Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2015 Issue

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

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Page 33 of 92

CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL O nce a prominent position, the fullback has slowly been re‑ moved from college and profes‑ sional offenses — but why? It has provided Notre Dame with some memorable play‑ ers. Notre Dame's most recent NFL Hall of Fame inductee — Je‑ rome "The Bus" Bettis (1990‑92) — spent his Irish career playing fullback. Players like Wayne "The Train" Bull‑ ock (1972‑74), Jerome H e a v e n s ( 1 9 7 5 ‑ 7 8 ) , A n t h o n y J o h n s o n (1986‑89), Rodney Cul‑ ver (1988‑91) and Ray Zellers (1991‑94) also were some of the lumi‑ naries for the Irish. The last great full‑ back was Marc Edwards (1993‑96), who went on to become a second‑round pick of the San Fran‑ cisco 49ers. Notre Dame's 2015 roster does not have a single fullback listed, and hasn't since the 2010 season. BEGINNING OF THE END When former head coach Charlie Weis was first hired at Notre Dame, the fullback position was ready to once again become one of promi‑ nence. After rushing for just 28 yards on 13 carries during the 2004 season, Rashon Powers‑Neal (2001‑05) opened the 2005 campaign with 41 yards and three touchdowns in a 42‑21 win over Pittsburgh. By the middle of that sea‑ son, Powers‑Neal was suspended, and the last every‑down fullback was gone from the Irish roster. During Weis' tenure, Asaph Schwapp, Luke Schmidt and Ashley McConnell were re‑ cruited to play fullback, but they were situ‑ ational players. W h e n h e a d c o a c h Brian Kelly arrived, there was not a true full‑ back on the roster. The position began to get phased out by Weis, but the arrival of Kelly and his spread offense made the fullback officially a relic of the past. Programs like Stan‑ ford, Wisconsin, Michi‑ gan and Alabama continue to use the fullback, but throughout college foot‑ ball the position is gone. ARRIVAL OF THE SPREAD There are reasons Notre Dame and other programs have moved away from the fullback, with the emergence of the spread being the first and most obvious. The primary goal of the spread is to force defenses to defend the width and length of the field. Teams have replaced the fullback with a third re‑ ceiver. The personnel groupings and the formations that follow make it dif‑ Where Has The Fullback Gone? Marc Edwards (1993‑96) is the last great fullback to play for the Fighting Irish. FILE PHOTO

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