A potential infusion of talent in the backfield awaits the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this season with the official arrival of running back Jadarian Price. The start of his collegiate career was set to begin last season, but a torn Achilles brought an abrupt halt to his 2022 campaign even before training camp got underway.
In his final season for Denison High School in Texas, Price ran wild, finishing the 2021 season with 1,803 yards and 17 touchdowns. Those numbers were compiled at a healthy clip. Price gained 9.34 yards per carry and supplemented his running ability by hauling in 27 catches for 327 yards and one score. As a result, he was pursued by not only the Irish but the in-state Texas Longhorns as well as Stanford and Ohio State.
Early Attention and Heartbreak
After entering Notre Dame in January 2022 by virtue of early enrollment, Price participated in spring ball and last year’s Blue-and-Gold Game. During that clash, he gave every indication that he’d be making an impact once the season got underway by contributing 116 yards of offense and eight receptions. His shining moment in that scrimmage came on a screen pass in which he used his speed to blow past Ramon Henderson for a 51-yard score.
However, in the midst of summer workouts a few months later, Price suffered his Achilles injury and was relegated for the remainder of the year to watching film and rehabbing. Despite the devastating situation, he forged ahead and kept a positive frame of mind. Irish head coach Marcus Freeman declared this past June that he was healthy enough to again take part in summer workouts.
Angling for Position
The shift of Chris Tyree and the transfer of Logan Diggs to LSU opens up a clear opportunity for Price. However, the dicey nature of an Achilles injury may result in a slow rollout for him. He’s likely to spell Audric Estime when he does begin seeing action, though Penn State transfer Devyn Ford may very well get the early call until Price is ready to go.
Behind Ford, the duo of Gi’Bran Payne and Jeremiyah Love are the next candidates to compete with Price. Payne is a sophomore who’s had problems staying healthy over the past three years. As a freshman with Notre Dame last season, he was plagued with hamstring issues. Love brings some impressive speed that has the possibility of getting immediate attention if he manages to break off a run.
Steady as She Goes
Determining exactly when Price is ready to be unleashed will likely depend on his ability to cut and explode out of the backfield. Those particular abilities tend to determine whether or not a player coming back from this type of injury has returned to their old form.
It’s still very early in training camp, but Price appears to be showing no signs of tentative play and is once again displaying his receiving skills. Tempering that enthusiasm is the realization that preseason drills and high-pressure game action are two dramatically different situations.
Regardless of whether Price emerges from the pack this year, the early schedule may allow for a multitude of Notre Dame running backs to get their feet wet. The opener against Navy as well as the home opener against Tennessee State, will have the Irish as solid, if not prohibitive, favorites. That could allow for plenty of time to gauge which runners Freeman will be able to depend upon in the weeks and months ahead.
For now, the expectation is that Estime will again use his battering-ram style of running to lead the Irish. However, his ill-timed fumbles from last year need to be reduced, if not eliminated. A big year likely sends him to the NFL, which means that how the other runners perform when he’s off the field may foreshadow the team’s 2024 outlook.
Price is certainly capable of being the standout of that group. His work ethic and dedication to getting back on the field show that he wants to make a statement as quickly as he can. Couple that with his intelligence and the athleticism that saw him also win awards in high school for his track exploits, and you have a player worth watching this year and beyond.