Notre Dame Loses Playermaker, Leader with Josh Adams NFL Departure

Notre Dame star running back Josh Adams made the decision that seemed inevitable for months on Friday when he announced that he would be leaving Notre Dame a year early for the NFL.  Adams, an elite running back who nearly broke the Notre Dame single season rushing record, seemed like the most likely of Notre Dame’s four juniors with NFL decisions to leave for the NFL so the news should be hardly a surprise for Notre Dame.  The Irish, however, now face the reality of replacing him on and off the field in 2018.  The latter of which might prove more difficult.

On the field, Josh Adams will go down as one of the most dynamic running backs in program history.  Starting with his freshman season when the very first carry of his career resulted in a touchdown to this past season when he ripped off one of the most prolific seven week spans in Notre Dame history, Adams has only ever been slowed down by injuries.  Opposing defenses?  They had a hard time stopping him whenever he stepped on the field.

Adams will leave Notre Dame with the freshman rushing record to his name.  He came up just 8 yards short of the single season rushing record this season and he will finish his Irish career ranked 5th all-time in rushing yards in program history.  A series of nagging injuries that he largely managed to play through the last two seasons were the only things that kept him from even loftier status in the Irish record books.

Replacing Josh Adams on the Field

Notre Dame has a lot of question marks in the backfield heading into 2018 now.  The Irish have a bevy of raw talent at the positions but also have a number of backs with checkered injured histories and now a checkered past with suspensions.   Here’s a look at the 2018 backfield as we project it to be today.

  • Tony Jones Jr – The junior to be would seem like the most likely to start 2018 as the #1 running back for the Irish given how many times we’ve heard how he might have been the most complete back on the team this year already.  Like Adams though, he had a hard time staying healthy and his impact wasn’t felt much this year.
  • Dexter Williams – When he gets the ball he is one of the most explosive and dynamic ball carriers Notre Dame has ever had.  Problem is he doesn’t get the ball much reportedly because of his deficiencies in pass protection.  If he can get dedicate himself to improving in that department this off-season, a lot of carries are on the table for him.
  • Deon McIntosh – Not much was expected of him this year but the injuries to Adams, Jones, and Willaims at different times thrust him into a bigger role than expected.  His season, however, ended on a major sour note when he was sent home from the Citrus Bowl for violating team rules.  His status is up in the air.
  • CJ Holmes – Holmes had his redshirt burned at the end of the season and then had his year end prematurely when he was arrested for shoplifting with Kevin Stepherson in December.  His status is even more up in the air than McIntosh.
  • Jahmir Smith – Smith signed his letter of intent last month and will be enrolling early this month.  With uncertainty ahead of him on the depth chart, Smith could find himself in the mix much sooner than anyone imagined when he originally committed to Notre Dame.

Replacing Josh Adams off the Field

While it won’t be easy to replace a back that ran for nearly 1,500 yards this year won’t be easy, Notre Dame does have talent.  Do they have a back that will break tackles at the line and then hit wide open spaces and run 60-70 yards with ease?  Maybe not.  Then again, maybe Dexter Williams sees a starting job up for grabs and it motivates him this off-season.  Even if that doesn’t happen, between the backs Notre Dame does have, they have a more than competent backfield talent wise.

Where Notre Dame might miss the most in the leadership department.  How many times during the year did we see the video of Adams from off-season workouts during telecasts?  Adams was a leader in the locker room, the weight room, and on the practice field.  He was the consummate leader both on and off the field.  With Notre Dame losing Adams along with Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey as captains this year; the Irish will retain just one captain – Drue Tranquill – heading into 2018.

Notre Dame has some candidates to replace them but that is a lot of offensive leadership to replace – especially for an offense that struggled mightily for the final five games of the season.  Leaders will emerge soon enough as winter workouts begin, but there isn’t anyone on the offensive side of the ball right now that jumps off the page.  Brandon Wimbush perhaps, but the senior to be has a lot on his plate if he wants to retain his starting position so that might be a lot to ask of him.

There are a lot of questions to be answered this off-season for Notre Dame now that the Irish are in search of a new defensive coordinator, but finding out who their leaders will be on offense next year has to be at the top of the list.  On Monday the off-season to do list for Brian Kelly looked pretty simple compared to last year.  Since then he’s added finding a starting quarterback, hiring a new defensive coordinator, and finding some new leaders on offense.  Fun times.

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  1. Coney and Tranquill and Tillery coming back. They are all three physically ready for NFL. This is great news!

  2. Will we finally see Dexter Williams as the featured back or will Kelly keep him down in this mysterious doghouse? Not playing a guy more because he doesn’t block “as well” as Adams or Jones is really stupid considering he had 360 yards with a 9.3 yards per carry average and 4 TDS in very limited PT. Yeah keep that kind of player down Kelly. Moron

    People are making it seem like when he is in that he just literally gets out of the way and lets the defender go right by him. I’ll sacrifice a little bit of blocking for his ridiculous running ability any day.

  3. Dexter Williams is a STUD. TJ jr. looks very good and McIntosh has shown at times he can be very productive. Everything I see and hear on Jahmir Smith is positive. Don’t know if CJ will be part of the team. But, with the four backs I feel good with running game if they can stay healthy. Another positive is every QB we have can run. Josh Adams is a very gifted athlete and made a great captain. Coach Kelly offered him before he got hurt in HS. Coach Kelly stuck with him when so many pulled their offer. If Josh had stayed healthy, he would of been a 5 Star for sure. Shows his character. Best of luck to Josh. He deserves it.

    1. I heard a rumor that CJ might grad transfer…hey CJ…if you are still interested in a film or TV career, a transfer to UCLA might be good for you…they are great in that area…at least look into it…not saying we don’t want you to stay here, just sayin’!!!

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. If CJ Holmes grad transfers this coming year, that would be the quickest undergrad completion in history. He is only a freshman this year. It is CJ Sanders who is transferring for his final year, and that’s not really a rumor.

      2. Brendan, I think you meant a “true junior”, which he is. But apparently, with 6 hours in summer session at ND, he can graduate if he wants to do it. Obviously he’s a lot smarter than I was. I was on the “five year” plan!

        BGC ’77 ’82

    2. Amen brother. Reminds me of GB. He is electric. Kelly has a past of not playing his SEC type backs. I dont get it!

  4. Adams production seemed to drop significantly in November. Injuries or just worn out from the grind? Probably a combo of both.

  5. If Dexter hasn’t cared enough to get better after three years at ND, why do we think it will all of a sudden click this year? He can’t get in the field because of his effort in other areas besides running the football. Can’t only be in the game when ND is running the ball. Teams will key on that.

    1. Who says he hasn’t gotten better?
      Because Kelly didn’t play him more?
      Williams didn’t look too bad vs. LSU, given only two chances.
      BK didn’t start Coney in September either, the guy involved in about 18 tackles vs. LSU, nor did BK play Boykin, the guy who single-handedly made the catch to win that game, who’d have probably not played without suspensions and injuries to those ahead of him. That backup QB who threw that pass and scored on three of his last four drives didn’t play much either.
      There seems to be a pattern here.
      re: Adams- a smart move and a class act.
      Wish his injuries didn’t derail his already epic season and that he finds success in the NFL.

      1. I’ll echo all those comments Michael the Archangel…sometimes we know, even without being told, why a certain player is MIA…many times it’s ineffable mystery…downright weird. And I am not able to “get used to it.”

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. It wasn’t only two chances. After those long runs, he misses in pass pro and Book gets sacked. He can run but is terrible in pass pro. Can’t play a guy who can only run the ball. Defenses will figure it out and load the box. Watch him sometime when he’s not running the ball.

    2. Hey man how many times did Adams just run per game? And was stopped at line of scrimmage. A whole hell of alot!

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