The month of July brings us close to the beginning of another fall camp for Notre Dame football. With practices set to begin soon we are taking a look at each position group ahead of the workouts. Now we break down the running back position in the lead up to August.
Where We Left Off in Spring
It was a spring for some rearranging following the bowl game suspensions of C.J. Holmes and Deon McIntosh. Both have since left the program and transferred to Penn State and East Mississippi Community College, respectively. Those moves were anticipated as we debated about who would move into the backfield and it turned about to be Jafar Armstrong from receiver, while Avery Davis got reps at running back and receiver in addition to quarterback.
While freshman Jahmir Smith was on campus for spring the top tailbacks remained Dexter Williams followed by Tony Jones which then flip-flopped for the second half of practices.
Number One Camp Story Line
It is rumored, and if we’re honest almost expected, that Dexter Williams will be suspended to begin the season. Ball State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest await which lessens the blow of an (alleged) 4-game suspension but it’s that opener against Michigan–who could have their best defense since the Lloyd Carr peak years–that looms large.
We had a situation just like this play out last year with Kevin Stepherson, except the facade was maintained well into the beginning of the season as the troubled receiver remained absent from playing time until October. With Williams there’s been far too much smoke and an understanding if he’s sitting out quality reps in August an excuse of a sprained ankle isn’t going to pass the smell test.
Anticipation Level: 8/10
Perhaps this is a tad bit high but it’s mostly because this position group is so important, rather than true excitement over a certain player or an emerging fun positional battle. The running backs have a lot of work to do for fall camp and will need a quick start with an injection of confidence immediately at Culver.
My focus is primarily on these 3 players for camp:
1 Tony Jones – Without Dexter it’s only Jones’ 232 rushing yards from last year as returning experience at this position. This could set up a situation where he’s penciled in as the starter due to his huge advantage in knowing the offense but many (like me) are unsure if he’ll be a guy capable of being a true No. 1 against the tougher defenses on the schedule.
2 C’Bo Flemister – Why not throw a wildcard in here? It’ll be tough but not unheard of for Flemister to pass up his fellow freshman classmate and position himself for some playing time. Basically, we need to see–and we’ll know pretty quickly during camp–if this is a player who could turn heads right away and be one of the surprise guys on offense for 2018.
3 Jafar Armstrong – The converted receiver is no longer waiting in the background and could potentially be thrust into the spotlight immediately during camp. Prior to the spring game most weren’t really sure what we had with Armstrong at running back and he finished the Blue-Gold Game looking pretty effective. It’s still a little scary expecting him to be an often-used backup come the Michigan game but I suppose he showed enough promise to enjoy his development in August.