2018 Notre Dame Football Position and Prospect Analysis: Running back
SOUTH BEND – There has been no decimation to a position group within the Notre Dame football program more so this winter than the running backs.
Some of that loss has been unavoidable, while other departures have simply been regrettable.
The Fighting Irish program saw three runners go out the door, but also welcomed two (and possibly three) new athletes to take their place.
News-Sentinel.com sports reporter Tom Davis has been writing on Notre Dame football for nearly two decades and will take a daily look at the various position groups for next season and how the incoming class of prospects could impact the success of the Fighting Irish.
Today’s position: Running back
Coming Sunday: Wide receivers
Jahmir Smith and C’Bo Flemister
The question surrounding returning runners Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr. isn’t centered on can they be productive from a talent standpoint? It is really based on the health of the two athletes.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Fighting Irish running back coach Autry Denson said earlier this month. “Those guys, they trained their butts off last year. It was disappointing for them.”
The two were projected to be regulars in the rotation behind outstanding starter Josh Adams, but Williams and Jones Jr. missed a combined four games and only totaled 83 carries combined for the season.
Both incoming freshmen Smith and Flemister will get looks in training camp, if not because of talent, but simply because Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has to be prepared when one of the veterans can’t go.
“I’m just prayerful that this year will be their year,” Denson said of the veterans.
But if he has to turn to Smith and/or Flemister?
Denson said on National Signing Day that he really is confident in both freshmen athletes.
“What is exciting is that you truly do have every guy in that room with an opportunity to compete and contribute at some point,” Denson explained. “That is not only exciting for me, because I love the challenge of developing young guys, but it is exciting for them.”
Smith has a head start on Flemister due to his being an early enrollee.
He was rated as high as the 20th best running back in the nation and has already been immersed in the Fighting Irish strength and conditioning program for two months.
Smith will get his first taste of learning the physicality of Power 5 football beginning March 6 when the Irish open spring practice.
“I’m excited to get him on campus,” Denson said of Smith. “Anytime you can get a young man here early, that obviously adds to his maturity and his process in regards to developing.”
Smith came to South Bend weighing less than 200 pounds (barely), but he has the power and strength to run between the tackles.
As far as Flemister, Denson said he is a “throwback” runner that relies on toughness as much as anything.
“I call him my ‘throwback’ player,” Denson said. “He is a down, dirty, just old-school; get it done type of player. It was refreshing to watch his film.”
Flemister is smaller than Smith, but he didn’t lack production playing in the talent-rich state of Georgia.
He totaled over 2,400 yards and scored 35 times as a senior runner at Pike County High School.
Another possible runner is California native Tariq Bracy, who was recruited and signed this month as a defensive back, but was an exceptional running back in high school. However, Kelly wasn’t willing to address position changes earlier this month, so that remains to be seen as to where Bracy ends up.
The (potential) three freshmen, as well as Williams and Jones Jr. will form a group to compensate for the loss of Adams (who declared for the NFL) and Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes (both kicked off the team, but do remain enrolled at the university).
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