Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly provided Irish fans with an optimistic update on starting running back Jafar Armstrong on Sunday. Kelly indicated that there is a strong chance the Irish offense will have its last missing playmaker return to the lineup this weekend for USC’s visit to Notre Dame Stadium.
Jafar Armstrong has been missing from the Notre Dame lineup since the first quarter of the season-opener against Louisville as he has dealt with a groin injury. Brian Kelly told reporters on Sunday, however, that Notre Dame will put him through a vigorous test on Tuesday to determine if he can play this weekend. As of today, Kelly is optimistic he’ll have his RB1 back.
Brian Kelly said that RB Jafar Armstrong will be put in a "vigorous environment" on Tuesday to get certainty if he'll be able to contribute on Saturday vs. USC.
Said based on last week they believe he'll be ready to go.
— Bryan Driskell (@CoachD178) October 6, 2019
Tony Jones Jr has been starting in Armstrong’s absence over the last month and has made the most of his opportunity. Jones has three 100 yard rushing performances on the season, including 102 yards on just seven carries yesterday in Notre Dame’s 52-0 blowout of Bowling Green. Jones has 381 yards on 55 attempts (6.9 ypc) with four touchdowns. Jones only had 392 yards all of last season.
Despite Jones’s impressive yards per carry total, his lack of a top gear is something that has been a limitation of the Irish offense to date. To replace some of the top-end speed that Armstrong usually gives the offense, Notre Dame moved Avery Davis back to offense.
Getting Armstrong back for this weekend’s contest with USC would be a massive boost for the Irish offense. Notre Dame has also been missing Armstrong’s receiving capabilities out of the backfield. Should he return, Notre Dame would be at full strength on offense for the first time this season.
Notre Dame played the first two games of the season without Cole Kmet and Michael Young. Kmet returned against Georgia while Young made his return last week against Virginia. Adding Armstrong back in the lineup would give Ian Book all of his top playmakers at his disposal just in time for a make or break stretch of the schedule for Notre Dame. After hosting the Irish this weekend, they get a bye week before making the short trip to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan.
For Armstrong, this most recent injury is just the latest setback for the junior who battled through multiple injuries in 2018. To date, we still haven’t even really seen Armstrong’s full potential, given how injuries slowed him as a sophomore. He ran for seven touchdowns a year ago while averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the season. In minimal action in the opener, Armstrong ran for 10 yards on two carries and hauled in one reception for 16 yards.
Having a healthy Armstrong in the lineup could play a big difference in whether or not the Irish can get back into the playoff mix. He adds another dimension to an improving Irish offense that still has not played its best football this season. Keeping Armstrong healthy, who has been plagued with injuries, will also be critical once he does return – even if it is not this weekend.