Notre Dame will add a familiar last name to its running back depth with the graduate transfer of fullback Keenan Sweeney from Auburn. A former walk-on with the Tigers, Sweeney earned a scholarship before the 2016 season and appeared in nine games over the last two years.
Auburn listed Sweeney at 6-foot and 237 pounds. While he did not get a carry with the Tigers, the Irish may yet need him among the running backs. With only junior Tony Jones and senior Dexter Williams having any experience at the position, the slightest setback could throw the Notre Dame backfield into shallow disarray.
If not actually on the field, Sweeney should provide leadership to the youth in the Irish running back room. Sophomores Avery Davis and Jafar Armstrong moved to the position this spring, while also getting some time in at receiver, and freshmen Jahmir Smith (early-enrolled) and C’Bo Flemister (incoming) will be fresh to the collegiate grind.
Sweeney’s father, John, started as a freshman fullback for Notre Dame in 1979, paving the way for Vagas Ferguson to set a still-standing program record with 1,437 rushing yards in one season. He played four seasons before graduating in the spring of 1983. Sweeney’s grandfather, Jim, walked on with the Irish in the late 1940s. Even in this generation, Keenan is not the first athlete in the family to transfer to Notre Dame; his older brother Aidan transferred as a graduate swimmer from Georgia a few years ago.
Before this transfer, the Irish roster had 87 scholarships projected for this fall, more than the NCAA’s maximum of 85. Presuming Sweeney’s arrival does not include a scholarship, two players will still need to depart the Notre Dame roster before Sept. 1, be it by medical hardship, outgoing transfer or dismissal.