives him good leverage while protecting the ball.
Something that was noticed was that often he had the benefit of a lead blocker, or was running out of the Pistol set. The lead blocker is self-explanatory in why it helps him. Being in the Pistol or having an H-Back in motion from any formation, forces a defense to guard both the left and right side of the offense. In other words, you can’t key on where the back is off-set from with the QB in the gun, and the motion causes the defense to shift and create a weak side. This prevents overloads and allows a patient runner like Stepp, to have a better chance of finding a hole as the shift in the defense will dictate a lane opening up for him to read.
On the inside-zone runs, for example, he takes a correct angle off the mesh from the QB. This allows Stepp to clearly see the guard and how the seal block is developing. Again, this illustrates his vision and ability to find lanes that form in the second level. This is something to consider for Notre Dame’s staff to maybe install this set and motion from a lead blocker to better take advantage of Stepp’s ability to flourish in that type formation. Chip Long favored this type of alignment at Memphis, and was exposed to it at Arizona State as well.
One key area that Stepp needs to focus on is his ball placement. On a number of his long runs, he had a tendency to not switch the ball away from traffic. This is indicative of his youth as he would still try and fight off would-be tacklers with the free arm, not realizing that there was a defender coming from the other side towards the arm carrying the ball. Of course in the highlights this never ended in a turnover, but against stronger competition it would prove to be an issue. This technique problem is most likely subject to his youth and inexperience. You have to remind yourself that this is a sophomore running back in his film, and one that still has a lot of time to improve on the small things.
I didn’t see any of his blocking ability in the film and only one pass reception. So not much is there to evaluate, though on the screen, I noticed he was turning up field on his first step before the ball arrived. Again, youth here is the issue and it was only one play to access his ability in that area. There was not enough to see to characterize this as a problem. I do think this year will be interesting to evaluate his physical development from last year, and see how far he has come in his play.
Stepp will be a big time player for the Fighting Irish in the coming years. Physically, he reminds me of Tony Jones Jr. in his build and powerful running style. Both of these backs are ideal fits for the style of zone offense that Chip Long runs. The key here is Stepp, and Jones for that matter, like to push the ball down field. They don’t look first to run around someone, but instead, they accept contact with confidence and rip their legs through tackles. This is the most impressive quality Stepp has shown on film so far, and one that will endure him to the Notre Dame fan base.
He has already won us over with his willingness to help attract other athletes to South Bend. In the end, it’s Stepp we will be the most happy to see.