Notre Dame Position Breakdown: Running Backs

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One of the big tasks for new Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is to revamp the offense.  Under Charlie Weis, the Irish were a pass-happy offense, but that’s all.  They were too one-dimensional.

As new head coach, Kelly hopes to improve the offensive attack, and with that, build a strong running game.  Weis was able to bring in some highly-touted running backs, but under his tutelage, they were nothing more than a pawn in his unbalanced offense.

Notre Dame returns their “thunder and lightning” duo of senior running backs, Robert Hughes and Armando Allen.

Allen returns as the go-to back, but in 2009, Allen failed to produce the kind of numbers that the Irish needed out of their backfield.  Allen rushed for 697 yards and just three touchdowns in eight games.

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Allen should return as a major threat for the Irish.  Expect native of Opa Lock, FL, to put up his finest season as a senior under Brian Kelly.  Allen undoubtedly has the talent and abilities to be a great running back.  Under Kelly, expect Allen to see his finest season as a member of the Notre Dame backfield.

Hughes, on the other hand, was completely underutilized during the 2009 season.  The 245 lb. running back rushed for just 416 yards and five touchdowns in his 11 games.  In 2010, Hughes is expected to work as both a tailback and a fullback under Kelly’s new system.

With Hughes and Allen not producing as Charlie Weis had hoped, Notre Dame turned to then true freshman Theo Riddick to be a go-to back.  Riddick rushed for 160 yards on 29 carries (5.5 per carry) in limited time, and has been moved to wide receiver for the 2010 season.

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After “thunder and lightning,” the Irish have two young running backs that are waiting for their opportunity to shine.  The first of those backs is junior Jonas Gray.  Gray rushed for 3.5 per carry in his eight games (one start) in 2009.

Gray may assume a new role under Brian Kelly.  Kelly was able to see the Detroit native during his time in nearby Central Michigan University and at Cincinnati.  Expect Gray to see many more carries during the 2010 season, and expect his role to change.

The other member of that stable of young running backs is Cierre Wood.  Wood will be a sophomore in 2010, and after a year of redshirting, Wood is ready for his moment.  It’s too early to tell, but it appears that Wood may have to wait for his time to get consistent carries.

The running back rotation appears to involve Hughes and Allen, with Gray on occasion.  Wood should get some chances to prove himself during the 2010 season, but he’ll have to wait to be the starter.

The Irish also welcome two newcomers to the mix, senior Derry Herlihy and fellow senior Patrick Coughlin.

Expect the Notre Dame running game to be the strength of the offense in 2010.  Brian Kelly brings promise and potential to the Notre Dame offense, and that starts on the ground.

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