Notre Dame’s run game has been more counterpunch than uppercut under Brian Kelly.
How effective have the Irish been in landing those blows via their running backs? Measuring that requires a look beyond yards per carry or bulk rushing yardage. That’s where the Run Success Rate statistic can put Notre Dame’s run game in better context.
Run Success Rate is a stat used at the NFL level to measure the ability of running backs to keep the chains moving. The criteria for a successful run means the running back picked up at least 40 percent of the necessary yardage on first down, 60 percent of the necessary yardage on second down or 100 percent of the necessary yardage on third or fourth down.
That means a four-yard run on 1st-and-10 would be a success because it sets up the offense with second-and-medium with two downs to convert. But a five-yard run on 2nd-and-10 falls short, leaving the offense just one down to convert a first down. A one-yard run on 3rd-and-1? Any first down conversion from any distance is a success.
How relevant is the Run Success Rate? The New England Patriots have ranked in the Top 5 of the NFL each of the past nine seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information, despite having six different leading rushers, including former Irish back Jonas Gray.
Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise, because in terms of efficiency Gray has been the best of Notre Dame’s backs under Kelly at keeping the offense on schedule. Of his 112 adjusted carries (meaning garbage time carries are thrown out) as a senior, 70.5 percent met the Run Success Rate criteria.
That season Gray went a perfect 10-for-10 against Navy, 7-of-7 against Air Force, 11-of-15 against Purdue, 17-of-21 against Maryland and 7-of-12 against Michigan State. Cierre Wood went 5-of-14 in that same game against the Spartans.
On the flip side, Notre Dame’s first season under Kelly was the program’s worst in Run Success Rate. Armando Allen led that group, but it was just the 10th best Run Success Rate among the 14 backs under Kelly with at least 45 qualifying carries. Wood’s sophomore season ranked last among all backs with just 40.3 percent of his carries a success.
In the loss at Michigan that season, Allen and Wood combined for a 7-of-21 (33 percent) Run Success Rate.
If Gray topping the list isn’t a surprise, the impact of Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant should be. Folston, buoyed by his freshman performance against Navy (16-for-18), trails only Gray for a season percentage. Bryant’s sophomore year was much more efficient than its perception, with 27-of-49 qualifying carries meeting Run Success Rate criteria. Four carries from late in the USC game were scrapped.
Considering Notre Dame returns its most career offensive line starts under Kelly to go with Folston and Bryant – they occupy three of the top five spots on the Run Success Rate rankings (see below) – the Irish have the makings of an efficient run game next season.
What kind of punches Notre Dame throws with its backs remains a question, but the Irish should land them at an increased rate.
|Player - Year||Plus Rushes||Adjusted Carries||Success Rate|
|1. Jonas Gray ’11||79||112||70.5|
|2. Tarean Folston ’13||46||79||58.2|
|3. Cierre Wood ’12||63||114||55.3|
|4. Greg Bryant ’14||27||49||55.1|
|5. Tarean Folston ’14||94||172||54.7|
|6. Cierre Wood ’11||117||217||53.9|
|7. Theo Riddick ‘12||102||190||53.7|
|8. George Atkinson ’12||27||51||52.9|
|9. George Atkinson ’13||48||93||51.6|
|10. Armando Allen ‘10||55||107||51.4|
|11. Robert Hughes ’10||34||68||50|
|12. Cam McDaniel ’13||71||151||47|
|13. Cam McDaniel ’14||34||75||45.3|
|14. Cierre Wood ’10||48||119||40.3|