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Notre Dame Football

Lance Taylor Looking Forward To High Production From RBs In 2019

August 25, 2019
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Notre Dame running back coach Lance Taylor’s past success has been talked about since he arrived at Notre Dame. Taylor was responsible for Christian McCaffrey’s success at Stanford and found Bryce Love.
 
What does that mean for Notre Dame in 2019? It means Taylor has his work cut out for himself as he looks to develop a running back room with depth, but somewhat of a lack of production as the Irish look to replace the 995 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns Dexter Williams took with him to Green Bay.
 
Senior Tony Jones Jr. is Notre Dame’s most productive and experienced back as the Florida native has 624 career rushing yards and six touchdowns. Junior Jafar Armstrong moved from receiver to running back last year and rushed for 383 yards and seven scores. Redshirt freshmen Jahmir Smith ran for 28 yards on six carries while C’Bo Flemister ran one time for zero yards last fall.
 
Armstrong and Jones will lead the pack as they did at the start of last fall as Williams was suspended for the first four games of 2018. The duo averaged 188.2 yards per game during the first four games of 2018, which was more than the season average of 182.9.
 
“They are very complementary and do things differently — and do things well differently,” Taylor stated. “Jafar, his background is receiver, the way he runs routes, the way that he catches the football. His explosiveness has been really great. 
 
“Tony, his veteran leadership has been great. He’s got great instincts and his feel as a runner has been great. I think he sees the game really well. He’s been in the system for a while now, knows the offense, knows everybody in the room. That really helps him.”
 
Freshman running back Kyren Williams enrolled in January and has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff in the months since. The St. Louis native figures to be part of the rotation in some capacity as he has the ability to work from the slot in addition to his running back duties. 
 
“Kyren is very conscientious,” explained Taylor. “Football is important to him. He’s constantly asking the right questions. He wants to be good at it and he works at it. Everything I say he writes down on the field. You’ll tell him once and he makes the correction. He’s not what I call a repeat offender. He’s a guy who makes a mistake once. You correct him and then he comes back and corrects that mistake. That’s been great to see. It helped him being here as an early enrollee. I think that put him miles ahead of the game in terms of where he is right now as opposed to where he would have been if he just started. 
 
“His makeup and build is a testament to where he is right now. He’s smart, hard-working, he’s tough, he works at it, football is important to him.” 
 
Taylor is also confident the moment won’t be too big for the young freshman and has no reservations about playing Williams from the start. 
 
“I found with him the bigger the moment, the more he rises to the occasion,” Taylor said. “You want guys to practice like they’re going to play on Saturday, and that’s the way that he practices. Every time we’ve gone into a scrimmage type of situation, good on good, we’ve asked him to do something in a scrimmage situation where ‘Hey, you’re going to be highlighted on this play,’ he’s stepped up and made a play. So those are things you like to see.”
 
Armstrong and Jones may be the headline backs heading into week one, Taylor knows the other three backs can play and will play in 2019. 
 
“The great thing for us in the running back room right now is we have multiple guys who can play winning football and help this football team win,” said Taylor. “All the guys have contributed in different ways. They’ve made enough plays when they’ve had opportunities to say these guys can help us play winning football.
 
“When you look at the young guys, Jahmir, C’Bo and Kyren, all of those guys have taken turns making plays when the football’s been found, so that’s been exciting. That’s been one of the things we’ve stressed as an offense, especially in our room, is the explosive playmaking ability, the ability to win one-on-one matchups, run through arm tackles and finish in the end zone. All of those guys have really done that really well.” 
 
Taylor will also be tasked with picking up where Autry Denson left off. Notre Dame hasn’t lost a fumble in three seasons and Taylor made sure to knock on wood after it was brought up.
 
“Ball security is job security,” stated Taylor. “We always start our meetings and every drill starts with ball security. That’s the first fundamental and technique that we work on, it’s the first drill that we work on. You obviously make it a point of emphasis. It’s one of the things we work every single day.
 
“We have brought up the streak. It is an incredible streak, it really is, and the guys in the room take pride in it — and they should. I want them to continue to take pride in it and continue that streak. We’re going to continue to carry the football in the right way and continue to highlight the times that we don’t. We lost a fumble in the spring game. You highlight those situations.”
 
Notre Dame may have lost a fumble in the spring game, but Taylor’s message has resonated with his running backs as he had a perfect example of his players always thinking about ball security. 
 
“We were taking pictures this summer for some of the production stuff,” said Taylor. “One of the guys asked a running back, ‘Hey, can you hold the ball like this for one of the cool shots.’ He was like, ‘No, Coach Taylor wouldn’t appreciate that. That’s not great ball security.’ I appreciated that even when they’re taking pictures.
 
“I’ve got a great group of guys that I love coming to work and coaching every single day and try to do everything that we ask them to do, and work them hard, and they want to be great. I think they have really bought in and I really appreciate the guys that I get to coach every day. It’s made my job fun.” 

 
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