When Notre Dame lost the Will Shipley recruiting sweepstakes to Clemson last April, the Irish were left scrambling at the running back position for the class of 2021. After resetting their board and completely starting over, the narrative from some was the Irish walked away with a consolation prize at the position in the cycle. However, after a week of training camp, the freshman duo the Irish signed of Logan Diggs and Audric Estime is showing they are a whole heck of a lot more than a consolation prize.
Hype began building for Audric Estime as soon as freshmen reported to campus and pictures of the behemoth running back surfaced from the Notre Dame Twitter account. Days into his collegiate career, Estime looked like he was reporting to an NFL training camp already.
Positive reports continued to emerge that Estime didn’t just look the part; he was a player who could potentially play early as the “big back” Notre Dame didn’t have in 2020 after the graduation of Tony Jones Jr. Estime, a late riser, at Montvale Saint Joseph HS in Northern Jersey, started his senior prep season as an under-recruited back with his most prominent offer being Michigan State. However, he’s beginning his collegiate career with significant buzz.
Estime’s running back classmate, Logan Diggs, didn’t have the same level of off-season hype, but he is turning heads over the first week and a half of training camp. Diggs, Notre Dame’s first commit following the loss to Shipley to Clemson, has been one of the stars of camp and showed why during last week’s open practice and again over the weekend in the limited footage Notre Dame released from Saturday’s practice.
On our most recent podcast, we hosted Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman who told us that according to his sources, Diggs performance last Thursday during the open practice was not the first time he’s opened eyes at camp – he’s been doing since since day one. Freeman then compared Diggs to a faster version of Theo Riddick, which was precisely who both I and Greg had been thinking of when watching Diggs knife through defenses in practice footage.
Unlike the massive Estime, Diggs is impressing with his vision and with how smooth he looks running. Like Riddick, Diggs looks like he’s running effortlessly and cutting without losing any bit of speed as he’s doing it similarly to what we grew accustomed to with Kyren Williams last year.
It’s still very, very early into camp, and combined, the two backs have less than a month of collegiate practices combined under their belts, but it looks like Notre Dame ended up pulling off quite the pivot after that ill-fated “all our eggs in one basket” approach with Shipley.
It will be interesting to see how the running back rotation shakes out this year because Notre Dame looks positively loaded at the position. Williams is a pre-season All-American. Sophomore Christ Tyree is a touchdown waiting to happen. Senior C’bo Flemister is a violent runner who has performed whenever given the opportunity and is both a fan and staff favorite. Now you can add in two talented freshmen who look like they could play a role as well. With Estime’s size, it seems almost like a no-brainer to give him some short-yardage opportunities if he proves he’s ready over the next few weeks. Diggs’s path might be a bit trickier since he’s got a similar skill-set to Williams and Flemister, but if he keeps turning heads in camp, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him on the field at some point this fall.
Diggs and Estime, both looking like “hits” early on, could reshape Notre Dame’s thinking for recruiting the class of 2022 as well. Notre Dame landed Jadarian Price early before missing out on one of the “big 3” (Gavin Sawchuk, Dallen Hayden, Nicholas Singleton). Still, a second back might not be necessary, assuming Diggs and Estime are ready for more prominent roles in 2022.
The wild card would be any potential unplanned departures outside of Williams leaving for the NFL, which will certainly be an option if he replicates his 2020 success this fall. The staff has the luxury of only taking another back if that back is a no-brainer take. They don’t have to take someone just to fill out a depth chart.
Lance Taylor might have received some earned criticism for the Shipley strategy originally, but it seems abundantly clear that the man has an eye for evaluating running backs. Diggs didn’t have many big-time offers when Notre Dame got involved, but LSU eventually came around to offering him late and causing some drama. Likewise, Estime was committed to Michigan State but didn’t have many offers from other big programs when the Irish got involved.
Both Diggs and Estime still have a long way to go, but early indicators are the Irish came away from the class of 2021 with a pair of impact backs for an already loaded running backs room.