Depth charge at running back for Notre Dame
LaMond Pope firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2691 Twitter: @lamondpope March 28, 2014 7:56PM
SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 19: Cam McDaniel #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a first down against the University of Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium on October 19, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: April 30, 2014 6:14AM
SOUTH BEND — It sounded like a round of “Mad Libs: Notre Dame running back edition.”
Coach Brian Kelly described Cam McDaniel as “shifty and gutty.” He said Tarean Folston is “smooth.” And that Greg Bryant is “powerful.”
All three are options in Notre Dame’s backfield.
Kelly isn’t as concerned about finding “the man” at running back. The Irish just want to be in a position to utilize the depth this fall.
“All of us are competitors,” Bryant said Friday. “If I see Tarean get a 10-yard gain, I’m going to want to get a 20-yard gain. If Cam gets a 20-yard gain, I’m going to want to get a 30-yard gain.”
Notre Dame finished 80th in the nation in rushing offense in 2013, averaging 151.3 yards per game. The figure could improve with Everett Golson or Malik Zaire as threats to run at quarterback.
When they hand the ball off, it will be going to one of three versatile backs.
“You can put those guys in situations and not pigeonhole them into ‘you’re an outside runner, you’re an inside runner,’ ” offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said.
“Those guys can take all the reps and you can let them sort it out themselves.”
McDaniel is the veteran who was effective at getting the extra yards late to put games away. He led the team with 705 rushing yards last season.
“I feel like I can make dynamic plays,” McDaniel said, “and I feel like I can do whatever I’m asked to do or called to do.”
Folston became more of a factor in the second half of his freshman season. He finished with 470 rushing yards, including 140 on Nov. 2 against Navy.
“It definitely boosted my confidence,” Folston said. “It just so happened that the Navy game was a pretty good game and the Rutgers game (73 yards) was a pretty good game. Hopefully, I and Cam and Greg have a couple more of those games next year.”
Bryant was a big-time recruit but his freshman season was cut short because of a knee injury. He had just three carries.
“When I’m on the field, it’s like all the aggression that I had last year not playing, and when I get the ball now and I’m in the hole, it’s like I don’t want to go back to not playing anymore,” Bryant said. “So that power, I guess it shows.”
Kelly has noticed.
“I know our guys don’t like to tackle him. He’s physical,” Kelly said. “He’s got all the tools to be a premier running back. You add him to the mix with Cam and Tarean. We feel really fortunate to have three great running backs.”
Prentice McKinney became the first defensive player to join Notre Dame’s Class of 2015.
The safety from South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas verbally committed to play for the Irish late Thursday, according to multiple reports.
McKinney (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) is the fourth member of Notre Dame’s Class of 2015, joining quarterback Blake Barnett and offensive linemen Tristen Hoge and Jerry Tillery.
Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma reportedly were among the schools interested in McKinney. He is rated No. 30 among all safeties for the Class of 2015, according to Rivals.com.