Stable of backs, strong offensive line look to lead Irish
When Notre Dame upset the LSU Tigers in last year’s Music City Bowl while rushing for over 200 yards, it showed that the Fighting Irish could man handle a strong SEC team.
At spring practice, receiver C.J. Prosise was cross-trained at running back and was the most impressive player on offense. In addition, Malik Zaire became the starting quarterback and all of the sudden, the Fighting Irish appear to have a dominant running game. Let’s review the running situation as we near preparations for the upcoming season.
The Fighting Irish have three running backs who will compete for the right to start. Junior Tarean Folston (5’10”, 215 lbs.), a four-star back who attended Cocoa High School in Florida was named 2012 offensive player of the year. He was ranked 66th best player on ESPN 300 list and ranked 119th on the Rivals 250 list.
During his freshman season, he had some pre-season injuries that limited his playing time. He rushed for 470 yards on 88 carries and scored three rushing touchdowns. He played his best game against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown.
Folston had a breakout year last season when as a sophomore he played in all 13 games–starting in 10– and gained 889 yards on 175 carries, scoring six touchdowns. Against North Carolina, Folston rushed for 98 yards on 18 carries and had 71 receiving yards. He rushed for two touchdowns and had his first touchdown reception. In the biggest game of the year against Florida State, Folston rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries. It appears Folston has the inside track to log the most minutes this season. His game is a combination of speed and power. He runs low to the ground and has a great second effort when stopped. He needs to improve on his pass receiving ability to become a complete running back.Nov 8, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Greg Bryant (1) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State defeated Notre Dame 55-31. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Junior Greg Bryant (5’10”, 205 lbs.), a five-star back who is also a Floridian, having played at American Heritage High School in Delray Beach. In his senior season, he rushed for 1,450 yards on 186 carries and 17 touchdowns. Bryant was ranked 22nd in the ESPN 300 list, 19th in Rivals 250 list, and 15th in Max Preps list. He also played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
At Notre Dame, Bryant only appeared in three games his freshman season in 2013, as he injured knee ending his season. Last season he played in 12 games and ran for 289 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately, Bryant has not been able to become the prime ball carrier for the Fighting Irish. Part of the reason is that he does block well in passing situations, which leads to quarterback hurries and sacks. He has also been injury prone, suffering a minor ankle injury last year that kept him from being 100%.
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Senior C. J. Prosise (6’0”, 220 lbs.) graduated from Woodberry Forest High School in Woodberry Forest, Virginia. He was a three-star recruit who was first team all-state as a defensive back. In his senior season in 2011, he had 51 tackles, ten passes defended, and six interceptions.
Notre Dame recruited him as a safety and he was red-shirted his freshman season in 2012. As a sophomore, Prosise was moved to slot receiver. He played in all 13 games on special teams and as a back-up receiver. He caught seven passes for 72 yards. Last year, the red-shirt junior caught 29 passes for 515 yards and two touchdowns. He had the highest yards per catch of any receivers with over 17. This was a testament to his moves and his speed.
At spring practice, Prosise was cross-trained at running back. He impressed the coaches so much that he has a chance to be the starting running back. It appears that for the second time in two years, Notre Dame will have a threesome at running back, except the leader of the group may be the cross-trained Prosise.
The pecking order for the running back position will be determined in August. The great news is that Notre Dame has three very good running backs who complement each other. Add to that a running quarterback in Malik Zaire, along with a powerful offensive line and Notre Dame’s running game looks to be dominate. The Fighting Irish should be able to control the ball and the clock. That combination can lead to many wins this season.