With the start of Notre Dame preseason camp approaching fast, we’re looking at what to expect from each unit that’ll take the field in primetime Sept. 4 against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. Today: The running backs.
1A. Tarean Folston (Redshirt junior)
1B. Josh Adams (Sophomore)
2. Dexter Williams (Sophomore)
3A. Deon McIntosh (Freshman)
3B. Tony Jones (Freshman)
In Adams and Folston, Notre Dame should have a dynamic 1-2 punch out of its backfield this fall. Adams broke Autry Denson’s freshman rushing record with 838 yards last year. The lightly-recruited Pennsylvania native showed excellent speed, vision and running back instincts — the latter of which were even more apparent in comparison to those of greenhorn back C.J. Prosise, who nonetheless rushed for over 1,000 yards last year.
Folston suffered a torn ACL on his third carry of the season against Texas, which robbed him on a chance to build on his 889-yard sophomore season. He developed into a well-rounded running back in 2014, answering Brian Kelly’s challenge to improve his pass protection skills and catching 18 passes out of the backfield that year.
While Adams and Folston are clearly atop the depth chart, Williams impressed coaches during the spring not so much for his burst and agility, but for his ability to grind out an extra yard or two after contact in the trenches. Kelly said Williams could be utilized as a short-yardage back this fall, though the former four-star recruit should have a few opportunities to showcase his explosive playmaking skills, too.
Biggest question: Can Tarean Folston improve off 2013 and 2014?
Folston was the first offensive player to go down with a serious injury last year (defensive lineman Jarron Jones and defensive back Shaun Crawford both were hurt during preseason camp) and only had three carries for 19 yards. It wasn’t in the least bit the kind of season Folston hoped for.
The Cocoa, Fla. native thought a big 2015 season could vault him into NFL Draft consideration following his junior season. After putting together solid freshman and sophomore campaigns, Folston’s hope was to cement himself as Notre Dame’s feature running back and be a big part of a successful offense.
Those efforts were delayed a year when Folston blew up his knee trying to bounce outside against Texas. The fact that Folston even participated in spring practice — even though he wore a non-contact jersey during March and April — was a positive sign, and Notre Dame expects him to be 100 percent for the start of preseason camp. If Folston can finally build off his first two seasons, it’ll provide a nice boost to the Irish offense, even if it’s a year behind schedule.
Jones and McIntosh were both rated as three-star recruits by Rivals coming from Bradenton and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., respectively. Ideally, Notre Dame won’t have to force either into action with three players ahead of them on the depth chart, but given the attrition that happened at this position last year, Jones and McIntosh aren’t guaranteed to redshirt this fall.
The most important thing either player can do to get on the field quickly is pick up Notre Dame’s pass protection responsibilities. That’s a big part of why Adams, not the more highly touted Williams, played as a freshman in 2015.
They said it
“Just going into practice with that appreciation — not saying I never had it, but you know, day in and day out knowing that I’m getting the opportunity to do what I love and not sitting at a table rehabbing just watching or on the sideline, freezing, just watching.” — Tarean Folston on returning to practice during the spring
Chris Sale will return to the White Sox mound Thursday against the Cubs for the first time since being suspended five games for cutting up his team’s 1976 throwback uniforms on Saturday.
The 27-year-old left-hander, who was issued a five-game suspension by the White Sox on Sunday for “violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment,” will remain away from the team for the first three Crosstown games this week. Manager Robin Ventura said Sale would probably throw a side session sometime this week, but due to his suspension, any work will have to come on his own.
Ventura said he won’t necessarily have a discussion with Sale when the five-time All-Star returns to the club in the cramped confines of Wrigley Field’s visiting clubhouse later this week.
“He’s going to pitch. That’s what he does,” Ventura said. “I don’t think there has to be a big meeting or anything. He’s pitching Thursday.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Because of Sale’s bizarre pregame incident, the White Sox on Saturday had to use six relievers — Matt Albers, Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle, Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson — to get through eight innings before the game was suspended due to a line of heavy thunderstorms that rolled through the South Side. Robertson on Sunday pitched the ninth inning of the suspended game and the ninth of the regularly-scheduled contest against Detroit (he gave up three solo home runs to blow the save in the second game) and is likely unavailable for Monday night’s Crosstown opener against the Cubs.
White Sox players said they moved on quickly after Sale destroyed those uniforms he didn’t want to wear, pointing to the team’s two wins on Sunday for supporting evidence. And Ventura doesn’t think a team-wide meeting is necessary to address any issues when Sale does come back on Thursday.
“Guys have seen a lot of stuff and it’s about playing, I think they’re about playing and we’ll go with that until something needs to be addressed,” Ventura said. “As far as playing, guys are just moving on and playing.
“… I’m sure they’ll have conversations about it. But I don’t think we need to have a whole team meeting and address it that way.”
The last time the White Sox saw Anthony Ranaudo pitch, they drew five walks and scored five runs without recording a hit against the 26-year-old right-hander.
That disastrous outing — which came in a 13-11 White Sox loss to the Texas Rangers — was Ranaudo’s last major league appearance. The former LSU ace and 2010 first-round pick was traded to the White Sox May 12 for minor leaguer Matt Ball and spent the last two months with Triple-A Charlotte.
But with Chris Sale earning a five-game suspension for destroying throwback jerseys on Saturday, the White Sox needed to bring up another arm. And with right-hander Jacob Turner struggling in two outings in place of the injured Carlos Rodon, Ranaudo will start for the White Sox Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“Hopefully I get another chance to go back out there and prove that’s not who I am,” Ranaudo said before learning of his scheduled start.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Ranaudo once was a big-time prospect, being ranked 67th in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season. But he’s never been able to find success in the majors and will enter his start with a 6.33 ERA and more walks (32) than strikeouts (28) in 58 1/3 innings from 2014-2016.
In 13 starts with Triple-A Charlotte, Ranaudo posted a 3.20 ERA with 53 strikeouts, eight walks and 12 home runs allowed over 78 2/3 innings.
“I think he’s refined (things) a little bit more to be able to throw some strikes and have command,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You’re going to have to have it, especially if it’s warm. So hopefully he’s got it.”
Ranaudo can’t afford to have his command escape him, as it did in May against the White Sox, when he faces the Cubs — which lead baseball with a 10.6 percent walk rate — on Wednesday.
If his Crosstown start goes well, Ranaudo could stick around after Sale returns on Thursday. But for now, the right-hander is happy to get another opportunity to prove himself at the major league level.
“It was a little unexpected at the time, obviously, with everything going on,” Ranaudo said of his call-up. “But it was awesome, yeah. I’m just happy to be here and whatever role I’m in, I’m excited about.”