Listed Measurements: 5-foot-11, 207 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Smith has four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019, after appearing in only two games last year.
Depth chart: Smith turned a strong spring showing into a third-team standing at running back, behind junior Jafar Armstrong and senior Tony Jones, though the gap between the duo and Smith is much larger than the gap between him and sophomore C’Bo Flemister and early-enrolled freshman Kyren Williams.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star prospect, Smith was chased by both coasts, including offers from his homestate North Carolina and from Cal and USC. The No. 20 running back in the class, per rivals.com, Smith committed to Notre Dame the July before his senior year, at the time the only running back in the class (joined by Flemister on National Signing Day) and one of only three offensive skill position players.
CAREER TO DATE
Smith appeared in two games as a freshman, at Wake Forest while Dexter Williams was still suspended and against Stanford when Armstrong was out with a knee infection. Between the two games, he took six rushes for 28 yards and caught one pass for 14 yards.
To a decent extent, Smith shined in his second Blue-Gold game, taking eight carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns while adding 37 yards on three catches. Aside from Armstrong, it was the best day seen from an Irish back. Simply given the nature of the spring finale, of getting a look at the reserves and discerning where there is quality, this space named Smith its Player of the Game:
“For someone Kelly described as a ‘truck,’ Smith showed enough speed and agility to serve as Notre Dame’s needed third running back, distancing himself from C’Bo Flemister and Kyren Williams, despite Williams, in particular, putting together a solid afternoon for someone who should be worrying about a U.S. History exam with his high school classmates right about now.”
That truck quote from Kelly will get a lot of run in this space, partly because it is very much on-point, but it should also be remembered it was followed by some criticism of areas Smith needs to improve upon.
“Well, Jahmir’s a truck,” Kelly said. “He’d just as soon run over you than miss you, which is fine. We know what his style is.
“And he’ll also trip over lines when you swing him out of the backfield, so we have to clean that up. But he’s a physical kid.”
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“He will be needed. Running backs get hurt, especially it would seem Jones and Williams. When a victory becomes a blowout, the Irish will not want to continue to expose Jones’ ankles or Williams’ quads. Smith (and/or incoming freshman C’Bo Flemister) will get the carries, possibly racking up stats a la (Deon) McIntosh last year. McIntosh’s 368 yards and five touchdowns were primarily the result of running behind the country’s best offensive line, but that line should be solid again this year, putting Smith in position for 200 yards and three touchdowns, perhaps.
“Armstrong and (Avery) Davis may keep Smith from an excess of competitive carries, as they will offer changes of pace to Jones’ bruising that Smith will not.”
Third running backs are needed. Smith’s minimal time last season came as a result of Armstrong giving Notre Dame a top trio of himself, Williams and Jones, not as a result of Smith stumbling.
That does not inherently mean Smith will get an abundance of chances this year; the Irish may have three third backs, each with different skills. Smith is the, let’s use it once more today, truck, while Flemister is the shifty option and Williams is a speedster with a low center of gravity. For these purposes, it seems logical to think Williams is limited to four games and preserves a year of eligibility.
At that point, Smith and Flemister are most likely to split the reserve carries. If either Armstrong or Jones is injured, which one will determine which sophomore sees an uptick in action. Smith and Jones bring parallel strengths, as do Flemister and Armstrong, though to a lesser extent.
DOWN THE ROAD
Jones will have another season of eligibility remaining after this year, and one could argue he is more likely to return than Armstrong, who could turn a strong and healthy fall into an NFL draft entry. If Jones is indeed back in 2020, that will put a limit on Smith’s exposure.
But, if by professional aspirations or by a graduate transfer, Jones is not at Notre Dame in 2020, Smith could become the bruising back who can slip out into the passing game that Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long so enjoys. Smith’s pass-catching abilities will bolster or hinder his chances at a significant impact, as Long all-but insists his workhorse backs have that capacity. While Smith seems more natural in the running game than either Flemister or Williams, they have shown the advantage on routes in limited viewings.
NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 50: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback