The idea of a recruiting cycle passing by without signing a running back would be particularly unfathomable for Notre Dame, especially as first-year offensive coordinator Tommy Rees leans into the ground game in ways forgotten the last couple seasons. But Irish head coach Brian Kelly was not worried about it on Wednesday, the first and primary day of this 72-hour early signing perioid.
His confidence has been rewarded in the form of a consensus four-star running back formerly committed to Michigan State, a second surprising flip this week.
St. Joseph’s High School; Montvale, NJ
Measurements: 6’, 215 lbs.
Accolades: A consensus four-star recruit, Estime is the No. 7 running back in the country, per rivals.com, the No. 3 prospect in New Jersey and the No. 132 overall player in the class of 2021.
Other Notable Offers: Estime had been committed to Michigan State since mid-September, preferring the Spartans to eight other Big Ten teams, as well as Iowa State, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M. Notre Dame offered Estime only Monday, but the conversation this week quickly turned him from East Lansing.
— Audric Estime ² (@AudricEstime) December 18, 2020
Projected Position: The term powerback implies a one-dimensional utility. Estime is more a multi-dimensional powerback. In that respect, consider him a stronger version of current junior C’Bo Flemister.
Quick Take: The late Irish pursuit of Estime is simply an aspect of recruiting. Do not let it color your impressions of his potential. His rushing includes a sense of momentum, the type of one-cut decisiveness that could create early playing time. When Estime lowers his shoulders, multiple tacklers are needed to bring him down, and while his speed is not overwhelming, he has a longer stride than would usually be expected from someone standing only six-foot.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Notre Dame has its main back for 2021 in Kyren Williams, but offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has not shown any hesitation in spreading around the carries, with three different backs currently averaging at least six rushes per game. With the four-game eligibility allowance back in effect next season, Estime may not reach that number, but there will be a role for him to get his feet wet and, in doing so, reduce the blows on Williams, Flemister and Chris Tyree.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: At his present rate, Williams will be NFL-bound following his junior season. At that point, it is assumed and logical Tyree will take over the lead role in 2022, but a more physical back will serve well to keep Tyree’s quick-twitch legs fresh. Estime can be that, while still presenting a home-run threat. He often sizes up a hole much like Josh Adams did in 2017, recognizing the quickest route from Point A to the goal line. That is how Estime’s senior season’s 10 yards per carry turned a ho-hum recruitment into one with enough hype it had Notre Dame chasing him down at the proverbial one-yard line.
SIGNING DAY COVERAGE
— On Signing Day, remember Notre Dame’s surge has hinged on three-stars
— A Signing Day surprise: Four-star safety Khari Gee, flipped from LSU
— A Signing Day surprise: Consensus four-star RB Audric Estime, flipped from Michigan State
— Consensus four-star QB Tyler Buchner
— Trio of four-star WRs in Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas
— Five-star offensive tackle Blake Fisher and four-star guard Rocco Spindler
— Consensus four-star LB Prince Kollie, the day’s greatest worry
— Hawaiian LB Kahanu Kia
— Cornerbacks Philip Riley and Ryan Barnes
— Three-star cornerbacks JoJo Johnson and Chance Tucker
— Consensus three-star safety Justin Walters
— Tight ends Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans
— Consensus four-star defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio
— Pair of California defensive ends, Will Schweitzer and Devin Aupiu
— Three more offensive linemen in Caleb Johnson, Pat Coogan & Joe Alt
— Inexperienced defensive end Jason Onye
— Kicker Joshua Bryan