The Notre Dame Running Game
This is another lingering off-season headline that will have a substantial impact on the Week 1 match-up. After the departures of All-American offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, running back Josh Adams, and a great blocking tight end in Durham Smythe — naturally there were questions about this year’s running game. Additionally, running backs Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes were dismissed from the team, leaving the the Irish backfield thin in the “experience” department.
If that wasn’t problematic enough, there is a growing sense that Dexter Williams — arguably the most explosive player on the Irish offense — will be slapped with a four-game suspension to start the season.
Brian Kelly has been incredibly vague about his situation and availability for week one.
The status of Dexter Williams is still uncertain for the Michigan game, but we do know that Tony Jones Jr. and converted wide receiver Jafar Armstrong will be getting most of the touches out of the backfield. The new-look, relatively inexperienced backfield will certainly be an area to watch.
We can’t discuss the running game without talking about the offensive line. Notre Dame had a Top-10 rushing offense last year, largely thanks to the Joe Moore Award Winning offensive line that led the way up front. Though the Irish lost two All-Americans, they return every other starter and contributor from last season — including preseason AP 2nd Team All-Americans Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars. Left tackle Liam Eichenberg will be the only fresh face of the front five, making his first career start this Saturday.
This year’s offensive line will still be one of the best in college football, and they will be relied on heavily this Saturday to establish a running game against one of the nation’s toughest run defenses from a season ago.
The new faces and parts in the backfield combined with trying to makeup for the production lost from last season’s offensive line leaves a huge part of Notre Dame’s identity up in the air.