Notre Dame Football

Jafar Armstrong Focused On The Present

April 3, 2019

Running back Jafar Armstrong opened the 2018 season with two rushing touchdowns in the first start of his career. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder is now looked at as one of the leaders on the Irish backfield as he enters just his second year at the position. 

It might be a somewhat of a balancing act as Armstrong tries to continue to improve at the position while leading a young running back room along with Tony Jones Jr. 

“I feel like the way we can catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays in the open field is a weapon we have. It’s a great weapon to have.” 

“The spring is a time to get better,” explained Armstrong. “You’re not game planning every week. You’re working and improving your craft each week. I’m learning from what I’ve taken from last season with injuries and it’s year two in my position. Everything is a lot clearer for me. 

“Last year was a blur and I understand all aspects of college football now.”

The Kansas native will be the first to tell you he had a lot to learn and has plenty of room to grow now, but one area he has emphasized this spring has been pass protection. It might seem like an afterthought to some, but it’s crucial to getting on the field. 

“I would say I have tried to really work on my pass blocking,” said Armstrong. “I wasn’t as big or as physical last year. Seeing different blitzes and how people come off the edge, it’s a lot more clear this year. When Ian (Book) makes a check, I know where to go and who to block.” 

Bringing along early enrollee Kyren Williams has been part of Armstrong’s leadership role this spring. It’s a long season and Notre Dame will likely have to play multiple running backs and Williams has impressed his peers early on. 

“He’s a great back,” Armstrong stated. “He’s learning fast and quick out of the backfield with great hands. His second-level moves are very efficient for someone this young. I’m excited to see him learn and grow more this spring.” 

Armstrong rushed for 383 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 159 receiving yards last fall. He hopes to showcase his ability to catch out of the backfield more this fall, while also showing he’s improved as a runner.

“I was able to catch out of the backfield and line up at receiver. I had strength and speed. I was able to run through the tackles and cut it to the outside to get to the next level.” 

The next step for Armstrong and the Irish backs is to produce big plays, which is the goal under new running backs coach Lance Taylor. Armstrong wants to make plays with and without the ball in his hands as Notre Dame tries to get back to the College Football Playoff.

“We’re trying to be the guy to make a special play whether it’s making a big block 50 yards downfield, pass blocking or getting the ball out of the backfield,” said Armstrong. “We’re trying to do some really amazing things with the ball.” 

“We’re not trying to think about the future. We don’t play Louisville until September. We’re focused on being the best player we can each period and drill.” 

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