Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 7 Audric Estime, sophomore running back, No. 2 on the shortened depth chart

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Listed measurements: 5-foot-11 ½, 228 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Estime has three seasons of eligibility remaining after appearing in 12 games last season, though largely on special teams.
Depth Chart: Injuries have moved Estime up the depth chart this offseason. If all backs were healthy, he would be No. 3 or perhaps even No. 4 on the depth chart, but with sophomore Logan Diggs (labrum) out for at least some of September and early-enrolled freshman Jadarian Price (Achilles) for the season, Estime will take the field at Ohio State as backing up only junior Chris Tyree.
Recruiting: Estime committed to Michigan State three months before the early signing period in December of 2020, and that decision seemed firm despite offers from Iowa State, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M. Then Notre Dame offered him a scholarship two days before the signing period commenced, and by the end of the week, the consensus four-star recruit and No. 6 running back in the country, per rivals.com, had changed his mind, joining the Irish.

CAREER TO DATE
Estime may have played in 12 games last season, but he took all of 18 offensive snaps. Seven of those included him rushing for a total of 60 yards.

2021: 12 games; seven rushes for 60 yards including six carries for 61 yards against Georgia Tech.

In the Blue-Gold Game to conclude spring practices, Estime took 13 carries for 59 yards.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

QUOTES
The next time a quote is offered regarding Estime that does not reference his size or ability to break tackles will be the first time.

Only a week into being Notre Dame’s head coach, after viewing just a couple practices where he was also vaguely in charge of the offense, Marcus Freeman couldn’t help but acknowledge those aspects.

“Audric has done a good job,” Freeman said in mid-December. “He’s a big, physical running back. He was punishing a couple people yesterday.”

After the spring finale, running backs coach Deland McCullough also mentioned the obvious.

“Audric is impressive, his ability to break tackles, his attention to detail, the fundamentals and the technique that he operates with, the great attitude,” McCullough said. “Big guy like that, he didn’t really get to show it as much today, but this guy can run really good routes.”

Estime can display that route-running another time. It will be understandable if offensive coordinator Tommy Rees focuses on the bruising aspect of Estime’s game to start the season.

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“It is worth considering Notre Dame’s fourth running back in recent seasons. Unlike most rushing stats, these are hardly skewed by the Irish enjoying such a mobile quarterback the last three seasons, because when the offense turned to a running back four lines down the depth chart, it was usually at a point or situation in the game when Ian Book was not putting his body on the line, anyway.

“Due to Jafar Armstrong’s struggle getting back to full health in 2020, Notre Dame did not really use a fourth running back last year, but in 2019, Jahmir Smith finished with 42 rush attempts and Flemister had 48, both nominally behind Tony Jones and Armstrong on the depth chart. In 2018, Avery Davis (still a running back in those days), had 22 carries in nine games.

“Estime will get some chances as a freshman, particularly since his style bears some resemblance to Smith’s and Flemister’s. What he does with them will be the bigger question, given he is unlikely to match his final high school stat line, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.

“… Forecasting Estime’s debut campaign, 30 carries for 170-180 yards and two touchdowns would be a worthwhile baseline. …

“(Kyren) Williams will head to the NFL after this season, and given Tyree is positioned to take over as the lead back in 2022, (C’Bo) Flemister will be best served by transferring elsewhere for one final year, one in the primary role.

“Suddenly, Estime will have gone from fourth-string perk to 1B on the depth chart. That modest 2021 prognostication will grow two- or threefold by 2022.”

2022 OUTLOOK
If Estime proves both capable of picking up first downs and durable under the burden of double-digit carries each week, then Notre Dame’s 2022 prospects will rise. If Estime cannot handle that workload well, the Irish offense will simply not have enough skill position players to run a productive approach all season.

A Diggs full-go return by the end of September would mitigate the impact of a struggling Estime, but the dearth of depth at running back would likely catch up to Notre Dame in time.

Those may seem exaggerated standards for a sophomore with seven career carries to his name, but that is the drastic nature of the Irish running backs room at the moment. Tyree, Estime and incoming freshman Gi’Bran Payne are the only healthy ball carriers entering the preseason. Tyree and Estime need to handle the workload between the two of them to start the season, while also running some routes to spell Notre Dame’s few receivers. (One could not fault the Irish coaching staff if it put a red jersey on Tyree for the preseason to protect him from injury.)

In September alone, Estime should get at least 25 carries. If he is getting more than that, then it can be presumed he is picking up first downs and running over defenders as his physique suggests he should. At that point, Diggs’ need will be lessened, and he can be sure his shoulder is completely healthy before taking a handoff.

Too little has been seen of Estime on the field to offer a prediction for how his season will go, but only one look at the Irish depth chart makes it clear the impact he will have, one way or the other.

DOWN THE ROAD
The shelf life of running backs will force Tyree to consider the NFL after this season, but regardless of his choice, there should be an increased role for Estime in 2023.

If Tyree returns for his senior season, fewer carries will strengthen his future pro prospects, meaning Notre Dame will turn to Estime and/or Diggs to buttress the backfield.

Frankly, the Irish would always prefer to lean on three running backs and turn to a fourth for mop-up duty, underscoring the current concerns at the position.

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. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB
No. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, sophomore QB providing steadiness to a chaotic room
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety
No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback
No. 10 Prince Kollie, sophomore linebacker, high school Butkus Award winner
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 9 Justin Ademilola, fifth-year defensive end, a backup in name only
No. 8 Marist Liufau, senior linebacker returning from a dislocated ankle