With the likes of Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Equanimeous St. Brown, Josh Adams, Durham Smythe, and more gone to the NFL, the Irish look to reload their offense in 2018. To do so, the Irish will rely on a few players to grow into bigger roles.
The nature of college football is that teams change significantly from year to year. Programs must then rely on players growing into new, more important roles. These players will be called upon to assume bigger roles for Brian Kelly’s Irish in 2018. If these players develop into new roles, Notre Dame has the opportunity to take the next step in their trajectory. If these players prove to have growing pains, it could be a long year for the Irish offense.
Notre Dame’s backfield situation is a major area of concern for this upcoming season. With Josh Adams moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles, Notre Dame was already out a great deal of running back production. To make matters worse, Deon McIntosh and CJ Holmes were dismissed from the team before spring practice. Suffice it to say that Notre Dame’s depth in the offensive backfield is lacking. From last year’s roster, the Irish only have Dexter Williams and Tony Jones, Jr. with any experience worth mentioning.
Enter early-enrollee and true freshman Jahmir Smith, who comes to campus after being the 26th ranked running back in the class of 2017, according to 247 Sports. Smith is going to have a leg-up on the competition, after enrolling this January. Given that both Jones and Williams missed time last season with injuries, Smith could find himself as a vital part of the running back rotation. He will have the chance to produce, and if he does, he could see a significant chunk of carries.
After red-shirting in 2017, Jafar Armstrong figures to be a part of the Irish offense in one way or another in 2018. The big news about Armstrong after spring practice is that he has been cross-training between running back and his more natural receiver position. Given the way things are going with the running back position, he could very well end up being one of Notre Dame’s top runners this season.
Armstrong is a tremendous athlete with a lot of speed. While the receiver position has some depth with the likes of Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool, Chris Finke, Michael Young, Javon McKinley, and others, it seems as if Armstrong could be in line for more snaps as a running back. That, after all, is Notre Dame’s biggest position of need.
Armstrong likely won’t carry the ball the way a number one running back would. Asking a receiver by trade to take that much of a beating right away wouldn’t be fair. However, Armstrong could be a guy that gets about 10 touches per game.
When he’s not dabbling as a pitcher on Notre Dame’s baseball team, Kmet is a pretty good tight end. Outside of Alize Mack, he’s probably Notre Dame’s best all-around athlete at the position and he’s more of a natural blocker. Speaking of Mack, it’s hard to predict what the Irish will get from him this season, as he’s had a rough career following his academic suspension two seasons ago.
If Alize Mack doesn’t pan out, the Irish could use Kmet a lot more. Other tight end candidates would be Nic Weisher and Brock Wright, but Kmet’s ceiling is probably higher than either of those two. Kmet is a good blend of athleticism and braun, pass-catching and run-blocking.
Some honorable mention candidates for guys who need to take the next step for the Irish are quarterback-turned-wide-receiver-turned running back Avery Davis and wide receiver Javon McKinley. If Notre Dame’s newcomers can turn in respectable years, the Irish will have a ton of play-makers to choose from on offense.