Feb 14, 2011, 1:55 PM EST
The contrarian among Notre Dame fans would look at the Irish’s recruiting class and see a running back haul that’s a bit thin, especially after the high profile defection of Justice Hayes to Michigan and the loss of Savon Huggins to home state Rutgers.
But the Irish did reel in one running back, Coppell Texas’ Cam McDaniel, who committed on the spot to an Irish offer at the end of November. And while skeptics look at the undersized (and white) running back with limited big program offers, they should also take note that McDaniel dominated competition at the highest level of Texas high school football, no small feat.
As Brian Town of IrishSportsDaily.com writes, while the recruiting services might not have McDaniel ranked among the best players in his state, he accepted the Ford Motor Company’s “Built Ford Tough Player of the Year” award for class 5A last night in Cowboys Stadium.
Here’s more from Town on the qualifications of the award:
To be eligible for this award a player had to be nominated once throughout the 10-week season as the “Ford Built Tough Player of the Week.” Then at the end of the season, Ford and its advisory board, would choose one player from each of the classes to be Player of the Year. The criteria for judging included:
1. The performance on the field, including significant stats from that weeks game.
2. How they contributed to their team success through their individual leadership abilities.
3. Their success off the field, including academics and community citizenship.
McDaniel was nominated in week nine of the 2010 season for his performance against Keller, in which Coppel won 56 – 16.
He carried the ball 20 times for 265 yards and four touchdowns (33, 79, 20 and 59 yards). He also returned a punt 80 yards for another touchdown, giving him five in the game.
“I was a little bit surprised,” said McDaniel. “It was just an honor to be there with all those guys, 55 or so tremendous athletes, I mean it was fun.
“I’m giving all the praise and glory to God on this, he’s just good all the time. It’s just a tremendous honor to be named one of the top players in the state.”
On Signing Day, running backs coach Tim Hinton mentioned he saw a lot of Danny Woodhead in his new running back. Woodhead was passed over by the home state Nebraska Cornhuskers and instead went on to a record-setting career at Chardon State, where he rushed for 1,840 yards as a freshman and left the D-II ranks as a two-time national player of the year before breaking out this year with the New England Patriots.
Obviously, playing high school football at the highest level in Texas is a different story than playing for North Platte High in Nebraska, and Woodhead’s exploits on the field — as well as his elite speed in high school — probably separate him from McDaniel. That said, if the Irish are looking for a skill player to make an impact this season, it could come from a guy like McDaniel, who was one of the best punt returners in Texas and could immediately bolster a punt return game that ranked 101st in the nation.