I don’t usually get overly into recruiting here, but some of the news surrounding Cam McDaniel’s commitment to the Irish has been pretty interesting. In McDaniel, the Irish get one of the most prolific running backs and football players in the North Texas area, seemingly a huge coup for Notre Dame.
But, whether it’s a measurables thing, or the fact that McDaniel is a white running back, many people automatically conclude that McDaniel will be shifting out of the backfield and into the slot receiver position.
McDaniel spoke to Jake Brown at Irish Illustrated who got some interesting quotes from McDaniel about Kelly’s plans for the running back.
McDaniel might not be able to believe it yet but Kelly already has a plan for the 5-foot-11, 192-pound prospect, who does a little bit of everything for Coppell.
At first it seemed like McDaniel would be destined for slot receiver in South Bend, a role currently occupied by sophomores Theo Riddick and Robby Toma, but Kelly made it clear that he will start in the backfield.
“(Kelly) said, ‘I feel like you can catch balls out of the backfield and you can split out in the slot but you’re a running back. I’m not looking for you to go play slot receiver. I’m looking at you to come play running back,'” McDaniel said. “I was just extremely impressed with that and the way he was straight forward and honest. Then he kind of told us what his program was all about and how he was wanting to restore the legacy of Notre Dame. I was all in.”
A pass catching running back in Kelly’s spread system is a perfect fit, and one of the things that made Armando Allen so versatile was his ability to both run and catch out of the backfield. With Allen gone and Justice Hayes decommitted, the Irish had a need for a running back that’s a dual threat, and the commitment of McDaniel filled that spot, while still leaving Notre Dame in the mix for a guy like Savon Huggins, more of a true running back. As the quarterbacks at Notre Dame become more and more comfortable with the system, expect Kelly to grow the offense, and in turn, feature more passes to running backs.
We’ll find out what kind of player McDaniel turns out to be eventually, but the Irish haven’t targeted a white running back since Luke Schmidt in 2006 and Nate Schiccatano in 2002. Schmidt’s career was cut short by injuries and he was largely seen as a fullback or H-back. Schiccatano spent limited time as a fullback and finished his career as an undersized defensive lineman. Before that, you’d need to look at high-profile recruit Mike McNair, who came into South Bend as a first-team All American from Southern California, but left Notre Dame after four years and only five career carries.
It’s just as dangerous to bunch McDaniel with this group of former Irish running backs as it is to categorize running backs by race, but it’s interesting to look back at the rarity at the position at Notre Dame, especially considering the success they’ve had at other skill positions in recent years. McDaniel certainly brings a skillset needed to the roster, both with his talents out of the backfield and in the punt return game as well.