Freshman Focus: Tarean Folston

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If Greg Bryant is the leading man of this offensive recruiting class, then Tarean Folston is the brooding character actor in the corner with breakout potential. There’s little doubt that most expect one of the freshman running backs now in summer school to compete for early playing time. But don’t be surprised if it’s the guy that wasn’t the five-star recruit.

Folston was an early target of the Irish and made the coaching staff sweat his commitment when his faxed letter-of-intent arrived a few hours later than expected. But now that he’s on campus, Folston is expected to be one of the home run hitters of this recruiting class, a powerful runner from the deep I formation that also has breakaway speed.

A jack-of-all-trades for his high school team, Folston has the ability to compete on special teams immediately as well.

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

Folston had more than his share of elite offers, with Florida and Florida State both chasing him from in-state schools and an official visit t0 Oregon all but validating his speed and elusiveness.

Looking for another data-point that vouches for Folston’s athleticism and versatility? At the Under Armor All-American Bowl, Folston was asked to play in the secondary because a team was thin. Playing cornerback for the first time that season, he had an interception.

A consensus Top 150 player, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn made a late run at Folston, but in the end the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder stayed strong with his early January commitment to the Irish.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

Just as we wrote in Bryant’s profile, there are carries to win in the backfield. And while Bryant looks the part already physically, Folston has the type of home-run hitting ability that’ll work in his favor to get the carries.

As we’ve seen the past few seasons, Brian Kelly seems to enjoy platooning his backs and utilizing their skills almost a la carte. While Folston did most of his damage out of the I formation, he’s got solid hands and works well in open space. With the Z receiver position still up in the air, finding a way onto the field could consist of shifting inside and outside.

Add in the renewed commitment to getting something out of the return game, and there are a variety of ways Folston could earn his way onto the field.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

There’s a reason why many said that Folston was the Irish’s top back on their recruiting board for much of the last cycle. He’s a guy that this staff believes can be a difference maker at this level, as both a runner, receiver and returner.

That said, Folston might end up playing a specialty role depending on his ability to handle the wear and tear of 20-carries a game. Looking back at the last three seasons, Kelly hasn’t had any of his backs carry that type of load, so there’s every reason to believe that Folston will find his niche in this offense sooner than later.

Looking for a dream scenario for the Irish backfield? Check out the dynamic duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at Georgia. Both backs made a huge impact for Mark Richt’s squad, each averaging over six-plus yards a carry. That would make Irish fans — and Folston and Bryant — mighty happy.