Watch out for Notre Dame’s other sophomore running back.
After getting beat out by Josh Adams last season and watching his classmate set freshman rushing records, Dexter Williams might be ready to remind the coaching staff why he was the more coveted prospect out of high school. The Florida product packed on 10 pounds this off-season and will open spring ball listed at 5-foot-10 ¾, 210 pounds.
That grabbed Brian Kelly’s attention well before the first spring practice on Wednesday morning. The Irish head coach said Williams ran a 4.51 40-yard dash during winter conditioning.
“He’s going to be a force to be dealt with, and his workouts have been extraordinary,” Kelly said. “He’s a man right now that does not want to get overlooked, and so he’s caught everybody's attention.”
Fourteen players added at least five pounds to their last reported weights, with Williams the top gainer on offense. Linebacker Asmar Bilal led all players, jumping 15 pounds to 230 after his Scout Team Player of the Year season while taking a red shirt.
Bilal will get plenty of first-team work during spring because Notre Dame has just four healthy scholarship linebackers. Josh Barajas, James Onwualu and Nyles Morgan represent the entire group with Te’Von Coney and Greer Martini out with shoulder injuries while freshman Daelin Hayes will be limited by a high school shoulder injury.
Barajas added five pounds to get to 240. He’ll likely work at both Will and Mike linebacker, the positions vacated by Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt, respectively. Morgan, who added five pounds to get to 245, will work with the starters at Mike to open spring ball.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Kelly said. “It’s the 11-on-11 work where you’re a little thin, but when we’re talking about drill work, when we’re talking about 7-on-7, when we’re talking about things like that, we’ll be cross-training those linebackers, and we’ll be just fine.”
Other weight gains on offense were Josh Adams (+7 to 219 pounds), Hunter Bivin (+6 to 308 pounds), Corey Holmes (+6 to 190 pounds), Trevor Ruhland (+8 to 300 pounds), Nic Weishar (+4 to 245 pounds) and Malik Zaire (+3 to 225 pounds). On defense, Grant Blankenship (+5 to 278 pounds), Jonathan Bonner (+11 to 286 pounds), Nick Coleman (+5 to 190 pounds), Jerry Tillery (+5 to 310 pounds) and Ashton White (+8 to 190 pounds) all made gains.
Two players made significant weight drops and both also changed positions.
Jacob Matuska dropped 20 pounds to get to 275 while moving from defensive line to tight end. John Montelus dropped 10 pounds to get to 310 while jumping from offensive guard to defensive tackle.
Kelly was high on Matuska entering spring ball and hopes for a similar role player to Chase Hounshell last year after he made the same switch.
“One of the numbers that really surprised me was Matuska,” Kelly said. “We moved him over to tight end … and he ran 4.9 … now we've got that big in-line guy that we've been looking for, and those other guys can certainly help us now that they got the experience last year.”
Matuska played in just one game last year, the blowout of Massachusetts. Montelus played in three: Texas, UMass and Pittsburgh.
Both Notre Dame’s specialists also added five pounds with kicker Justin Yoon up to 190– the same weight as Holmes, Coleman and early enrollee Devin Studstill – while punter Tyler Newsome is now listed at 210 pounds, which is bigger than Max Redfield or Equanimeous St. Brown.