The Irish already have a commitment from Grand Rapids, MI native Justin Hoskins. Hoskins measured 5-10, 183 pounds and ran a 4.41 at the Nike Camp. I have yet to see film on Hoskins but I hear he is very underrated as a running back. Hoskins clearly has the speed needed to be considered a good prospect and his commitment was critical for the Irish. I haven't watched film yet but I only hear good things about Hoskins.
After watching Thomas Brown on film, I can see why he was highly recruited. Brown has everything needed to be a great player. He is small in stature but his speed and lateral movement is impressive. He committed to Georgia so he is a non-factor now.
The reason I mention Brown is because Georgia waited to offer Darius Walker to see what Thomas Brown was going to do. I can see why they waited but not because Brown is that much better of a player than Walker—he isn't in my opinion. I think they waited because they knew Walker was going to be more difficult to recruit to Georgia.
Walker is an excellent student and he hasn't lived in Georgia all of his life. Notre Dame has been mentioned high on his list since the beginning and he seems much more open to leaving the state. Watching Walker on film is also very impressive. Walker doesn't have quite as much lateral movement as Brown but I would say his speed is equally as impressive. Walker does have excellent vision and explosion. He hits the hole fast and can make the quick cut and read to get through the hole. He won't dance like Brown but he is effective and he has more size.
The other good news on Walker is that I think the Irish have an excellent shot at signing him. Walker will take some time before deciding but I do believe the Irish will be in his final list of schools to choose from. Walker was asked recently by Insiders expert Ryan Jordan who his favorite coach recruiting him was. "I like Coach Willingham from Notre Dame. He's very intelligent, and that's what I'm looking for. That doesn't give Notre Dame a lead or anything, but I like that about them." Every report I read has Notre Dame the first school out of his mouth. I'm a big Darius Walker fan.
Another player I hope the Irish are able to recruit is Tony Temple. Temple really impresses me on film because of his vision and his lateral movement. Temple has excellent quickness and gets up to full speed very quickly (something I think is very important). Temple can dance on the field with the best of them and can make people miss. What I like the most about Temple is while he can dance, he understands north/south running and turns up field as quickly as he can.
Temple's explosion is as good as anyone I've seen recently and he makes those quick moves and quick cuts that won't slow him down allowing him to eat up a lot of yards in a short period of time. The last thing I look for is how he runs inside. The great backs look like pinballs. People bounce off him like a pinball and his balance while running is outstanding. He also isn't afraid to lower his head and pound the ball inside.
The bad news on Temple is that I'm not sure the Irish can recruit him at this point. He appears to be a very solid kid with a good head on his shoulders but he might not make it through admissions. If the Irish can recruit Temple, I expect them to be in the race until the end. I am a big Tony Temple fan (player and person) and I sure hope they can recruit him.
Charlie Jones is equally as impressive on film as Walker and Temple. Jones is my favorite back I've seen this year and he is listed on Insiders as the second-ranked running back in the country. Charlie Jones is the complete back. Jones has good size at 5-11, 195 and I would say that is accurate. He somehow ran a 4.71 at Nike Camp and I don't know how that is possible. He honestly looks like he is a 4.3 guy on film. I can't stress enough how explosive he looks on film.
Jones has speed to burn on film and he is the most explosive player I've seen on film at running back this year and probably a long time. He has an excellent stiff arm, spin move, makes those short steps and cuts and there is no wasted movement in his running style. He loves to take it up the middle and runs with excellent power for his size. He also catches the ball well out of the backfield. He is the total package—no question.
The bad news is he is from Dade County. I would guess half the Miami Hurricanes' players are from Dade County. Miami was his favorite school as a kid and most would say it's not likely that he will go to Notre Dame. The good news is that Jones recently told Insiders recruiting expert Mike Bakas that the Irish are in his top 5. "It seems like the list builds every day but I've pretty much it down to about five that I really like. They are Miami, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and N.C. State." I've even heard that the Irish are moving up quickly on his list. Miami already has one commitment at running back in Bobby Washington who is also a top prospect this year. Could the Irish finally steal a player from Dade County?
Another player I really like on film is Parrish Fisher. The Richardson, TX native is listed at 5-10, 205 pounds and I would say that is pretty accurate. Fisher doesn't have blazing top-end speed but he does have four things that I think are very important. Fisher has excellent feet, vision, balance and shoots through the hole quickly. Fisher squirms his way through traffic with defenders bouncing off him. His feet and balance are really impressive and he gets the most possible yards out of every carry.
Fisher has a low center of gravity and very thick legs. He makes his living inside and is very effective and productive. It just seems that nobody ever gets a good shot at him. He runs with power but his feet are his best attribute.
If the Irish recruit Fisher, expect him to be interested. Fisher recently told me he was hoping for an Irish offer. "Definitely, it's a prestigious program. When you think of football, you think of Notre Dame. I'm very interested in Notre Dame and I'm hoping they recruit me." If the Irish offer Fisher, expect them to be in the race until the end. Colorado just offered him and they know a good running back when they see one.
Samson Taylor is another possible target at running back. Taylor is a little raw as a back but he is quite an athlete. He has good top-end speed and excellent explosion through the hole. I wouldn't say he is the natural that Jones is but reminds me of Ricky Watters when he first reported to Notre Dame. He is tall, lanky but his raw ability is comparable to Watters. I think Taylor's best football is ahead of him.
Taylor seems pretty open but has shown interest in Notre Dame since the beginning. Miami is clearly the team to beat but they haven't offered Taylor. The Woodlands, TX native comes from the same high school as current defensive end Travis Leitko and former Irish player Grant Irons. "I like their tradition. You don't find schools that have both the academic standards and are great in football. They have a great tradition and a new coach. Also, my friend Travis Leitko went there and I hear he is doing well up there." If the Irish offer, they should be in the race for Taylor.
Another possibility is Marcus Manson. The 6-0, 190-pound Tuscaloosa, AL prospect is another back I really like on film. Manson has everything a coach could want. He runs very hard, is extremely explosive and has blazing top-end speed. He runs like an NFL back now chewing up yards with every step. Manson has a wealth of potential and should be ranked higher in my opinion.
Manson mentioned Notre Dame early but has recently been talking more about southern schools. The Irish recruited very well in Alabama last year and appear to be doing well in the state this year. He is also from the same high school as Travis Robinson—a player that likes Notre Dame quite a bit. I don't have a number for Manson but I will be calling him very soon.
Running back recruiting this year will be important to the future success of the team. The Irish have a lot of prospects to recruit this year that appear very interested in Notre Dame. If the Irish can land two more from this list, they should do very well at running back this year. I was impressed with all of these players and I think all would compete for the starting spot in the future.