Notre Dame’s quarterback unit may have a rival for deepest position group next fall.
Consider this prospect: C.J. Prosise returns to Notre Dame for a fifth year, and Tarean Folston — who probably would’ve entered the NFL Draft had he not got hurt in Notre Dame’s first game this year — comes back as well. Josh Adams will be a sophomore in 2016 too, as will Dexter Williams.
Prosise rushed for over 1,000 yards this year despite having never played the position before this spring and dealing with a concussion and high ankle sprain that kept him largely sidelined for Notre Dame’s final four regular season games (he’s expected to be healthy for a bowl game).
Folston rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns in 2014 and appeared poised to build off a solid foundation built as a freshman and sophomore. He tore his ACL on his third run of his junior season, and should be healthy by the time preseason camp starts next August.
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Adams rushed for a Notre Dame freshman record 168 yards (on only 18 carries) against Stanford and finished the regular season with 757 yards on 103 attempts. His explosiveness and physical running style, plus a knack for picking up pass protection concepts, have him as an early contender for one of Notre Dame’s better recruiting finds — Adams was only a three-star recruit who was offered by Notre Dame, Stanford and a handful of northeastern programs.
“He came out there like he was a fifth year veteran,” quaterback DeShone Kizer said after Adams’ career day at Stanford. “He runs harder than anyone I've ever seen. He truly is a great teammate to us and he puts everything out on the line each play. That's what you have to ask for out of your running back and that's what he gave us.
“To have him in the back field with me, it's truly a privilege and it just goes to show that from one to four at every position, we might not be the most talented all the way across, but we're going to give the most heart and at the end of the day heart is what's allowed us to put us in the position that we're in now.”
Powered by Prosise and Adams, Notre Dame averaged 5.76 yards per carry in the regular season — the fifth-highest average nationally, even ahead of Navy’s ruthlessly effective triple option (5.71 yards per carry, 6th).
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Every college football champion since 2008 has averaged at least five yards per carry, though that may change this year — Michigan State, Alabama, Clemson and Iowa enter conference championship week end averaging below five yards per carry (Oklahoma is at 5.21 yards per carry). That doesn’t affect Notre Dame this year, of course, since the Irish aren’t going to the playoff, but it’s a tremendous credit to Prosise, Adams, running backs coach Autry Denson and the Irish offensive line for powering a reliably-explosive ground game this year.
Offensive line stalwarts Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin will be gone next year, and Prosise presents an interesting draft possibility. He’s not refined as a running back, but he has good size and speed, and his experience as a slot receiver could make him an intriguing draft target if he does come out. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris ranks Prosise as the seventh-best draft-eligible running back for 2016’s NFL Draft.
But even if Prosise does turn pro, Notre Dame’s backfield should still be in good shape with Folston, Adams and Williams next fall.