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5 Days Until Spring Practice: A Look at RBs


It is a matter of concern when only one tested running back returns, but that concern is somewhat mitigated when that back has proven himself both durable and consistent over the last two seasons.

Josh Adams has not missed a game in his career, and last season the junior carried the ball at least 10 times in all but one game—the 17-10 loss to Stanford in which quarterback DeShone Kizer and running back Tarean Folston combined for 19 attempts. Adams finished with eight rushes. Expect that usage to only increase, especially without Folston around to provide Adams spells of rest.

Assuredly, running backs coach Autry Denson hopes junior Dexter Williams or sophomore Tony Jones can allow Adams to catch his breath, but neither has proven that ability yet. Jones spent last year on the sidelines, fourth on the depth chart and preserving a year of eligibility. Williams, meanwhile, tallied only 39 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns, his most-prolific output coming in Notre Dame’s 50-33 win over Syracuse when he finished with eight attempts for 80 yards and a score.

In many respects, Williams could provide a better complement to Adams than Folston did last season. It should be noted here, Folston may not have been at his peak after tearing his ACL in 2015’s opener. Either way, he was not the bruising yet agile runner last year he shined as in 2014.

Williams, known for his speed, could force defenses to change gears whenever he steps in for Adams. At least, that is the theory.

Early enrollee C.J. Holmes, also a regarded blazer, will force Williams to perform in order to earn that dynamic role.

There will be carries available for whomever fills the position directly supporting Adams, but expect the starter to be the bell cow. Adams increased his rushing attempts by 41 last season in one fewer game and is already on pace to finish in the top three of Notre Dame’s career rushing yards leaders. The record-holder? None other than Denson with 4,318 yards. Adams currently stands at 1,768, including the 835 in 2015 that set the Irish freshman record.

Nothing would please Denson more than to see Adams enter his senior season with a viable chance at breaking his coach’s record. Doing so would likely also indicate an overall improvement on last season’s team rushing production. As noted in Wednesday’s look at the offensive line, Notre Dame finished with 2,123 rushing yards on 410 attempts for an average of 5.18 yards per carry when removing sacks and the yards lost from them—the NCAA counts sacks as rushes, despite how they can inappropriately distort rushing statistics.

Certainly, the offensive line’s performance will greatly affect the Irish rushing attack, but this quartet of running backs will inevitably receive the praise if the ground attack were to flourish. That will start with Adams. The question is, no matter how durable and consistent Adams may be, who will provide the needed influx in conjunction with him?

The primary impetus in determining the Notre Dame depth chart at running back will be production in the rushing game, but another factor should develop into a notable aspect this season.

When discussing the hiring of new offensive coordinator Chip Long, Irish coach Brian Kelly noted Long’s inclusion of the backfield in the passing game, in more than a blocking capacity.

“I wanted the offense to look a specific way,” Kelly said. “Chip gives me, clearly, something that I saw that will resemble what I see through his offense. It’s going to be the inclusion of the backs and the tight ends in the passing game.”

In his one year as Memphis’s offensive coordinator, Long’s running backs caught 51 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns. Last year, Adams, Folston and Williams combined for 33 catches for 275 yards and one score.

Looking closer, though, one notices the snaps Long will reward a back with if the ball carrier has demonstrated a penchant for catching the ball. While Memphis’s leading rusher, Doroland Dorceus, caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a score, three other running backs caught as many or more passes:

Darrell Henderson – 20 catches – 237 yards – three touchdowns
Patrick Taylor, Jr. – 11 catches – 37 yards
Sam Craft – 10 catches – 126 yards – one touchdown

If, for instance, Jones establishes himself as a passing game threat but Williams is indeed the more dynamic runner, Jones very well may end up at quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s side on many third downs.

Josh Adams 2015: 117 rushes – 835 yards – 7.1 average – six touchdowns
Josh Adams 2016: 158 rushes – 933 yards – 5.9 average – five touchdowns

Dexter Williams 2015: 21 rushes – 81 yards – 3.9 average – one touchdown
Dexter Williams 2016: 39 rushes – 200 yards – 5.1 average – three touchdowns

Positional Group Spring Preview Schedule:
Wednesday: Offensive Linemen
Thursday: Tight Ends/Receivers
Today: Running Backs
Saturday: Quarterbacks
Sunday: Defensive Backs
Monday: Linebackers
Tuesday: Defensive Linemen
Wednesday, March 8: Spring practice begins

ND releases 2017 home game times and channels as well as the ’18, ’19 schedules

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Notre Dame will play two prime-time home games in 2017. Both the Georgia (Sept. 9) and the USC (Oct. 21) contests will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC, per Notre Dame’s schedule announcement Thursday. The complete 2017, 2018 and 2019 schedules are listed at the bottom of this post.

Of the seven Irish home games this season, only one other will deviate from a standard 3:30 p.m. ET kick. The Miami (Ohio) game scheduled for Sept. 30 will start at 5 p.m. ET and be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Why? According to the Notre Dame release, the time and television slot will “enable the contest to be televised on NBCSN between a NASCAR event and Presidents Cup golf action.”

The NASCAR XFINITY Series does indeed have a race scheduled for 3 p.m. ET at the Dover International Speedway in Delaware, and it is not much of a logical leap to think NBC will take advantage of the Presidents Cup being stateside only once every four years and air the Cup on its primary channel.

Road game time slots and broadcast channels all remain to be determined, and many may stay that way until only a week or two before each kick.

As has been known for some time now, there will be no Shamrock Series in 2017 with Notre Dame instead opting to showcase the newly-completed Campus Crossroads project. The release refers to this as a “one-year break.” When discussing the following two seasons’ slates—neither of which has a Shamrock Series game scheduled yet—the release adds, “One home game in either 2018 or 2019 may be relocated to an off-campus site as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series scheduling initiative.”

Perhaps this syntax-nik is parsing those words too closely, but it says either/or, and does not include a reference to both.

Vanderbilt will fill the previously-open slot in the 2018 Irish schedule, visiting Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 15 to complete a three-game Irish homestand to start that season.

The 2018 home schedule includes notable opponents Michigan, Stanford and Florida State. The flipside of that shows itself in the 2019 schedule, when Notre Dame is set to travel to Louisville, Georgia, Michigan and Stanford.

Sept. 2 – Temple – 3:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Sept. 9 – Georgia – 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Sept. 16 – at Boston College – TBD – TBD
Sept. 23 – at Michigan State – TBD – TBD
Sept. 30 – Miami (Ohio) – 5 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Oct. 7 – at North Carolina – TBD – TBD
Oct. 14 – BYE
Oct. 21 – USC – 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Oct. 28 – NC State – 3:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Nov. 4 – Wake Forest – 3:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Nov. 11 – at Miami (FL) – TBD – TBD
Nov. 18 – Navy – 3:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Nov. 25 – at Stanford – TBD – TBD

Sept. 1 – Michigan
Sept. 8 – Ball State
Sept. 15 – Vanderbilt
Sept. 22 – at Wake Forest
Sept. 29 – Stanford
Oct. 6 – at Virginia Tech
Oct. 13 – Pittsburgh
Oct. 20 – BYE
Oct. 27 – at Navy in San Diego
Nov. 3 – at Northwestern
Nov. 10 – Florida State
Nov. 17 – Syracuse
Nov. 24 – at USC

Sept. 2 – at Louisville
Sept. 7 – BYE
Sept. 14 – New Mexico
Sept. 21 – at Georgia
Sept. 28 – Virginia
Oct. 5 – Bowling Green
Oct. 12 – USC
Oct. 19 – BYE
Oct. 26 – at Michigan
Nov. 2 – Virginia Tech
Nov. 9 – at Duke
Nov. 16 – Navy
Nov. 23 – Boston College
Nov. 30 – at Stanford

Thursday reading: Jenkins discusses athletics expectations; Pride speeds; Analyst joins Elko

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Amid the current and coming construction across campus, Notre Dame hosted town hall meetings last week to address faculty and student concerns as well as provide an overall update. Last Thursday’s rendition focused on athletics, according to the independent student newspaper, The Observer.

University President Fr. John Jenkins discussed his primary goals for the Irish athletic department as a whole.

“The first thing is integrity,” Jenkins said. “That’s absolutely critical for everyone at the University, but because athletics is so prominent, it’s critical. What I mean by that is, compliance with NCAA regulation and other regulations, but also to act in a way that you can be proud of and Notre Dame can be proud of you.

“Second, we’re about these kids, our students … and help[ing] them to grow as people—educationally, morally, spiritually—and grow into responsible adults.”

Jenkins’s third standard involves winning championships, but he emphasized it cannot come at the cost of the first two tenets.

“If we do the third and not the first two, we’re not Notre Dame.”

The town halls yielded some relatively-detailed updates on construction, which will certainly be of interest for those intending to visit campus this spring, fall or even next year. Once more, the necessary link.

Troy Pride showcases speed
Irish sophomore cornerback Troy Pride, Jr., ran the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes at the ACC Indoor Championships over the weekend. Keeping in mind track is Pride’s secondary focus for much of the year, his qualifying for the finals in the 60-meter with a time of 6.77 seconds should be granted much respect.

Pride finished eighth in the finals at 6.83 seconds. For context: Florida State sophomore Darryl Haraway won the conference title with an official time of 6.66 seconds. Pride’s 21.75-second finish in the 200-meter was not enough to reach the finals, though it was Notre Dame’s fastest. Haraway won that race, as well, in 21.07 seconds.

Pride started three games and appeared in eight in the 2016 season, finishing with 12 tackles and one fumble recovery.

Elko, Diaco will have hype to meet
More than only Irish eyes are eager to see how new Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko fares in South Bend.’s Colin Becht ranked the Elko hire as the No. 8-best coordinator hire in college football this offseason.

“[Elko’s] multiple packages should allow him to adapt to the Fighting Irish and help them make quick progress,” Becht writes.

Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s arrival at Nebraska ranks two spots higher than Elko’s arrival.

“Bringing in Diaco and his 3-4 defense was a fantastic move to jumpstart a Nebraska defense… Although his three-season tenure as UConn’s head coach was lackluster, the Huskies’ defense was hardly the main issue.”

To Becht’s latter point, even in last year’s 3-9 season, the Connecticut defense finished No. 65 in the country in both scoring and total defense, allowing 28.1 points and 410.8 total yards per game.

Santucci reunites with Elko as analyst
Notre Dame added Tyler Santucci to its staff as a defensive analyst. first reported the hire Wednesday, and Santucci’s Twitter appears to confirm the move.

Santucci worked as a graduate assistant under Elko in the 2014 and 2015 seasons at Wake Forest, focusing on the rover position in Elko’s defensive scheme. He most recently spent a season at Texas State as the outside linebackers coach.

6 Days Until Spring Practice: A Look at TEs & WRs

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This space briefly discussed Notre Dame’s receivers only a week ago, thus this piece on those catching passes will spend more proportional time on the tight ends. In fact, let’s lead with them.

Why? Because there are more of them on the Irish roster than some seem to realize. The reader who suggested this week’s operating order of positional group analysis is a knowledgeable fan, but the bounty had evaded him, for one.

“I wondered why tight end didn’t get its own spot in that list,” he said after reading the end of Wednesday’s look at offensive linemen. “I just assumed you would pair them with wide receivers…

“I figured there’s also fewer bodies at tight end than anywhere else, really.”


Notre Dame’s roster currently includes three quarterbacks (with freshman Avery Davis arriving in the fall) and four running backs. There are five tight ends, not to mention the No. 3 tight end in the class of 2017 arriving alongside Davis in August.

According to Irish coach Brian Kelly, new offensive coordinator Chip Long will need those reserves.

“[Long] utilizes two tight ends, which was going to be a mode that we have to move toward with the great depth that we have at that position,” Kelly said when introducing his new assistants. “…I wanted the offense to look a specific way. Chip gives me, clearly, something that I saw that will resemble what I see through his offense. It’s going to be the inclusion of the backs and the tight ends in the passing game.”

Notre Dame’s current set of tight ends are not used to being included much in the passing game. The returning quartet of graduate student Durham Smythe, seniors Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua, and junior Alizé Mack have combined for a career total of 32 catches for 403 yards and six touchdowns. For comparison’s sake, Long’s two tight ends at Memphis totaled 36 catches for 423 yards and five touchdowns last season alone. (Joey Magnifico provided nine of those catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns. This is worth mentioning only because his last name is Magnifico.)

As the primary source of those Irish stats, Smythe presumably has the edge in the chase for a starting position. Last season the 6-foot-4.5, 245-pounder caught nine passes for 112 yards and four touchdowns, while Weishar added three catches for 47 yards.

Mack—née Jones—sat out 2016 amid eligibility issues after catching 13 passes for 190 yards in 2015. If in coaches’ good graces, he should immediately establish himself as a possible complement to Smythe, if not even supplant his elder. Notre Dame lists Mack at 6-4.5, 240 pounds, so both he and Smythe present notable targets for junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush.

Early enrollee Brock Wright—’s No. 1 tight end in the class—joins Luatua in rounding out this plethora of goods for Long to incorporate. Having both the spring and the summer to learn Long’s system and embrace a college weight room may give Wright a chance to contribute in 2017.

His classmate, Cole Kmet, however will most likely find himself on the sidelines all of 2017. That is no dismissal of Kmet’s talent. Rather, it is one of the luxuries of having five tight ends to work with all spring.

Though Michigan transfer receiver Freddy Canteen officially committed to Notre Dame on Wednesday, he will not arrive on campus until June. In the meantime, the only sure thing about the Irish receiving corps is junior Equanimeous St. Brown will lead the way.

Junior C.J. Sanders may present the most-obvious partner to tandem with St. Brown, but in last season’s final seven games, Sanders totaled seven catches for 39 yards, compared to opening 2016 with 17 receptions for 254 yards and two touchdowns in its first five games. That drop-off creates an opening for the likes of junior Chris Finke or sophomore Chase Claypool to crack the starting lineup, perhaps alongside sophomore Kevin Stepherson (25 catches, 462 yards, five touchdowns).

The uncertainty also begets opportunities to junior Miles Boykin and sophomores Javon McKinley and Deon McIntosh.

Come fall, Canteen will join the fray alongside freshmen Michael Young and Jalen Armstrong.

With only six days remaining before spring practice commences, the offensive line was featured Wednesday, and the remaining five position groups will follow in the below order.

Wednesday: Offensive Linemen
Today: Tight Ends & Receivers
Friday: Running Backs
Saturday: Quarterbacks
Sunday: Defensive Backs
Monday: Linebackers
Tuesday: Defensive Linemen
Wednesday, March 8: Spring practice begins

Jaylon Smith’s nerve stalls, but optimism persists & insurance pays

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Despite his social media posts showcasing returning agility and athleticism, Dallas Cowboys officials are less and less optimistic former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith will return to full health. Smith tore both his ACL and his MCL against Ohio State in January of 2016. More ominously, he suffered significant nerve damage in his knee, as well.’s Ian Rapoport—already in Indianapolis readying for this week’s NFL Draft Combine—reported Cowboys’ director of player personnel Stephen Jones said Smith may still be effective, but the nerve damage has not progressed as hoped.

Rapoport indicated with his nerve not firing, Smith would presumably need to wear a brace in any game to support his drop foot. The Cowboys intend to proceed with that plan, rather than continue to wait for nerve regeneration.

Smith posted two videos to Twitter in February highlighting his work in drills. Based on that evidence, by no means should Jones’s concerns indicate Smith will not be a viable NFL contributor, quite possibly in 2017.

The Fiesta Bowl injury cost Smith theoretical millions. Rather than be a possible top-five pick, the Butkus Award winner fell to the second round.

As the No. 34 pick, Smith signed a four-year, $6.94 million contract with $4.4 million guaranteed, including a $2.92 million signing bonus. The No. 5 pick in 2016, Jalen Ramsey, signed a four-year, $23.25 million deal with $15.18 million guaranteed.

Though it will not make up anywhere near that entire difference, Smith has received a payment from the insurance policy he had prior to the injury, per ESPN’s Darren Rovell.