Who Will Start at RB for Notre Dame This Year?
It’s so strong, in fact, that heading into the offseason, there were concerns that maybe the group was too strong with too many numbers for all the carries to go around. Some of those concerns were answered with the early departure of George Atkinson III and the moving of Will Mahone and Amir Carlisle to wide receiver.
This leaves Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant as the leading candidates to take over the starting role for this upcoming season.
McDaniel is a workhorse; he is dependable and every time he touches the ball, he can almost guarantee four-to-five yards. There have been several games when the Irish needed to put together a late, time consuming drive to hold onto the game and McDaniel was the go-to guy on those occasions.
If anyone has earned the chance to be a starter, it is McDaniel. However, he is not a legitimate home run threat. He has enough power to get past the first level and attain those guaranteed yards, but lacks the combination of speed and power to consistently get much further. You will rarely see him get much more than 10 yards and will almost never see him break free for the long runs.
For as much as McDaniel was the workhorse last season, Folston was the impressive one. With Atkinson and Carlisle struggling and Bryant out with an injury, coach Brian Kelly turned to true freshman Folston to split the carries with McDaniel and he delivered in a big way. Like McDaniel, he showed he could consistently get tough yards through the line but he also proved to have the elusiveness to break free for the 20-30 yard runs. A year of development combined with what we saw last season leads to the conclusion that Folston could be the feature back for the immediate future.
Bryant saw some very limited game action early last season but was then sidelined with an injury. He was able to preserve a year of eligibility with a medical redshirt and hopefully we will see a breakout season from him. He is the most hyped and perhaps has the most upside of all the backs. He was more highly rated than Folston and plays with a power style that can barrel over defenders, much like the recent backs at Alabama in the mold of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. If he can match performance to the level of hype, the future is bright for both Greg Bryant and the Notre Dame offense.
McDaniel has certainly earned his carries but Folston should be the starter. Based on what we’ve seen so far, he gives the Irish the best chance to have a dynamic running attack and win games. Bryant will need to earn his carries and prove he deserves to be a feature back.
Anyway it shakes out, the 2014 run game should be the best yet of the Brian Kelly era.