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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Roster Review | Running Back

February 21, 2024
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There have been some dark times with Notre Dame running backs in terms of depth with several players being forced to move from other positions in order to have enough bodies to practice. Those days appear to be long gone with the backfield loaded with talent and six scholarship backs on campus this spring.

Deland McCullough doesn’t have to worry about limiting anyone’s reps. His biggest problem will be finding enough for everyone while they compete to replace Audric Estime this season.

Total snaps returning

Four players are back from 2023 and they played 469 snaps last season.

Devyn Ford (55) is the only one upperclassman out of that group. Jeremiyah Love (147), Jadarian Price (107), and Gi’Bran Payne (160) all have up to three years of eligibility left.

Notable returning production

Losing one of the top backs in the country is never a good thing, but the returning players put up numbers that were very encouraging.

Love (5.4), Price (5.8), and Ford (5.5) each averaged over five yards per carry. Price’s sample size was much smaller, but he averaged more yards after contact (4.57) than Estime last season. He had 14 missed tackles forced on only 58 carries and Love had 16 on 72 carries. They are different backs than Estime, but were equally difficult to tackle.

Those two combined with Ford and Payne for 25 catches as well. All four are capable receivers. Love forced another eight missed tackles as a receiver and he showed how dangerous he can be with his touchdown against Oregon State. Price and Payne scored long touchdowns as receivers as well.

There are some numbers with Payne that aren’t exactly positive with his role as a third down back. His yards per carry (3.7) was low and some of that can be attributed to being used in short yardage, but he finished with a negative EPA (expected points added) per rush. His 2.71 yards after contact was also not a good number and PFF credited him with only six missed tackles forced (zero as a receiver).

Obviously pass protection is a huge part of playing on third down, but those numbers aren’t great and aren’t helping his cause to keep the job this season.

Additions

The Irish are bringing in two early enrollees with Kedren Young and Aneyas Williams already on campus.

Young is physically mature and more than just a power back. He has all the tools to develop into a bell cow for the Irish.

Williams has a similar skill set to former Notre Dame back Kyren Williams (no relation) and his skills as a pass-catcher could help him find a role earlier than expected.

Spring competition

Under different circumstances, I think both true freshmen might have pushed to be heavily in the mix in 2024. That’s going to be a lot more difficult with who Notre Dame is returning in the backfield this spring.

If either Young or Williams are to play this season, it means they are too darn talented to keep off the field.

Ford is likely to continue to be a complimentary piece rather than a featured player. His ability to block in two back sets, catch the football, and shine on special teams will still be important to the team. The big competition this spring will be seeing whether or not Love or Price can separate from each other as the lead guy heading into the summer.

I think it’s already assumed that they will separate from the rest of the pack as the one-two punch for the Irish. The other thing to watch is whether or not Payne can step up and be part of the conversation or if he may get passed by the two freshmen.

His role on third down shouldn’t be set in stone either because the other backs were simply better playmakers last season. We’ll see if Price or Love can show the necessary improvements in pass protection in order to replace Payne.

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