Kelly’s Best: Running Backs

Since Kelly’s arrival to Notre Dame, four running backs have cracked the 1,000-yard in their careers – Josh Adams, Tarean Folston, C.J. Prosise and Cam McDaniel.

SCOUT RUNNING BACK RANKINGS

1. 4* Greg Bryant (2013) – No. 70 overall; No. 13 RB
2. 4* Dexter Williams (2015) – No. 114 overall; No. 17 RB
3. 4* C.J. Holmes (2016) – No. 155 overall; No. 8 athlete
4. 4* Tony Jones Jr. (2016) – No. 187 overall; No. 10 RB
5. 4* Tarean Folston (2013) – No. 198 overall; No. 24 RB
6. 4* Josh Adams (2015) – No. 199 overall; No. 27 RB
7. 4* Will Mahone (2012) – No. 201 overall: No. 23 RB
8. 4* KeiVarae Russell (2012) – No. 207 overall; No. 24 RB
9. 3* Cameron Roberson (2010) – NR; No. 2 FB
10. 3* George Atkinson (2011) – NR; No. 30 RB
11. 3* Cam McDaniel (2011) – NR; No. 33 RB
12. 3* Deon McIntosh (2016) – NR; No. 37 RB
 

MOST PRODUCTIVE
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Josh Adams – At his current pace, the Irish junior will finish third on Notre Dame’s all-time rushing list behind Autry Denson (4,318 yards) and Allen Pinkett (4,131 yards).

Adams set the Notre Dame freshman record for rushing yardage with 835 in 2015 while averaging 7.1 yards per carry, including a 98-yard touchdown run against Wake Forest. Even without that record-setting run, he averaged 6.4 yards per carry on his 116 other rushing attempts.

Despite battling injuries during his sophomore season, Adams rushed for 933 yards and a 5.9-yard average.

Only three running backs in Notre Dame history rushed for more yards (1,768) than Adams has in his first two years with the Irish – Darius Walker (1,982 yards in 2004-05), Pinkett (1,926 yards in 1982-83) and Denson (1874 yards in 1995-96).

At 6.4 yards per carry through two seasons, Adams trails only Don Miller (1922-24) among the top 20 all-time Notre Dame rushers.

ONE-HIT WONDER
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C.J. Prosise – Mired on the depth chart at safety – he was the No. 276 overall prospect and No. 21 safety prospect in 2012 -- Prosise moved to slot receiver in 2013, catching seven passes for 72 yards in his transition season. He finished fifth on the team in receptions in 2014 with 29 catches for 516 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Looking for more depth and diversity at the running back position heading into 2015, Brian Kelly shifted Prosise to running back after he flashed big-play potential from the receiver position in ’14 with 10 carries for 134 yards, including an explosive 50-yard touchdown run in the Music City Bowl against LSU that tied the game with 4:14 remaining in an eventual 31-28 Irish victory.

Beginning 2015 as Tarean Folston’s backup, Prosise quickly emerged after Folston went down with a season-ending knee injury in the season-opener against Texas. Through seven games, Prosise had rushed for 922 yards on 129 carries (7.1-yard average) and 11 touchdowns.

But the wear and tear caught up to him. He carried the football just 27 times for 110 yards over the final six games as injuries in Game 9 versus Pittsburgh and Game 11 against Boston College brought an end to his spectacular debut season at running back with 1,032 yards on 156 carries (6.6-yard average).

Just as Irish fans anticipated a dynamic one-two punch at running back with Prosise and Adams in 2016 with Folston still in the picture and Dexter Williams waiting in the wings, Prosise entered the NFL draft upon the conclusion of the 2015 season and was the 90th overall selection (third round) of the Seattle Seahawks.

MR. RELIABLE
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Cam McDaniel – Considered to be lacking in talent compared to the running backs around him, McDaniel became the go-to guy in 2013 ahead of freshman Tarean Folston and George Atkinson. He paced the Irish in rushing with 705 yards, including an 18-carry, 97-yard performance in a 14-10 home victory over USC and a 24-carry, 117-yard effort in a 23-13 win over BYU. He capped his junior season with a 17-carry, 80-yard game in the 29-16 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers.

In 2014, McDaniel gave way to Folston’s talent and managed just 278 yards during his senior season. His fumble with 1:36 left in the Northwestern game opened the door for the Wildcats, who claimed a 43-40 overtime victory over Notre Dame in the second of four straight November losses.

“They’ve called me Mr. Reliable,” McDaniel reflected. “The amount of self-hatred I had after that game…It wrecked me, it really did.”

McDaniel finished with 1,117 career rushing yards, eight touchdowns and a 4.4-yard average.

ON THE MOVE
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KeiVarae Russell – The Irish had a need at cornerback during Russell’s freshman season (2012), and thus, his tenure at running back came to a quick conclusion. At cornerback, he immediately distinguished himself as the Irish went 12-0 during the regular season. Before the start of his junior season in 2014, he was suspended, along with four others, in an academic misconduct investigation. Following an up-and-down 2015 campaign that ended with an injury, he bypassed the remainder of his eligibility with the Irish and became a third-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016.

Justin Brent – The No. 64 overall prospect in 2014 and the 14th-rated wide receiver never found his footing with the Irish, moving to running back shortly after his arrival, where he was lost in the shuffle. He recently earned his undergraduate degree with the intention of transferring to continue his football career elsewhere.

CURRENT RANKING

  1. Josh Adams
  2. C.J. Prosise
  3. Tarean Folston – Never the speediest of Irish running backs, Folston was productive with 470 yards rushing as a freshman, followed by a 175-carry, 889-yard, six-touchdown sophomore campaign. His elusive jump-cut running style portended more success as an upperclassman. But a serious knee injury in the ’15 opener against Texas reduced Folston to 80 carries for 353 yards over his final two years with the Irish. He finished his Notre Dame career with 1,712 yards rushing and 11 TDs.
  4. Cam McDaniel
  5. George Atkinson – Notre Dame’s home-run threat at running back from 2011-13 averaged 6.2 yards per carry en route to a 943-yard career with the Irish. He is known more for his 89-yard kick return in a 31-13 victory over Michigan State in Game 3 and a 96-yard kick return in a 31-17 win over USC in Game 7. His last game in an Irish uniform was the 2013 regular-season finale against Stanford before his Pinstripe Bowl suspension and exit into the professional ranks as a free agent.
  6. Dexter Williams – The Irish are still waiting for the second highest-rated running back out of high school in the Brian Kelly era to emerge. Williams sits No. 2 on the depth chart behind Adams with competition provided this spring by Tony Jones Jr. Williams has 281 yards rushing and four TDs in two seasons.
  7. Greg Bryant – The highest-rated running back in the Kelly era (No. 70 overall prospect in 2013) rushed for 303 yards and three TDs in 2013-14. Bryant was academically ineligible in ’15, and then decided to transfer to ASA Miami, a Florida-based junior college. He had moved on to Alabama-Birmingham when he was tragically shot and killed in Florida in the spring of 2016.

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