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Running Backs, 2012-13, and Beyond...Entering November 2012, three-star Texas 'back Jamel James was the only runner that appeared likely to ink Irish. James instead signed with Texas State as Notre Dame offered bigger fish Greg Bryant (5'11" 200) and Tarean Folston (5'10" 190) a pair of Floridian four-stars with remarkable upside and proven skills at the previous level.
In tandem, Bryant and Folston ensure Notre Dame's previously shaky depth at the position for 2013 and offer hope for a young backfield of the future, with both capable of starting or playing a prime time role by 2014, albeit in heavy competition with a few already on campus.
2013 Grade -- ABryant's whirlwind courtship is described below by his future position coach, Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Tony Alford.
"There was something going around that he called us," said Alford of Bryant. "That didn't happen. I reached out to him. We were 11-0, it was the Monday night that I called Greg prior to the USC game. He had since de-committed from Oklahoma. I reacquainted myself with him, he knew who I was because I was recruiting him when he committed (to the Sooners).
"We talked for about 45 minutes to an hour about where the program was headed, why he de-committed, what he was looking for, what we were trying to do. Since that day I think we've spoken every day.
"Once they (lost in the playoffs), he flew up the next weekend, the same one as the Heisman Trophy. We were watching it and he said, 'Coach, this is what I want to do.'"
That was December 8. Folston committed under a month later and Notre Dame found its backfield of the future.
Best Chance to Play Early: Bryant, not only between the two, but when compared to head coach Brian Kelly's entire set of rookies on offense. Pending good health throughout summer workouts and August camp, it would be a major surprise if Bryant redshirts in 2013.
Quote to Note: "I think the season, 11-0, we were (ranked) first in the country. I think that certainly had an impact with him as far as piquing his interest. Going from zero contact with him, from May until (November 19), I have to believe that probably had some (impact). But once we started sitting down and talking and really breaking down what's going on here, and where we want to go, I think that's what put a strong hold on Greg.
"A lot of it had to do with (his father asking) 'What can Notre Dame do for my child when he stops playing?' We talked about that 40-year plan and I think that really hit home with then.
"But again, winning certainly helps."
-- Alford on Bryant's recruitment related to their season's success.
2013 Grade Coupled with 2012 -- B+Kelly technically brought in two running back recruits: Will Mahone and Keivarae Russell, but Russell never took a practice snap in the backfield and will thus be included in the forthcoming cornerbacks review. (It seems off-base to count Russell as a running back simply because he ran for a lot of yards and touchdowns in Everett, Washington.)
Because the 2011 class includes three players: George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, and transfer Amir Carlisle, the 2012 class needed just one, and it has that in four-star prospect Will Mahone, who redshirted last season. Freshman redshirt backs haven't had a long history of success in South Bend, that is until Cierre Wood hit town, sat out 2009, then produced the highest career rushing average (for a player with more than 400 carries) in program history.
The redshirt stigma is gone, and Mahone enters 2013 with a chance to earn the starting job. The position group as a whole is unproven; the recruitment of capable athletes over the last two seasons is not.
Three 'backs in a two-year cycle is ideal. A fourth (Russell) is more than capable should injury calamity hit the position in the next calendar year.
Necessary additions for 2014 as a result: None. Notre Dame has six 'backs on scholarship for 2013 and 2014. Of the six, four could be on campus in 2015. Unless one of the top running backs in the nation wants to move to South Bend, Kelly and his staff will likely pass on a runner among their 17- to 19-player class of 2014.
Were needs filled at RB over the last two seasons?There's no doubt. Three over two classes is a comfortable number, and there are four accomplished high school runners on campus between the sophomores and incoming freshmen. The addition of a transfer to last year's class (Amir Carlisle) and presence of two from 2011 keeps the position well-stocked for the foreseeable future.
Folston's versatility (it appears he'd be a developable cornerback, kick returner, third-down 'back, slot option, and standard runner as well) was crucial toward potentially ending the position's recruitment through the 2014 cycle.
Now they'll have to produce.