Even with Notre Dame’s running back depth chart precariously thin, the addition of incoming freshman Josh Adams didn’t necessarily look like a no-brainer. The Pennsylvania native was in the middle of rehabbing an ACL tear when the commitment took place, eliminating a season of game tape for the Irish staff while adding in a very large question mark.
But Notre Dame’s staff saw what it wanted when Adams was on campus for a summer camp after running for over 2,000 yards as a sophomore. And that early commitment to Adams paid off when he rebounded with a solid senior season, and probably just as importantly, the Irish swung and missed on top national target Soso Jamabo.
A long, lean athlete who has a physical build similar to George Atkinson coming out of high school, Adams joins Dexter Williams as youngsters in a backfield filled with veterans. Let’s kick off our A-to-Z series with a look at one of the incoming freshmen getting their first taste of college football.
6'2", 210 lbs.
Freshman, No. 33, RB
A four-star running back on 247Sports’ composite ranking. Adams was an All-State AAAA on Pennsylvania Football Writers’ team. His bounce-back 1,600-yard campaign was only 10 games, with an ankle injury ending his year early.
Adams had offers from Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers and Stanford, though never visited Palo Alto after deciding on Notre Dame in late June.
It’s not viewed as a compliment any more, but calling Adams a George Atkinson clone is supposed to be one, assuming that Adams has functional hands and a better head on his shoulders. At 6-1 or 6-2, Adams is a lanky back, and while he might not have the elite speed Atkinson did, he’ll likely play faster, something that plagued GA3 throughout his three seasons in South Bend.
Back when he pledged to Notre Dame—and still during his recovery from an ACL tear—his then high school coach Dan Rackovan had this to say about Adams’ upside potential.
“His potential, both size and athletically are off the charts,” Rackovan told Irish Illustrated. “He’s a very explosive kid, a finisher. And above all else, he’s a great kid. He’s a really good student, a leader in the school, all the things you’d want to be a part of your football team.”
Here’s what Brian Kelly said about Adams on Signing Day, probably a more glowing review than his prep coach.
"(He) has not even tapped what he can do at the position. He has not played a lot of football, and at 6 2, 210 pounds, we think he can be with the speed that he possesses, we think he can be whatever he wants to be,” Kelly said. “We can’t wait to develop him. Great speed, great size, and has the ability with our weight training to be that kind of big, physical back that we are looking for.”
There doesn’t seem to be any snaps for a young ball carrier on this roster, unless one of these guys does something mighty special during fall camp. And while the Irish staff feels like they found a special football player in Adams, there’s no hurry to get him on the field.
While Tony Alford was the one who recruited Adams, it’s worth noting that it’ll be Autry Denson who’ll develop him. And Denson’s career at Notre Dame, not to mention his DNA as a player who maxed out his ability, will serve Adams well, especially as the lesser heralded prospect of the two backs in the 2015 recruiting class.
By all reports, Adams fits the bill of an “RKG.” Here’s what his coach Tom Hetrick said after Signing Day.
“This is a special day because Josh is a special kind of kid,” Hetrick said. “He always does the right thing. He’s a great ambassador for our program.”
With the depth chart at running back a veteran group, that mental makeup will pay dividends if it takes a few years to see the field. But with size and speed, Adams could find his way onto the field via special teams, and sure shares the profile of a safety if we’re looking at position switch candidates.