In 2012 the Irish defense allowed opponents only 3.47 yards per carry(16th best) and only surrendered an average of 105.69 yards per game, which was good for 11th best in the country. What makes these accomplishments even more impressive was the fact that Notre Dame spent the first half of the season dealing with injuries and inexperience in the secondary. The domination on the line of scrimmage during last year’s magical run can be mostly attributed to the front seven, with occasional help from secondary.
The good news for Irish fans is that most of the personnel that were responsible for those impressive numbers are back in 2013. Notre Dame will once again have a powerful cast of performers on the defensive line and in their linebacking corp. With names like Nix, Tuitt, Day, Shembo, Calabrese, and Williams, this year’s defense has the potential to be as good, if not better than their predecessors.
With Irish fans well aware of what their team will hit the field with, we wanted to take a look at what the opponents will be offering up in the way of running attacks, to try and counteract the talent and experience Notre Dame will possess and display on a weekly basis. These are who we consider to be the top five running-backs the Irish will face in 2013, and the talents they bring to the field.
5) Jamaal Williams (BYU)
|Jamaal Williams Career Statistics|
As a true freshman, Williams had three games in which he broke the century mark, if he would have been the starter at the beginning of the year, most likely would have toppled the 1000 yard mark for the year. He had 6 games in which he went over the 100-yard mark for combined yards, and Irish fans might remember him grabbing 7 balls through the air for 46 yards, and rushing for another 64 last year in South Bend. Williams finished the year with 166 carries for 775 yards and 12 touchdowns, the most ever in all 3 categories by a freshman at BYU. While the Cougars may not lean heavily on the running attack, having a talent like Williams in the backfield for the whole year might force a change over in Provo.
Jamaal Williams Highlighes
4) Fitzgerald Toussaint (Michigan)
|Fitzgerald Toussaint Career Statistics|
Although the versatile and talented back suffered a gruesome knee injury in November of last year, Wolverine coach Brady Hoke is 100% confident that Toussaint will be healthy by the time week one rolls around. The junior tailback is extremely elusive, and can be a true difference maker out of the backfield – if healthy and not in trouble. There is no doubt that Toussaint will be pushed by a young, but extremely talented group of backs, headlined by star recruit Derrick Green, but Toussaint has shown the ability to be a fulltime back, as he gained over 500 yards, and 5 touchdowns on 130 carries before his knee injury ended his 2012 season.
Fitzgerald Toussaint Highlights
3) Marion Grice (Arizona State)
|Marion Grice Career Statistics|
Just as Irish fans should not be sleeping on the Arizona State team this year, the Irish defense should not be overlooking ASU back Marion Grice. Even though he shared the backfield last year, Grice still found a way to run for almost 700 yards, 11 touchdowns, all on just 103 attempts. If you are going to be a weapon in the Arizona State offense, and Grice absolutely is, you had better versatile. Not only did Grice have a great season carrying the ball, but also grabbed 41 balls for over 400 yards and 8 touchdowns through the air. At 6’0 206lbs, Grice is fast enough to run around you, and strong enough to run over you.
2) Damien Williams (Oklahoma)
|Damien Williams Career Statistics|
Yes it’s true, the Irish held Williams to just 29 yards on 13 carries in their victory over the Sooners in Norman last year, but the speedy back is still a huge weapon in the Sooners offense. Williams became a household name in 2012, when he torched the Longhorns in the Red River Shootout for 167 yards on the ground. The junior-college transfer ran for 946 yards on a 176 carries, and 11 touchdowns on the ground. After suffering an ankle injury against the Irish, Williams struggled to regain the early form he had shown early on. He is now healthy, and expected to provide a huge safety valve for first year starter Blake Bell.
Damien Williams Highlights
1) Silas Redd (USC)
|Silas Redd Career Statistics|
After transferring from Penn State, Redd had an immediate impact for the Trojan Program, leading the team with 905 yards and 9 touchdowns. Redd, who was having an outstanding spring practice, had to shut it down after being diagnosed with a torn meniscus. Surgery was completed and Redd is expected to be 100% by the time fall practice begins. What Redd accomplished in 2012 was no small feat, as the USC offensive line struggled with continuity and health all year long. We list the All-Pac 12 honorable mention(2012) first on this list, as he did have success against the Irish in Southern California last year, gaining 77 yards on just 12 carries, with a robust 6.4 yards-per-carry average.
Silas Redd Highlights
Honorable Mention – Noah Copeland (Navy)
Obviously with just over 2 months to go before the season kicks off, a lot of things can occur, and usually do. For right now though, these are the five tailbacks that we feel could give the Irish the most problems throughout the 2013 season.