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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Roster Review | RB

January 29, 2023

If an offense is as run-heavy as Notre Dame’s, the running backs are going to get a chance to shine. For the most part, the Irish backfield did as the season went along.

A slow start had a lot more to do with an injury to Logan Diggs and lack of execution blocking than it did the play of the running backs. The backs gained confidence and really took off after the first couple of games.

Over the final 11 games, the trio of Audric Estime, Logan Diggs, and Chris Tyree averaged a combined 230.5 yards from scrimmage per game.

Maybe it’s too strong to say that Estime broke through as a star, but no one could argue that he is on his way to becoming that at the very least. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and showed nimble feet to go with tremendous power, which helped him gain plenty of yards after contact. Estime averaged 3.65 yards after contact per attempt (24th out of Power 5 backs).

The only real blip for him was fumbling the football three times and it probably cost him a 1,000 yard season. He was on the verge of being the lead back for the Irish and looked like the definitive closer in four minute offense situations, but two late fumbles against North Carolina and Stanford slowed that down.

He bounced back nicely, though. He didn’t fumble in the second half of the season and appears poised to build on what he accomplished in 2022.

When we talk about the slow start for the Irish, Diggs’ absence and the time it took for him to look confident running on a repaired shoulder probably shouldn’t be mentioned more than it does. He was a key cog the rest of the way and after missing the Cal game, Diggs averaged over 100 yards from scrimmage in the final 10 and showed he was completely capable of playing a leading role.

More physical and decisive as a runner in his sophomore year, Diggs also proved he has the versatility to run inside and be dangerous as a receiver. No Power 5 back averaged more yards per route run than him. He should be more involved in the passing game in 2023.

It’s fair to say that Tyree is not going to be RB1 for the Irish in 2023 and though he showed he has the feet and vision to succeed as an inside runner, he wasn’t elusive enough to break the kind of explosive runs the Irish needed more of. His lack of ability to gain yards after contact kept him from breaking away with his speed.

He was probably miscast in the offense and Tommy Rees did start to do more with him situationally on perimeter passes, but he again never had that one or two splash plays that people expected from him. It will be interesting to see how he is utilized this next season. He clearly has a valuable skill set and if they find the right role for him, he can be an important chess piece for the offense.

One of the biggest things the offense was missing was explosive runs. This is where the other backs on the roster enter the picture.

While we don’t know much about what to expect from Gi’Bran Payne based on less than a handful of garbage time carries, he can insert himself into the mix if he shows the potential to turn those 15-yard runs into 30+ yards.

Payne won't be the one that most people are looking forward to watching, though. That would be JD Price. He is coming off of an Achilles injury that wiped out his freshman season, but before it happened, he lit up spring ball and had everyone excited about his speed in the open field.

If he’s healthy, look out for him to be a major factor. We likely won’t know how ready he’ll be until the summer.

True freshman Jeremiyah Love is also someone we won’t know about until the summer when he arrives on campus, but he’ll be bringing his sub 4.4 40 speed with him.

Notre Dame won’t lack options in terms of speed. There’s a lot of talent and only so many touches to go around, which is a good problem to have for Rees and Deland McCullough. We saw some 21 personnel (two backs) last fall, but we might see even more of it this season because Tyree, Price, and Love all have hybrid ability and Diggs isn’t too shabby either.

It will all work itself out and when things are settled, there’s the potential for the offense to have a pair of 1,000 yard rushers and more big plays than we saw in ‘22.

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