Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 21 of 55

22 APRIL 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED RUNNING BACKS 2019 SPRING FOOTBALL OVERVIEW F irst-year running backs coach Lance Taylor is tasked with leading a backfield with more questions than answers and turning it into a unit that can drive an offense for a full sea- son. He will have to do that without Dexter Williams, who led the Irish with 995 rushing yards, an average of 6.3 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns last fall. Junior Jafar Armstrong looked poised for a breakout while Williams was suspended. Armstrong was on pace for 1,079 to- tal yards and 16 touchdowns before the return of Williams and then his own absence because of a knee injury. Like Armstrong, Jones was on pace for a productive season before Williams returned. After four games, Jones was on pace for 1,140 total yards, making plays as a runner and receiver. Armstrong and Jones combined for 170.8 total yards per game and 6.6 yards per touch in the first four contests. In the final nine games, the combination of Williams, Armstrong and Jones com- bined for 171.6 total yards per contest and 6.3 yards per touch. Armstrong must prove he can stay healthy and continue to develop as a runner, and Jones must demonstrate he can produce over the course of a full season. However, the duo showed in 2018 when thrust into the spotlight they can make winning plays. Sophomores Jahmir Smith and C'Bo Flemister add depth, and Smith will spend the spring pushing Jones, while freshman Kyren Wil- liams will look to use his re- ceiving skills to find a role. BY THE NUMBERS 0 Fumbles lost by Notre Dame running backs the past three seasons under former coach Autry Denson, the school's all-time leading rusher during his playing career from 1995-98 and now the new head coach at Charleston Southern. The last time a Fighting Irish running back lost a fumble was during a 19-16 win versus Boston College on Nov. 21, 2015, when both C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams had theirs recovered by the Eagles (with Adams' coming later in the game). 6.7 Yards per carry averaged by the duo of Josh Adams (2017) and Dexter Williams (2018) the past two seasons, an extraordinary figure. Adams had the benefit of running behind a magnificent line led by two top-nine NFL Draft picks in Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, while also displaying underrated breakaway capabilities. Williams had an extra gear that was conspicuous when compared to fellow backfield mates. Such yards per carry might be less likely in 2019, so efficiency and consistency will be extra imperative. 52 Catches for 600 yards five touchdowns averaged per season by Stanford running backs during new Irish running backs coach Lance Taylor's three years with the Cardinal from 2014-16. In the two seasons after Taylor's departure, they combined for a total of only 54 catches. Taylor also has coached receiv- ers in the NFL and was a wideout at Alabama from 1999-2002. WHO'S GONE Dexter Williams After missing the first four games of the 2018 season, he became a stalwart by racking up 1,128 total yards (995 rush- ing and 133 receiving) and scor- ing 13 touchdowns in his nine appearances. WHO'S BACK Senior Tony Jones Jr. Was a vital figure in the backfield during Notre Dame's 4-0 start to the sea- son while Williams was suspended. Aver- aged 6.2 yards per offensive touch last fall. Junior Jafar Armstrong After moving from wideout in the spring, totaled 542 total yards (383 rushing and 159 re- ceiving) and seven touchdowns while learning the ins and outs of the running back position. TOP NEWCOMERS Freshman Kyren Williams He rushed for 3,947 yards and racked up 2,696 receiving yards during his prep career. Returning Returning Year-End Year Starts Yards/TD Yards/TD 2018 1 873/11 1,868/22 2019 6 1,007/13 — Brian Kelly's Take "I'm going to reserve any comments on that group. I'm going to let [new run- ning backs coach] Lance [Taylor] kind of get his stamp on those guys. I saw a lot of really good things from them … but I'm going to tap the brakes a little on that position and let Lance kind of work on that group." TONY JONES JR. POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH The experience gained in 2018 was crucial for junior Jafar Armstrong and senior Tony Jones Jr., with the pair combining for 1,091 total yards and 11 touchdowns. They will battle for the top spot, but sophomores Jahmir Smith and C'Bo Flemister also plan to push for carries. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - BGI April 2019