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Offseason Cheatsheet: Running backs

Aug 19, 2010, 3:05 PM EST

While most of you don’t need it, some of you might be cramming for the season, with Purdue only 16 days away. Consider this your Du Lac approved crib-sheet for the upcoming season. Click here for your previous cheatsheet on the quarterbacks.

POSITION OVERVIEW:

There’s no deeper position on the Irish roster than the running backs. Notre Dame returns every carry from the position, led by Armando Allen and his 697 yards, picked up at 4.9 yards per carry. Each of the four returning runners brings a unique characteristic to Kelly’s backfield: Allen’s all-purpose abilities, Hughes’ bull-dozing size and soft hands, Jonas Gray’s combination of speed and power, and the electricity of Cierre Wood give an offense with plenty of variation a nice pallet of complementary pieces to maximize productivity. While Cameron Roberson will likely save a year of eligibility and spend the season with the scout team, he’s shown a great deal of power and explosion in fall camp. Notre Dame’s running game took a large step forward thanks to former offensive line coach Frank Verducci. Expect the Irish running attack to thrive in the spread, especially with offensive line coach Ed Warinner powering the front line.

ROSTER READING:

Short a program? Here’s every running back listed on the roster:

    No.   Name                        Yr.    Ht./Wt.      Hometown/High School
     5      Armando Allen          Sr.   5-10/205    Opa Locka, FL (Hialeah-Miami Lakes)
    25     Jonas Gray               Jr.    5-10/230    Pontiac, MI (Country Day)
    33     Robert Hughes         Sr.    5-11/245    Chicago, IL (Hubbard)
    31     Cameron Roberson  Fr.    6-0/218      Newbury Park, CA (Newbury Park)
    20     Cierre Wood             So.   6-0/210      Oxnard, CA (Santa Clara)
    29     Patrick Coughlin       Sr.    6-0/195      Oak Lawn, IL (Brother Rice)
    27     Derry Herlihy            Sr.    6-0/198      Houston, TX (St. John’s)

KELLY ON RUNNING BACKS:

On Allen: “The big question I had with our running game, in particular with Armando, is could he answer the bell on every snap? And he’s had a great camp. He’s shown toughness, he’s shown work volume.”

On Wood: “Cierre is an All American as much as he’s a very talented young man who
it was hard to look through five other backs. So we had to open up some
space there to give him an opportunity.  This is about, more than anything else, getting another
play maker on the field.

On Roberson: “We had three different coaches go out to
California to make sure that we were going to keep looking at Roberson. Outstanding player, outstanding character kid. It’s one of those guys
that you take a big sigh of relief that you got him, and that is this
young man. 6’1″, 215. You can see his size. He can lineup as an I
back, explosive.”

On the running game: “We’re going to be able to run the football…That’s pretty clear after a week, that we’ve got really solid backs… I would be very surprised if we were not a solid team running the football.”

CRYSTAL BALL:

I expect big things out of the running backs, a facet of the offense absolutely imperative if the Irish are going to protect Dayne Crist through his growing pains. While I’ve been tough on him, I expect Armando Allen to finally break a long touchdown run or two, Cierre Wood to have more than his share of explosive plays, and even Jonas Gray and Robert Hughes to contribute large chunks of offense when called upon. (Here’s a prediction: Hughes leads the team in rushing touchdowns.) Looking for a number? 5.0. That’s the average yardage per carry this team is capable of running for, and with Ed Warinner calling the shots up front and the spread providing running lanes, expect it to happen this year.

POSITION STRENGTH:

A- Top to bottom, this depth chart would compete with just about any in college football. Minor deduction for the lack of top-flight starter, something Armando Allen can be if he puts together a complete senior season.

  1. Gipper - Aug 19, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    How can Verducci have anything to do with the success of this year’s running game? Correct me if I am wrong but last year’s running game was terrible.

  2. Keith Arnold - Aug 19, 2010 at 8:21 PM

    Gip — Take the RBs and their stats. The Irish averaged 4.9 yds per carry with their running game between carries from the 4 backs, Tate, Aldridge, etc.
    From where the running game was, Verducci did a great job.

  3. Dubby - Aug 20, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    Keith, it’s “complementary.”

  4. baIrish - Aug 20, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    Keith, one minor correction (sort of) – all of the players listed as RB’s on last year’s roster are back, but James Aldridge really was a RB playing as a fullback. I still didn’t quite understand last year’s staff moving him over instead of Hughes… you can’t spell Hughes w/out h-u-g-e.

  5. Riccardo - Aug 20, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    “…lead by Armando Allen”
    If it’s “lead” and not “led”, we are in deep trouble. A spell checker will never replace a good copy editor.

  6. Keith Arnold - Aug 20, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Thank you for your wonderful editing skills, Dubby and Riccardo. What would this blog ever do with out you?

  7. Copy editor II - Aug 20, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Keith, it’s “without” ;)

  8. #1irishfan - Aug 20, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Ya what is it with people and there English major-like corrections! Pecker measuring contests???? Go Irish!!!!!!!!!!

  9. ND Whitey - Aug 20, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    Personally, I’d like to see Theo Riddick’s hands on the ball as much as possible. Annualize his stats from last year and you’ll see what I mean. Maybe run him a few times in motion from the slot position.

  10. willy d - Aug 20, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    #1irishfan, It’s ‘their’ not ‘there’! You sound like my wife talking to our three hyper-competitive boys…. with the measuring thing.
    Anyway, I think someone is going to look like a genius when our running game thrives or fails. But I don’t think there is enough data on either side to clearly support an argument. I’m just hoping the running game is good enough to open the spread passing attack. An off-balance defense cannot stop a team for long.
    I prediceted 35 pts/game last year, I think it was 34+/-. I’m going for 30 this year as the team digests the new offense. Just think, if the defense was only 5% better last year we wouldn’t be having this fun discussion right now…..

  11. #1irishfan - Aug 21, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    O ya well anywho mines bigger

  12. #1irishfan - Aug 21, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    GO IRISH BABY!!!!!!!!!

  13. CJW - Aug 25, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    I hate being an ND fan and a SB lifer. This time of year the hype is so hyper that you want to believe it will be a 12-0 season every year.
    This is a really good backfield. Any one of these guys would be starting on most of our opponents teams.
    Hey to the guy who wants to see Theo run the ball, from local reports it looks like he has been getting some running touches in practice this week.
    Ok so I am a total kool aid drinking optimist, but I think the entire team underperformed the last two years. I think we are now going to see what a bunch of talented, smart kids can do when they are pushed. The team’s response to Kelly has been tremendous from all accounts. Kelly is a fanatic about winning, he is insistant about winning and he will allow no less.
    Don’t expect Kelly’s O to be exactly what he ran at Cincy. He has a lot more talent and much better OLs than he ever had anywhere and he is going to utilize them. I expect this offense to look like the spread option attack that Lou implemented at South Carolina. We are even practicing the wildcat. This will be a dynamic O but it is the D that will determine the win loss record.

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