Notre Dame unit preview: Running backs

Notre Dame unit preview: Running backs
July 24, 2014, 7:00 pm
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In six words or less: Young talent leads the way

Projected starter: Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston and/or Greg Bryant

Rising up the depth chart: Greg Bryant

Arrivals: None

Departures: George Atkinson (turned pro), Amir Carlisle (position switch), Will Mahone (position switch/disciplinary)

Looking back

Tarean Folston's second-half surge saved this unit from being a disappointment last year, as George Atkinson never took the next step and Amir Carlisle disappeared the season's third game. Cam McDaniel turned in a fine year -- 705 yards on 152 carries and three touchdowns -- but that he led Notre Dame in rushing attempts speaks to Atkinson's inconsistency and Carlisle's ineffectiveness.

[FROM 2013: Tarean Folston breaks out, keys Notre Dame win over Navy]

The good news was Folston put together a nice string of games to end the season, finishing the year with 494 yards on 88 carries (5.3 YPC) and three touchdowns. Without his huge fourth quarter against Navy -- in which he scored the game-winning touchdown -- Notre Dame probably doesn't win that game.

2014 outlook

McDaniel returns as the steady hand while Folston has shown he can put the team on his back. Adding the incredibly skilled Greg Bryant -- who ripped off a 51-yard run in Notre Dame's spring game -- to the mix gives Notre Dame what should be a solid-at-worst three-headed monster out of the backfield.

[MORE: Cam McDaniel thinks Notre Dame backfield can be among the best in college football]

Expect the carries to be divided fairly evenly throughout the season, though if Bryant and Folston realize their tantalizing potential they could wind up taking the lion's share of carries as the season wears on. But don't count out McDaniel -- the intensely competitive Texan certainly will be driven to get the ball in his senior year.

Notre Dame will turn to its running backs to catch more passes this year, too, with the goal to get Bryant and Folston in some favorable one-on-one matchups with opposing linebackers. The use of those guys in the passing game won't equal what Theo Riddick did in 2012, but it'll also be more pronounced than it was in 2013.

They said it

"When I'm on the field, it's like all the aggression that I had last year not playing and stuff, and just when I get the ball now when I'm in the hole it's like, I don't wanna go back to not playing anymore." -- Greg Bryant

More unit previews

Quarterbacks | wide receivers/tight ends | offensive line | defensive line | linebackers | defensive backs | special teams