Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit

Listed measurements: 5-foot-9 ⅛, 198 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A freshman, Payne has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Payne went from luxury to necessity as sophomore Logan Diggs tore his labrum in the Blue-Gold Game and early-enrolled freshman Jadarian Price suffered an Achilles injury during summer workouts, injuries that elevated Payne from fifth-string to third-string all before he even arrived on campus.
Recruiting: Payne was recruited by Deland McCullough to Indiana, and the consensus four-star prospect and No. 21 running back in the class, per rivals.com, signed with the Hoosiers during December’s early signing period. When McCullough moved to be Notre Dame’s running backs coach, Payne asked Indiana to be released from his National Letter of Intent.

The Hoosiers had no obligation to grant that ask, but did so, and Payne reopened his recruitment in March. The Cincinnati product narrowed his choices to the Irish and Kentucky before committing to Notre Dame in mid-April.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

WHAT WAS PROJECTED WHEN PAYNE SIGNED IN APRIL
“The No. 14 prospect in Ohio in the class, Payne runs through arm tackles with ease and typically gets through the line of scrimmage quickly. The broad Cincinnati area is far from lacking in football talent, but Payne still made a habit of running away from his competition throughout high school.”

2022 OUTLOOK
Post-February signings are so rare, Payne cannot even be deemed an exception that proves the rule of most players signing in December. If he had signed with the Irish in February, he would have warranted such a note. By joining the class of 2022 in April, Payne became a once-every-four-years anomaly.

That may be mentioned a few times early this season and then quickly forgotten, both of which will underscore how vital he suddenly is to Notre Dame. Payne has a decent build already, and when healthy in high school he looked much better than the No. 21 running back in the class. He should be able to contribute right away, at least in a moderate role.

The Irish need him to. With Diggs likely out for most, if not all, of September and Price sidelined for the year, Payne will be the No. 3 back at Ohio State in 4o days.

Let’s frame that reality in a harsher way: When Notre Dame takes the field in front of nearly 105,000 fans against a national-championship contender, the Irish will have as few as eight total receivers and running backs that were scholarship recruits. Assume at least four of those are on the field on more snaps than not; Notre Dame will have to turn to its running backs to have a complete two-deep at the skill positions in September.

Junior Chris Tyree may work at receiver some, leaving only sophomore Audric Estime and Payne in the backfield. For that approach to work, Payne has to have proven himself in preseason practices.

That alone will prompt reminders of his late recruitment and signing. Producing in the fall will lead to that storyline falling down the proverbial inerted pyramid as his actual in-game showings will earn more merit.

Predicting Payne’s 2022 stats is difficult given Diggs’ timeline to return is murky, but it is a near certainty that Payne will lose a year of eligibility this season, playing in far more than four games. He may play in every game in September and then serve as the mop-up back in blowouts of Stanford, UNLV and Syracuse in October. In one of those, he should break loose a long run to the end zone, giving these unexpected duties at least one highlight.

DOWN THE ROAD
This offseason’s injuries emphasize the precarious nature of both running back depth and any running back’s future. That may be reason enough to push Tyree to the NFL after this season. If not, then he will almost assuredly take that jump after the 2023 season; four seasons of college carries will have taken enough off his career’s lifespan.

That will leave Diggs, Estime, Price and Payne. Both Diggs and Price have impressed in the last year — Diggs obviously in the fall and Price this spring — while Estime and Payne are the more unknown factors. This September should give a better idea of future pecking orders, simply because Estime and Payne will get chances to match Diggs’ and Price’s impressions.

Regardless, the Irish will need as much depth as they can hold onto in the future. That was the basic reasoning to chasing Payne after the recruiting cycle had concluded, anyway. He may well rise to the top of that depth in due time, but the most crucial aspect for Notre Dame will be simply preserving that depth as a whole.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver
No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback
No. 14 Bryce McFerson, freshman punter facing a Harvard challenge
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL

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