When Brian Kelly met with the media on Tuesday, he acknowledged that the Irish coaching staff has a good feel for what their two-deeps as the Irish have less than a week until it is officially game week. Kelly also noted that the Irish staff has moved a pair of sophomores, Kendall Abdur-Rahman and Osita Ekwonu, to running back.
When Kelly held his first official Zoom presser after practices resumed earlier this summer, he announced that Stanford graduate transfer Trevor Speights moved to a medical scholarship before ever suiting up for the Irish. Speights’s departure left a hole to fill. How Ekwonu and Abdur Rahman will fill that remains to be seen.
Kelly didn’t note if the moves for either were permanent or if they had anything to do with availability and/or any cross-training the staff attempted. With COVID-19 potentially creating availability issues week to week, the more roster flexibility Notre Dame has, the better.
Running back is not completely foreign to either Ekwonu or Abdur Rahman though. Abdur Rahamn was an option style quarterback as a senior before enrolling at Notre Dame last year and Ekwonu played both offense and defense in high school before signing with Notre Dame as a 4-star linebacker.
Here’s a clip of Ekwonu playing running back in high school posted by ISD’s Matt Freeman earlier today.
No one will confuse him with Dexter Williams anytime soon, but it’s a little easy to see what Notre Dame is thinking here with the move. Adding size to the position at 236 lbs. None of Notre Dame’s other backs are big backs for short-yardage situations. C’bo Flemister is a hard runner for the Irish, but he’s not going to be confused with Tony Jones Jr any time soon either.
Ekwonu ran the ball 91 times for 677 yards with seven touchdowns as a senior for Providence Day HS in Charlotte in 2018.
Size is not why Kendall Abdur Rahman is getting a look at running back though. He is more of a playmaking type runner similar to some of the other Notre Dame running backs currently vying for time.
Abdur Rahman ran for 1,135 yards with 19 touchdowns as a senior in 2018 at Edwardsville HS in Illinois. Ten of those 19 touchdown runs were of 40 yards or more.
Neither player used a year of eligibility in 2019 despite seeing action in a few games. With the NCAA’s announcement that this year essentially won’t count towards players’ eligibility, this is essentially like a free experiment for both players who likely weren’t going to see substantial time at the positions they were originally recruited for.
Notre Dame has had some luck moving players from wide receiver to running back. CJ Prosise made the move before exploding as an RB in 2015 and Theo Riddick moved back and forth between both positions during his time at Notre Dame. Jafar Armstrong spent the 2017 season at receiver before making the move to running back where his career has been plagued with injuries the last two seasons.