Notre Dame Football is Missing Dexter Williams

The Notre Dame running attack was a bit MIA for the first two weeks of the season before the Irish put up 245 yards this past weekend. That was still a little more than 20 yards under their weekly average from a year ago.  One missing component that should be reinserted back to the Irish lineup soon though that could take the running game back up another level or two.  Dexter Williams.

Dexter Williams has apparently been officially, unofficially suspended so far this season.  Notre Dame and Brian Kelly cannot comment on the issue due to privacy laws since the alleged suspension is a University disciplinary action.  The media has apparently been given the message not to ask any more either since Kelly was asked once over the summer and then once again prior to the Michigan game about him and not since.  Reports are that the suspension will last another week before the senior running back should be eligible to return against Stanford.  It won’t end a moment too soon.

Even last week when the Notre Dame running attack churned out 245 yards and averaged over 5.0 yards a carry, the Irish running game was still missing one element from last year that made the Notre Dame rushing attack so deadly at times.  The homerun play.  Josh Adams built a highlight reel of long runs early in the season against Miami of Ohio, Boston College, North Carolina, USC, and NC State specifically.  In some cases, his homeruns changed the course of games.

Notre Dame has been missing that so far this season. The homerun has been largely absent from the Notre Dame running game outside of Jafar Armstrong’s first carry against Ball State that went for 42 yards.   Heck, doubles and triples have been in short supply so far this year . Dexter Williams can add that element back into the Notre Dame rushing attack.

A season ago Williams averaged a ridiculous 9.2 yards per carry average.  It would have led the nation if he had enough carries to qualify.  He did not as Williams often came to the sideline due to deficiencies in his blocking assignments.  Brian Kelly praised the running back for the work he put in during the off-season over the summer though.  And at this point even if Williams is still somewhat lacking in that department, the Irish will likely live with it to add some explosion back in the ground game.

Tony Jones Jr had his breakthrough performance last week against Vanderbilt with 118 yards on 17 carries, but Jones is more of “thunder” back.  He’s got excellent balance and vision, but he is not the kind of back who will turn the corner and explode the way Adams did so often last year or the way that Williams has shown he is capable of in the past.  Conversely, he is the kind of chain moving running back that Williams isn’t exactly.

Jafar Armstrong has shown a ton of potential as a running back so far, but the converted wide receiver has also shown that he still needs to grow into the position a bit still as well.

If Notre Dame gets a focused Dexter Williams back in two weeks, the Notre Dame offense that has struggled so much these first three weeks will be getting something it has sorely lacked – a playmaker.  The Irish offense hasn’t had anyone step up yet to deliver big, explosive plays other than Chris Finke‘s first quarter touchdown against Michigan that feels like it was a lot longer than the three weeks ago that it occurred.

Williams only ran the ball 39 times a season ago, but on those 39 attempts he scored four touchdowns. On his career he only has 99 career attempts, but those attempts have produced eight rushing touchdowns.

Notre Dame still has a number of issues to solve offensively, but we saw the offensive line take a big step forward last week after a really rough outing in week two . If Jeff Quinn can build on that performance and keep his line improving, there will be the potential for big plays in the running game like we have all became accustomed to.  Getting Dexter Williams back in two weeks will also give the Irish the type of big play, explosive back that can take advantage of those opportunities.

It will be interesting to watch just how Williams ends up being assimilated back into the Notre Dame offense once he “officially” returns.  The staff was reluctant to give Williams too many carries last year because of those areas of weakness that Williams was not improving on – namely pass protection and the less glamorous things a running back has to do.  Will they do the same this year – if Williams hasn’t improved – or will they live with some of it to produce more big plays?

Assuming Williams is indeed back against Stanford and focused next weekend, he could team with Tony Jones Jr to give Notre Dame the kind of backfield most were expecting.  We saw Jones take that big step forward last week by running with conviction and refusing to be tackled on the first attempt.  Add Williams back into the mix and Notre Dame has one heck of a one-two punch.  Then mix in Jafar Armstrong in more of the hybrid role that was originally envisioned for him and maybe, just maybe this offense will start to resemble what we saw a year ago sooner rather than later.

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  1. ND needs to get their best players out on the field. You don’t see Saban and Meyer letting their top recruits sit idle on the bench.
    They put them on the field and win football games. Meyer will never coach at ND because of the academic and Administrative
    restrictions. He doesn’t want his football team to be hamstrung by outside petty rules and requirements. The first time
    the ND Adminstration went against Saban would be the last time. Nick would have his bags packed and be headed toward
    a school that doesn’t hamper and restrict his football team.

  2. WillyT,
    Discipline? Work? From where I live, you are speaking my language…but to some of the people on this site, and to a lot of the young people I spent my life teaching Physics and Theology to, those words might as well be in binary machine language. If you asked them what those words meant, they’d probably have to look them up in the dictionary. But this team has worked very hard, for two years, and every coach these guys present themselves as admiring (Rockne, Leahy, ARA, Lou) was a disciplinarian first and foremost. And although I personally doubt that it was “weed”, because this is some university infraction, not a sports infraction, your real point still stands…the higher expectations, whether parietals, or a run-in with Campus security, or whatever, is the biggest single part of what makes Notre Dame what it has been, is, and if we can continue to avoid becoming OSU, or North Carolina, or Louisville, etc. we win and our critics lose (as is usually the case).

    Would I like Dexter to play more when he is activated again? Sure. Would I like to have a private conversation with the faceless bureaucrat, or hideous old monk, who decided that 4 games is some Holy Number? Well, yes I would. Hell, Urban only got three games for an abuse coverup…but now that I think of it, abuse coverup is the Church’s forte, isn’t it? Gotta keep those infractions secret! Yes we do.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. BGC , I believe ChrisJ , Damian and others are not disputing Dexter Williams discipline. Rather , they are bewildered –as am I –of his lack of playing time when he is eligible. You and WillyT shoud read the comments closer.

  3. Irish could used a game breaker—Tony Jones Jr. is a work horse–and will get you 5 , 10 , 20. Dexter is break away threat once he get’s beyond line of scrimmage. End of story.

    1. Lets just be honest, Tony is slow for a RB. I am in no way putting him down. I know he plays hard and is probably a good young man. He just doesn’t have wheels. Dexter has wheels, I am sure he is faster than Josh.

  4. To be totally honest I’m surprised dexter hasn’t transferred yet. He’s a strong kid I tell you, even before his suspension he didn’t get the carries he deserved and maybe if he played more and got use to the game he would had improved his pass blocking. The LSU game last year it was funny how dexter got 2 carries for 35 yards and josh Adams had idk how many carries over 10 I think with 40 something yards and I could be wrong about that. But I could see dexter redshirting this year and kelly only let him play in the important games and letting him get his year back at least so he can be the lead back next year. But i dont see that happing cuz I don’t think dexter can go with another year without knowing if he gone get the carries he deserve so I wouldn’t blame him if he left even though I want to see him win.

  5. How Kelly has handled him? It seems like he has handled himself poorly. Suspensions for behavior are not on Kelly they are on Williams.Plus he almost got Book killed before ND pulled out the vicotry against LSU.

    1. Rayjay,

      If a RB on your roster is averaging almost 10 yards a carry and he is eligible to play for your team, would you play him? Two carries last year against LSU is all he got. You know what that amounted to?…35 yards with a long of 31 and an average of 18 a carry. But yeah let’s go ahead and sit him the entire game because he isn’t the best pass blocker. Good call. If you agree with how he has been handled by Kelly “while eligible to play”, then you are just as dumb as Kelly.

      1. And frankly if he’s still not the best pass blocker, isn’t that on the coaching staff. I mean, he’s not a Freshman. If they are concerned about this WORK WITH HIM. And he’s never going to improve in that area if he’s never on the field.

        It’s the same with a lot of kids BK coaches it seems. Look at the QB carousel we’ve had at ND under BK. We see a formerly prized QB come to ND, have some issue, and they fall apart. They don’t get better, they get worse. They seem to consistently have a talented player that has some weakness in some area and the coaching staff never seems able to overcome it.

        That’s what I see with Williams. There’s a lot of raw talent there that is wasted on the bench. He has a weakness in one area and no one can seem to help him overcome it at least enough that that raw talent doesn’t get wasted. I mean, I don’t expect him to be an elite pass rusher, but you’d think they’d be able to work with him enough that they can get him on the field and put the ball in his hands and let him do his stuff.

      2. Settle down Chris J. Maybe there’s more to that story. Possibly DW was smoking weed. When a head coach has team rules that are perpetually broken, what does a coach do? He says to an NFL potential RB, “If you want a highlight reel sent to NFL coaches, you better put down the peace pipe and get to work. You’re suspended for 4 Saturdays next fall. That’s 4 Saturdays where you’re not impressing NFL scouts on NBC.” The reality is, Chris, that running a football team is like running anything. You have to discipline people. I know that sounds offensive to people who stand at their desks and wear rainbow pins every Friday, but for folks with any skin in the game, this is how life is. Yes, based on DW’s stats, he’s very good. Look at the MSU game last year. But BK is a blue collared “pay your dues” kind of guy. We saw this with Cierre Wood. Awesome talent. But who plays in the NFL? Theo Riddick. Why? Riddick knows how to work.

      3. Willy,

        I’m all for a coach sitting a player because he messes up outside of football, especially at ND. This is the type of integrity our coaches need to maintain that sets this university apart from others. I have no problem Kelly suspending Williams for that. What I do have a problem with is Kelly not playing him when his is actually eligible considering his abilities. There seems to be some kind of doghouse that he has been in with Kelly over his career here and it’s an absolute waste of talent to not play him. That’s on Kelly.

      4. So you would be a terrible football coach. “Hey, its okay if you stink at pass blocking, but we are going to play you anyway.”

        So you would play offensive linemen who can run block but are terrible pass blockers?

      5. BC,

        The comments I see from some on here are mind boggling, including this one from you which might be the worst comparison ever used in debating sports that I’ve ever seen. A lineman’s only job is to block every single play whether that is run or pass blocking. That is their only job. A running back has three things he can do on each play…get a handoff, run a route, or stay in and block.

        See why that was the dumbest comment ever that you made now!? You really need to learn football bro. Williams is fantastic at two of those three things and it’s been proven. So when us fans want to see more of Williams and Kelly doesn’t play him, we all scratch our heads thinking WTF!?

    2. That’s just it. If Williams is ‘suspended’ for breaking rules of code of conduct, fine. I get that. But it’s when he’s eligible he warms the bench a lot of times. He’s a home run threat with the ball and he’s sitting on the bench. That’s a problem. He’s had issues with his pass blocking, I get that too. But he’s been on the team for how long and still has that problems? I’ll be fair, some of that may be on Williams, but some is on coaching too.

      They know he has talent. He’s quick, he can be a huge asset for the team. It’s up to the coaches to work with him to make sure that talent isn’t wasted.

      It all just comes back to that I’m not at all convinced come Stanford that we’re going to see much of Williams. I suspect outside a few plays here and there he’ll continue to waste away on the bench watching the game, and not playing it. I honestly hope I’m wrong, that he lights it up and becomes the next big RB since, well, Josh Adams. History tells me something different though.

      1. Exactly Damian.

        Let’s hope he ends up being the featured back but like you said, history tells us otherwise.

  6. Dexter is one of my favorite ND players and it’s a shame how Kelly has handled him throughout his ND career. Obviously Dexter brought some on himself by getting in trouble but as Damian pointed out, he didn’t get one single snap in the GA game which is just flat wrong. The fact that he has only rushed 99 times over his four year career is just insane when he is an outstanding back. It’s a shame he doesn’t have another year after this but who knows, Kelly would probably keep him on the bench most of it anyway.

      1. Rayjay,

        He was not hurt for the GA game. Kelly stated he simply wanted Adams to play the entire game because he was the most experienced back. Stupid move.

        Show me an article or press conference where Kelly said he was injured and I’ll admit I was wrong.

      2. I heard people speculate that maybe he was injured, but that was all. No one on the team or Williams himself said he was hurt, though like Chris I’m open if someone finds proof out there that someone on the team said he was injured.

        Not sure how he would get injured since he hardly ever gets on the field.

      3. I also remember he was hurt!! YOU DON’T learn how to block in games you learn on the practice field! He has the reputation the first 2 years as not working hard enough in practice!! I agree he’s a great talent but in todays game 1 set backs must learn how to pass protect in his first 3 years he’s done nothing to get better!! JOSH ADAMS played on the local HS team here and I remember KELLY praising him saying ” I NEVER SEEN A FRESHMAN COME IN AND PICK-UP THE PASS PROTECTION LIKE HE HAS” !! Adams and Williams came in together as Freshman, ADAMS WAS THE BETTER RB BY FAR!! This year we all expected to see Williams b the starting RB, his response to that was to get himself suspended!! Lets hope he responds with a huge game against STANFORD, it’s desperately needed!!

      4. From diehards website:

        Kelly said Williams didn’t see much action against Georgia because of how the game unfolded. Georgia brought a lot of pressure, Kelly said, and Josh Adams is the better pass blocker.

        “Circumstances and the way the game was going made for a tough insertion in their three-down (front),” Kelly said. “It became a heavy pressure game, and it was a decision that was made during the game that it just didn’t work at the time.”

        Williams has never carried the ball more than 8 times in a game in his career. Last season, he rushed 39 times for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns.

        While Kelly said he plans to use Williams more against Boston College in Week 3, he was non-committal about any game beyond that.

        “It goes week to week,” Kelly said. “So we’ll see what happens next week.”

        He was not injured. Kelly is just stupid.

      5. YET he’s still suspended 4 games this year CHRIS, he hasn’t helped himself at all! When a coach starts listening to the fans in the stands he soon finds himself sitting with them!!

    1. ChrisJ, did you ever make any mistakes growing up? I made plenty of them. I agree with you a 100%. Give him a reason to be on the Team. I ususally support Coach Kelly, but he didn’t do right by Dexter.

    2. NDMike,

      Did I not say in my post that he has brought some of this on himself!? Read what I said.

      I’m specifically talking about when Dex is not in trouble, eligible, and Kelly doesn’t utilize his talents. That’s the point I’m making.

  7. You know, I’m not so sure we will see much of Williams this year after his ‘suspension’. There were how many times he was warming the bench last year when he might have had an impact. I know he has issues in some areas, but I think back to the Georgia game last year when they were struggling to establish the run. There’s Williams sitting on the bench. Now there’s no guarantee he would have made a difference but when something is clearly not working you’d think they’d try something a little different to see if it generated a spark.

    For some reason I get the feeling he is in the BK doghouse. I hope I’m wrong and Williams comes in and helps blow things open for the Irish offense. It’s just past history tells me that we may not see much of Williams even after his ‘suspension’ is over. And one thing I’ve learned about BK is he can be stubborn. He’ll keep at something even when it’s not working (like trying to turn BW into a drop back passer against Ball State even though it was clearly not working)

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