2013 review: Prior to the season, most of the talk about Notre Dame's backfield was centered around George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle and Greg Bryant -- but Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston ultimately emerged as the team's two most dependable running backs.
McDaniel led Notre Dame in rushing attempts (152) and yards (705) and tied for the team lead in touchdowns (3), largely the product of his success but also due to Atkinson and Carlisle failing to take hold of significant roles. It wasn't until the late-season emergence of Folston, though, that Notre Dame's running back situation really improved -- McDaniel was solid, but nothing more than that.
[UNIT BREAKDOWN: Quarterbacks]
Still, Folston didn't make too great of an impact in the last quarter of the season, though he flashed some tantalizing potential.
Departures: George Atkinson
2014 Outlook: Another year, another talented stable of running backs who will have to step up to be successful. The good news is Notre Dame has a known quantity in McDaniel, but if the Irish want to have more than a solid backfield Bryant and/or Folston will have to make that freshman-to-sophomore leap. Carlisle appears relegated to kick-return duties, though perhaps a few months away from the daily in-season grind could do him some good -- since he's another explosive player on the depth chart.
X-Factor: Coach Brian Kelly thought Bryant's redshirt year would do him well in the future, with the talented freshman needing some time to adjust to the rigors of a college season. He had a knee issue, too, that would've kept him sidelined for much of the 2013 season anyways. But he earned his five-star ranking as a recruit for a reason -- he showed himself to be a complete running back in high school -- and, if he begins to pan out this coming fall, would be a major asset for an Irish offense searching for playmakers.