Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated

Irish A-to-Z: Deon McIntosh

Special teams appear to be the path to playing time for Notre Dame’s redshirt-freshman speedster.

  • Class: Sophomore (Eligibility 4)
  • On the depth chart: Fourth on the depth chart at RB; in contention as a return man
  • Post-spring status: Ascending, technically

A consensus three-star prospect and Scout.com’s 37th-ranked running back prospect in 2016, McIntosh began and ended his rookie season working with the Irish wide receivers. He was moved back to running back for Spring Ball 2017 and, due in part to the shoulder injury suffered by early enrollee C.J. Holmes, earned enough snaps to put himself in contention for varsity duty this fall.

Brian Kelly’s eight recruiting cycles have included just three prospects awarded three-star status: Cam Roberson, George Atkinson, and Cam McDaniel. Roberson never played due to injury, Atkinson consistently intermixed the spectacular with the maddening before departing after his junior season, and McDaniel lead the 2013 Irish in rushing yards before becoming a captain the following fall.

QUOTABLE

“I’m not looking for different guys to do one particular thing. I’m looking for guys that have shown they can (be versatile) or that I can coach them up so they can contribute in the run game, in the pass game. I don’t want one trick ponies. Those aren’t my kind of guys.” – Running backs coach Autry Denson this spring.

BEST CASE SCENARIO

Purportedly the fastest offensive player the Irish have, McIntosh has an opportunity to make an impact on the Irish return and coverage units. Myriad roles are there for the taking as part of Brian Polian’s special teams and it would provide a huge career boost for McIntosh if he seizes at least one of them.

Special teams acumen often serves as the quickest way to earn the trust of the coaching staff – and thus an opportunity from scrimmage thereafter.

But as the team’s No. 4 running back (with a healthy Holmes hot on his heels), the redshirt-freshman would likely only see competitive situation snaps this season if injury were to hit the likes of Josh Adams or Tony Jones, Jr., thus necessitating McIntosh’s “activation” (in the words of head coach Brian Kelly) on game week.

Of note, the following numbers represent total carries by the “No. 4” running back entering during Kelly’s tenure:

2010: 20 (Jonas Gray)
2011: 9 (George Atkinson)
2012: 23 (Cam McDaniel)
2013: 47 (Amir Carlisle – began the season as the starter)
2014: N/A
2015: 21 (Dexter Williams)
2016: N/A

WORST CASE SCENARIO

Failure to break into the lineup on any of the Irish “Run Teams” (coverage and returns. If McIntosh doesn’t play as a sophomore, his chances to compete as a junior diminish greatly.  Precious few skill position players stick around for four years if they don’t see the field as sophomores.

Occasional scout team duties are fine for a redshirt-freshman, but he should likewise spend time with the varsity specialty units during game preparations.

CAREER COMPARISON

Prep running back to freshman wide receiver to sophomore running back?

If your glass is half-empty, that’s Justin Brent, though the recent transfer (and early graduate) made his field debut as a special teamer as a true freshman in 2014 – and then never played again.

If your glass is half-full – and why shouldn’t it be? – current Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick also began his career as a running back for Charlie Weis, was moved to slot receiver by Brian Kelly in 2010, then flourished as a runner again in 2012, working as the straw that stirred the drink offensively for Notre Dame’s run to 12-0.


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