The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a roster full of players, and we want to talk about them all. One Foot Down’s player profile series will take a look at every single one of them, and hopefully we all learn a little bit more about these guys, and Notre Dame’s chances for the upcoming 2020 season.
#8 Jafar Armstrong, Running Back
Following a near seven month commitment to the Missouri Tigers, Armstrong decommitted from Missouri three days before National Signing Day and gave his verbal commitment to the Irish. Armstrong joined the 2017 Notre Dame recruiting class as a 3-star player and the 69th best wide receiver in the state of Missouri, per 247Sports. He attended high school at Bishop Miege, and his hometown is Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
Armstrong was redshirted during the 2017 season. He was shifted from wide receiver to running back during spring practice in 2018 due to the lack of bodies at the position. Following Dexter Williams’ suspension in the summer of 2018, Armstrong suddenly found himself thrust into the starter’s role. Armstrong scored 2 touchdowns in the season opener against Michigan, and racked up a career-high 98 yards and 2 touchdowns in week 4 against Wake Forest. Unfortunately, Armstrong missed the next three games due to a knee infection. Subsequently, he sprained his ankle in the first game back from the infection. As a result, he was largely ineffective down the stretch. He finished the season with 383 yards rushing on 77 attempts and 7 rushing touchdowns. He also added 12 receptions and 151 yards receiving.
Entering the 2019 season, Armstrong was set to become the focal point of the offense as the unquestioned starter at running back. Again, injury derailed his season. Armstrong suffered a torn abdominal muscle on the opening drive of the season against Louisville. He missed the next four weeks, returning against USC in mid-October. Armstrong never returned to his fall camp form, looking largely out of place anytime he touched the ball and lacking any kind of burst. He finished the year with 46 carries for 122 yards and 1 rushing touchdown. He also chipped in 13 receptions for 97 yards receiving.
Every time Armstrong appears to be on track to break out, the football gods literally take the ball away from him. How many players in recent memory have suffered a serious enough infection from a cut to miss multiple weeks of the season? Like Charlie Brown, Jafar continues to give it the old college try and optimistically returns to the sport he loves.
Many Irish fans are salivating at the thought of our incoming 5-star recruit, Chris Tyree, becoming the starting running back in 2020. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but as of right now, Armstrong appears poised to retain his starting label for the 2020 season.
However, I do believe Armstrong will be part of some sort of timeshare in the backfield during the upcoming season. After bulking up to 220 lbs in anticipation of becoming the bell cow for the 2019 season, Armstrong should look to get back to his playing weight of 205 lbs that he had in 2018. Hopefully, this takes some stress off of his body and allows him to regain his athleticism. I envision Armstrong contributing 10-15 touches per game and giving Tommy Rees a capable receiving threat out of the backfield.