Notre Dame wasted little time adding a top-notch replacement for former defensive line coach Mike Elston on Sunday with the addition of Al Washington. The only problem for the Irish that arose on Sunday is now they also have to replace running backs coach Lance Taylor who accepted the role of Offensive Coordinator for Louisville on Sunday as a successful tenure as the Irish running backs coach. Luckily for Notre Dame, Taylor’s work made the position an attractive opening, just as Elston’s did at defensive line.
When Notre Dame hired Lance Taylor, the running back room was declining. The program’s all-time leading rusher, Autry Denson, was a fine coach, but recruiting misses ultimately led to his demise with his alma mater. Taylor inherited Kyren Williams in 2019, but the upper-class depth and talent were lacking. That won’t be the case for Taylor’s successor.
In his three years at Notre Dame, Taylor signed Chris Tyree, Logan Diggs, Audric Estime, and Jadarian Price in addition to developing Kyren Williams into the kind of running back good enough to declare for the NFL after his junior season. Tyree had a wildly successful freshman season before injuries slowed him down in 2021 while Diggs and Estime both flashes as rookies this fall. All three return and were joined by the early enrollee Price this month. That’s a damn good nucleus for a running back room and isn’t the only thing that makes the position attractive to potential replacements.
When Notre Dame replaced offensive line coach Jeff Quinn with Harry Hiestand, they immediately upgraded the offensive line development. Quinn did, however, do an outstanding job stockpiling talent along the Notre Dame offensive line. Combine a stockpile of talent with a proven coach like Hiestand, and any running back coach looking at that will see the opportunity for their running backs to shine.
Between the talent on the roster and the potential for a potent running game, assuming Hiestand unlocks the potential from the stockade of offensive line talent, the now-open position will be as attractive as the defensive line position that Notre Dame filled in just three days with a coach that was highly sought after.
Whether or not Notre Dame can replace Taylor in as little as three days remains to be seen, but it would be a shock if Marcus Freeman had any trouble finding strong candidates to replace Taylor.
Lance Taylor left the Notre Dame running back room in much better shape than he found it, and whoever replaces him will have the same opportunity. However, while the Irish currently have a nice stable of running backs, the group does lack some star power thanks to some high-profile recruiting misses on the likes of Will Shipley, Nicolas Singleton, Gavin Sawchuck, and Dallen Hayden over the last two recruiting cycles.
Notre Dame has done extremely well with the backs they’ve signed in their stead, but landing their top-of-the-board targets early in a cycle wouldn’t require them to rely so much on evaluations of late-rising prospects. After a year, it looks like they hit with both Diggs and Estime, but at the same time, the Irish would also probably prefer more cycles where they land their #1 target like Tyree earlier in the process.
So far, Notre Dame’s hired coaches that should be at worst pushes if not significant improvements in some cases for the assistants that won’t be back in 2022. However, given the running back room Taylor is leaving behind, the Irish shouldn’t have any problem finding a replacement who can pick up right where Taylor left off.