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Reeling in RBs a must in this recruiting cycle

Jun 30, 2011, 7:26 PM EDT

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

If you’re looking at the Irish roster, you’ll notice there’s one particularly important position that could use a little bit of padding. After focusing on quarterbacks and defensive ends in their first two recruiting classes, Brian Kelly and his offensive staff have spent most of this recruiting cycle identifying running backs and casting a wide net, hoping to fill a void on the roster that’s come with the loss of seniors Armando Allen and Robert Hughes.

With Cameron Roberson likely spending most of the season still recovering from ACL surgery, the Irish have Cierre Wood returning and Jonas Gray back for a final season. Behind them — well, it’s anybody’s guess.

Incoming freshman Cam McDaniel was the only running back recruited on the roster. George Atkinson, who was expected to enter as a wide receiver and played safety in the US Army All-American Bowl, will shift to tailback to help add some depth. But as the Irish head into the fall looking to fill some slots on the offensive side of the ball, they’ve targeted some pretty big names to fill the depth chart. Let’s look at a couple that the Irish have their cross-hairs on.


Keith Marshall, Raleigh, NC: Just watching his highlight tape gives you a clue that he’s one of the most explosive backs to come out of the high school ranks in quite some time. Marshall plans on enrolling early, and he’s got the Irish in his top dozen teams.

William Mahone, Austintown, OH: A powerful back with Ohio roots, Mahone had his eyes opened by a recent Notre Dame visit. The Irish will battle Michigan State, Pitt and Penn State among other teams.

KeiVarae Russell, Everett, WA: One of the best offensive players on the West Coast, Russell has legit interest in the Irish and plans on being in South Bend for the Irish’s date with the Trojans. He could slide to the slot as well.

I’Tavious Mathers, Murfreesboro, TN: The Irish have had their sights on Mathers for months, along with programs like Alabama, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. The reigning player of the year in Tennessee rushed for over 2,600 yards during his junior year.

Byron Marshall, San Jose, CA: Marshall has most of the West Coast after him, but he took a summer Spanish course to get his credits up to speed for the Irish, a signal that Mike Denbrock is doing his job. Getting an official visit from Marshall will be next, but the Irish appear to be in great shape.

Chris Mangus, Raleigh, NC: Another North Carolina running back, Mangus looks better suited to play in space as opposed to being an every down back for the Irish. Virginia Tech and Clemson are in the running as well, but the Irish have already gotten Mangus on campus.

Drew Harris, Exton, PA: Another big back, Harris might be tough to pull out of Pennsylvania, especially after a Skype conversation with the ageless Joe Paterno. He’s got offers from Arkansas, Florida State, Miami, and South Carolina among others.

Expect Kelly and the Irish to continue chasing running backs even after they get their first commitment. If they could play it correctly, the Irish would take one pure tailback and add another guy that can play well in space, making a guy like Russell or Mangus great complimentary players as well as running back targets.



  1. tlndma - Jun 30, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    I’m betting Mahone, maybe soon, and Byron Marshall later on. At running back, like many positions, a fast start in Sept will aid recruiting greatly. With 11 in fold right now, Irish can be picky for new commits, while protecting the current commits from poaching.

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 30, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    Agree with tlndma……In addition, I think the Irish will be focusing a lot more on the running game in the early part of the season, particularly against USF where we will likely have a serious size advantage on the line. I hope some of these RB’s don’t give early verbals but rather wait around long enough to see the running game being dusted off by BK.

  3. paiten34 - Jun 30, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    The Irish must show these RB recruits that they’re committed to the run once again in south bend. A good season will help win over recruits up and down the roster. I do feel that showing a strong commitment to the running game will be huge for recruiting. I think Kelly knows what he’s doing and will show a balanced attack from a good team. 11 solid verbal commits with more on the way.

  4. papadec - Jul 1, 2011 at 1:52 AM

    I agree with ALL of the above. Speaking of poaching – I don’t remember where I read it, BUT supposedly, Arik Armstead – OL (early usc commit) is looking into a ND campus visit. GO IRISH!!!!!!!

  5. irishbuckeye - Jul 1, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Mahone would be a mistake.

  6. twebb2 - Jul 1, 2011 at 10:17 AM


    On the topic of recruiting, but regarding one of our big rivals, the Detroit News reports that Michigan’s 2012 class is ranked #2 in the nation by CBS. Maybe you could roll in some comments about this in another post? I only really keep up with Irish recruiting, and I thought that the Wolverines were having trouble under Brady Hoke. Here’s the link:

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    • borromini - Jul 1, 2011 at 10:24 PM

      A #2 recruiting ranking in July means nothing. As others have noted…Michigan has a lot of 3-star players. Eventually as other schools start to solidify their classes…the current elite programs will take their place and Michigan will slip in the ranking.

      However, in the overall scheme of things…who cares? We will all find out in a few years if Hoke is the guy for the Wolverines. Best way to help determine that is for the Irish to beat the Skunkbears at the Big House under the lights!

  7. sfspider - Jul 1, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Michigan’s ranking is so high at this stage primarily because they have already received verbals from so many players (18 to ND’s 11). That said, 11 of Michigan’s 18 recruits are rated as 3 starts or less. Also, Michigan has only landed two ESPN top 150 recruits. ND already has three ESPN top 150 recruits out of only 11 commits — hopefully with more to come. I wouldn’t worry too much about these rankings just yet, seems like Hoke is not setting his sights as high as Kelly, so he’s getting more early commits.

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