Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – The most impressive, and arguably the most surprising, performance of this past weekend’s Blue-Gold game came from little used senior running back Junior Jabbie. Jabbie, a former defensive back, has zero career carries, but on Saturday, the Offensive MVP ran 13 times for 87 yards – 51 more than likely starter Travis Thomas.
A few weeks ago Charlie Weis noted that he was impressed with all of his running backs, including Jabbie who had become somewhat of a forgotten man. When he made the statements regarding being impressed by Jabbie, Weis noted he wasn’t saying it just for the sake of saying it, he meant it. And, after watching Jabbie run around Saturday it’s easy to see why.
“Everybody wants to talk about just Travis and James, and obviously Armando is the new blood,” Weis said Saturday afternoon. “That’s what we’ve seen out of Junior the whole spring. He’s definitely you know played himself into deserving to be in contention.”
Of the four halfbacks to receiver carries on Saturday, Jabbie trumped them all. Travis Thomas managed 36 yards on 9 carries, James Aldridge 34 yards on 9 carries, and Armando Allen notched 19 yards on 5 carries. In fact, those three backs only outgained Jabbie by just two yards while running 10 more times.
Getting to this point where he is in contention for playing time must have seemed like it would never come for Jabbie. Prior to Saturday he had not even seen playing time in a Blue-Gold game. “I haven’t played in a spring game yet so I just knew I had to go out there and enjoy myself and go out there and thank the coaches for making me an honorary captain.”
The waiting for Jabbie was not easy, but it now seems like his time is about to arrive. “It was real hard,” he said about having to watch from the sidelines all this time. “But I just had to tell myself that I had to keep going out there and working and my time will come,” he would go on to explain.
The chance to show the coaches and fans what he could do on the field was something that obviously pleased the senior to be. “It felt great,” Jabbie said of the opportunity to get the ball over and over again. “I’m a running back – I like to run the ball. I have no problems running the ball. If you want to give me the ball, I’m going to run it with the best of my ability,” he would add.
And run the ball to the best of his ability he did indeed on Saturday. Jabbie did most of his damage right up the middle where he weaved in and out of blocks showing good vision and good cut back ability. He also showed a nice little burst on his runs with knowing when to hit the gas and when to wait for the hole to develop.
Spring game success does not always parlay into regular season success. A few years back Chris Olsen was named the offensive MVP of the 2003 Blue-Gold game, but would end up transferring later that summer after Brady Quinn reported to campus as a freshman to pass him on the depth chart..
Still, the impressive performance from Jabbie should be very encouraging for Notre Dame fans who have witnessed a team with barely two backs who could be counted on to play in any and every game. With the emergence of Jabbie, the Irish now find themselves with at least four backs capable to stepping into any game and playing well.
It’s tough to say where this puts Jabbie in terms of the official depth chart since he was playing with the backup offensive line against the backup defensive line, but its safe to say that after Saturday, no one will really be surprised to see Jabbie get some carries early in the 2007 season.