Offseason Cheatsheet: Running backs

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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.