Notre Dame has been working the graduate transfer game hard this off-season. The Irish added their fourth such transfer on Thursday night when former Stanford running back Trevor Speights selected Notre Dame to finish his collegiate career.
— Trevor Speights (@TSpeightsRB) May 29, 2020
Notre Dame’s running back room is crowded for 2020, but it’s far from a settled depth chart. Jafar Armstrong, Jahmir Smith, and C’bo Flemister all played in 2019, but none were standout backs. There was hope that Armstrong would be such a back, but injuries derailed him for the second straight season. Kyren Williams ended up redshirting after showing some promise in fall camp. Chris Tyree joins the room whenever freshman end up being allowed to report to campus.
That’s a lot of bodies, but there isn’t a single back in the mix right now who has established themselves as s potential every-down running back to this point. Adding another back to the mix should tell Notre Dame fans all they need to know about how this coaching staff feels about that room as well.
Speights was a 4-star recruit out of high school in Texas, but his collegiate career did not go as planned. Like Armstrong, injuries have slowed his development and he left Stanford with a career yard per carry average of less than 4.0 yards. The Notre Dame staff wouldn’t have added a grad-transfer back with that profile if they were fully confident in what they already had in that room.
Lance Taylor‘s experience recruiting Speights to Stanford likely played a huge role in both Speights’s interest in Notre Dame and their interest in adding sixth back in the mix for playing time in 2020. That shouldn’t be discounted either.
Still, the addition of a back with an injury history and a low yards/carry average isn’t a ringing endorsement for the running back room already on campus.
Notre Dame fans should prepare themselves for a running back committee approach for 2020 given the injury histories and skillsets that Taylor and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees have to work with. Is it possible that Armstrong or Speights stay healthy and play up to their full potential? Absolutely. It’s also possible that Flemister or Smith takes a big leap forward in their junior years. Tyree is the clear wildcard in the group, but it’s also fair to question if he’ll be big enough to handle a lead role as a true freshman.
Add it all up and the addition of Speights tells us that the Notre Dame staff wasn’t fully confident in what they had to work with. And if that is the case, the staff was wise to take on another back. There weren’t a lot of options in the grad-transfer portal at running back after Oklahoma’s Trey Sermon went to Ohio State.
Notre Dame now has four graduate transfers on the roster for 2020. Speights joins cornerback Nick McCloud from NC State, wide receiver Bennett Skowronek from Northwestern, and safety Isaiah Pryor from Ohio State. McCloud announced earlier this month he was transferring to Notre Dame, Skowronek back in January, and Pryor in November.
With the latest addition, Notre Dame has 88 scholarships allotted for the 2020 season (not including scholarships to walkons from 2019) so there is a bit of roster math to take place still. We’ll see if that comes in the form of transfers out of the program or medical hardships, but three players currently on the roster will not be when the season starts – whenever that is.