News broke on Friday that freshman early-enrollee Jadarian Price ruptured his Achilles tendon in off-season workouts and is expected to miss the entire 2022 season. Price’s injury comes as there is still uncertainty around Logan Diggs’s availability to start the season stretching Notre Dame’s running depth dangerously thin before fall camp has even begun.
A fully healthy running back room for Notre Dame would be one of the best in the nation with junior Chris Tyree, sophomores Audric Estime and Logan Diggs, and freshmen Jadarian Price and Gi’Bran Payne. Take Diggs and Price out of the mix, however, and the Irish are left with just three healthy running backs at the moment.
Logan Diggs injured his should in the Blue & Gold game, and the exact timeline for his return is not public knowledge at the moment. There have been rumors that his return could come after the season has started, though. If true, that means Notre Dame has Tyree, Estime, and Payne as their only healthy running backs heading into fall camp.
Prior to Price’s injury, he was expected to have a role in the Notre Dame offense after enrolling early and being one of the stars of the Blue and Gold game. Now his focus will shift to rehabbing and coming back strong in 2023.
Considering two backs have been hurt already this off-season, Notre Dame can’t afford any more injuries at the position. That could be a challenge since Tyree has had some bad injury luck over his first two seasons at Notre Dame. Keeping Tyree healthy after a turf toe injury nagged him for most of the second half of the season is imperative for Notre Dame in fall camp. Tyree ran for just 222 yards in 2021 after racking up 496 as a freshman in 2020. His yards per carry dropped 2.8 yards a tote in the injury-plagued season.
Estime saw some limited action as a true freshman but flashed big-time potential. He ran the ball just seven times for 60 yards with a long of 21 yards. He now stands to have a much more significant role than maybe anyone imagined before the spring. Tyree has elite speed and might not be a 20+ carry-a-game running back – especially if Notre Dame wants him at his best. That could mean a lot of carries early in the season for Estime.
If Notre Dame had more depth at wide receiver, they could look to leverage some carries out of the wide receiver group, but that could be a roll of the dice as well with so few scholarship receivers to work with for this season. Braden Lenzy, Lorenzo Styles, and Avery Davis (when he is fully back from his ACL injury) have all shown big-play ability on handoffs in the past. How much they are used in that capacity will be interesting to watch.
Gi’Bran Payne transferred to Notre Dame after signing with Indiana as a 4-star running back. He might have some challenges being fully prepared to take on any significant role, though. He missed most of his junior year of high school and was slowed by injuries again as a senior. Now he starts his collegiate career third on the depth chart until Diggs is available for the Irish offense.
While some of this may sound dire, it’s not too far off from what happened in 2015. Tarean Folston was the only experienced running back returning on the roster. CJ Prosise was being prepped for a hybrid role, and the Irish had a pair of incoming freshmen, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, one of whom (Adams) was coming off an injury-plagued high school career. That worked out alright for the Irish, with Prosise topping 1,000 yards and Adams setting a Notre Dame freshmen rushing record.
By season’s end, though, Prosise was banged up, leaving Adams and quarterback Deshone Kizer to shoulder the load of the Irish rushing attack. In the season finale at Stanford, Adams rushed 18 times for 168 yards, and Kizer added 128 on 16 attempts. Only one other player recorded a carry in the game – Dexter Williams with one.
Notre Dame could look to quarterback Tyler Buchner to take on more responsibility in the run game as Kizer did in 2015, but that too is a dangerous game. Buchner had multiple major knee injuries in high school before getting banged up during his freshman season and again in the spring. To be fair, though, the injury in the spring reportedly would NOT have kept him out of action for a real game as it did the Blue/Gold game.
Assuming no more injuries in the backfield, there are a lot of teams around the country with a worse one-two punch than Tyree and Estime. Like a lot of teams. That is a big IF, though, considering the Irish are already down two backs, and we’re still a month out from fall camp. Can Notre Dame give all three backs red jerseys for fall camp?