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What Will Notre Dame Do At Running Back Moving Forward?

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This is actually quite tricky with the 85 man limit.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Okay so... the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have had as many roster ripples in the past week as I can remember. So much has been going on with transfers, players leaving early for the NFL Draft, players saying they’re leaving and then changing their mind, and now Brian Kelly has kicked four players off the team.

Kevin Stepherson’s exit was totally expected, and to be brutally honest, Brandon Tiassum’s departure is welcomed news to scholarship number crunchers. It is the other two castaways that make this a little tougher and a lot trickier.

Navy v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Essentially, Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes were going to be the 3rd and 4th string running backs for the Irish offense in 2018. The loss of Josh Adams to the draft promotes both Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr. into a 1A and 1B situation (whether you like it or not). After that duo, the only other back left is freshman Jahmir Smith (an early enrollee).

While only using three running backs in a season s certainly doable, and the Irish have done it before, it’s a dangerous proposition. All one needs to do is look back on the 2017 season, and see the reliance the Irish had on their 4th string running back Deon McIntosh after injuries mounted for Adams, Jones, and Williams.

What will the Irish do?

WELCOME THE PRODIGAL SON

According to a few outlets, C.J. Holmes has a path to get back on the football team. He is still enrolled with the University and will be taking classes this spring. Some fans are calling it, “the Michael Floyd plan.” Of course, the best ending is this plan working in the same way it did for Floyd, and Holmes returns to the team during fall camp.

GO RECRUIT ONE

Notre Dame could just go out and recruit a running back - right? Well, yes and no. Almost all of the running backs that the Irish have offers out to are already signed to a different school. Not only has the early signing period made it difficult to persuade an offered prospect to flip this late in the cycle, it has also made it more difficult to find those plan b types as a lot of them have signed to other schools as well.

Notre Dame is currently interested in, and talking with a running back that is committed to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. C’Bo Flemister is a three star running back from Georgia that was once committed to the Georgia Southern Eagles. He flipped to GT in early December. Notre Dame running backs coach, Autry Denson, is going to meet with Flemister on Wednesday - although no offer is guaranteed to be extended.

GO CONVERT ONE

Back when Lou Holtz was pacing the sidelines inside Notre Dame Stadium, he would recruit a whole bunch of running backs and then put them where he wanted them once they got to South Bend. That, of course, is not how the world works anymore, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a possible running back on the roster right now.

Brian Kelly has made these types of moves before, so this isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Still, if this is going to be an option for Notre Dame, they will have to make the move this spring. Maybe it’s a guy like Nick Coleman? I can’t say for sure, but there are enough athletes on the roster that used to play running back in high school that it is at least an option.

If it was really needed, an incoming freshman by the name of Tariq Bracy (marked down as a cornerback) might be able to be moved to running back.

KEEP IN MIND THE NUMBERS

With all of these recent moves, Notre Dame is now sitting one scholarship under the limit. The guys at Irish Illustrated have a prop bet going about the scholarship count at the start of camp. The over/under is set at 80.

2018 Notre Dame Football Scholarship Chart

Position/Year Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior 5th Year
Position/Year Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior 5th Year
Quarterback Phil Jurkovec Avery Davis* Ian Book* Brandon Wimbush*
Running Back Jahmir Smith, C'Bo Flemister Jafar Armstrong* Tony Jones Jr.* Dexter Williams
Tight End George Takacs, Tommy Tremble Cole Kmet, Brock Wright Alize' Mack* Nic Weishar
Wide Receiver Micah Jones, Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III Michael Young Chase Claypool, Javon McKinley* Chris Finke*, Miles Boykin*
Center Luke Jones Sam Mustipher
Guard John Dirksen Dillan Gibbons* Tommy Kraemer* Trevor Ruhland* Alex Bars
Tackle Cole Mabry, Jarrett Patterson Josh Lugg*, Robert Hainsey, Aaron Banks* Liam Eichenberg*
Defensive Tackle Jayson Ademilola, Ja'mion Franklin Kurt Hinish, Darnell Ewell*, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa Micah Dew-Treadway*, Jerry Tillery Jonathan Bonner
Defensive End Justin Ademilola Kofi Wardlow* Ade Ogundeji*, Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara
Linebacker Matt Bauer, Ovio Oghoufo, Jack Lamb Drew White*, Jordan Genmark Heath Jonathan Jones*, Jamir Jones, DJ Morgan Te'von Coney Drue Tranquill
Rover Shayne Simon Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah*, Isaiah Robertson Asmar Bilal
Safety Derrik Allen, Paul Moala, Houston Griffith Devin Studstill, Jalen Elliott, Alohi Gilman* Nicco Fertitta, Nick Coleman
Cornerback Joe Wilkins Jr., Tariq Bracy, D.J. Brown, Noah Boykin Julian Love, Troy Pride Jr., Donte Vaughn Shaun Crawford**
Specialists John Doerer John Shannon* Justin Yoon Tyler Newsome
27/85 (27) 45/85 (18) 65/85 (20) 79/85 (14) 85/85 (6)
*Eligible For 5th Year **Eligible For 6th Year

SO NOW WHAT?

Now we all take a trip to the Grotto and pray for the health of Dexter Williams. We also need to be patient. We call this “processing” at other schools, but perhaps there is some justification here. Really, this is nothing more than a waiting game. Even spring may tell us very little as far as the running back position goes, and with dwindling numbers, we may see less as well.

HELLO 5 WIDE!