With just three scholarship running backs on the roster for spring practice and just one more arriving in the summer, it was inevitable that someone would move to running back this spring. Monday we found out that someone is rising sophomore Jafar Armstrong. Originally recruited as a wide receiver, Armstrong was listed as a wide receiver OR running back on the roster and Brian Kelly said Monday that he will play both positions.
With Deon McIntosh and CJ Holmes both off the Irish roster – and Brian Kelly refusing to comment on any potential path to reinstatement for either – Notre Dame came into spring with the oft injured Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr and early enrollee Jahmir Smith as the only scholarship running backs on the roster.
Enter the sophomore to be. “Jafar is more towards that Theo Riddick, if you will, where Theo was a wide receiver but took reps for us at the running back,” Kelly said on Monday. “I think I’d like to kind of move in that same direction. He’s going to be a guy that I think can touch the ball coming out of the back field, but also can give us some work at the running back position.”
Kelly then mentioned another name in comparing Armstrong to a recent Irish star. “Theo, CJ Prosise, we kind of see him in a similar vein,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s comparison to CJ Prosise is an interesting one since Prosise spent the entire 2014 season as a wide receiver before cross training at running back and receiver in the spring of 2015. Cross training turned into a full time running back role once the injury bug hit and Notre Dame lost Tarean Folston for the season in the pre-season. Prosise had 516 yards receiving in 2014 before racking up 1,029 on the ground in 2015 to go with another 308 receiving.
It remains to be seen if Artstrong has the same kind of ability as Prosise, but this move does make a lot of sense. Armstrong is built more like a running back than a traditional wide receiver and could play a role very similar to what we saw in the past from Theo Riddick. Armstrong might not have the top end speed that Prosise possessed, but Riddick didn’t either and he was one of the most productive offensive players of the Brian Kelly era.
Notre Dame will add freshman C’bo Flemister to the mix in the summer, but with just Williams, Jones, and Smith on the roster this spring, Armstrong should be able to get some good reps over the course of the next 15 practices. Incoming freshman Tariq Bracy is another player who could fill a similar role once he arrives but he’ll need some time in the weight room before he’s ready for playing time.
While the stories of both Riddick and Prosise were a success, remember that Notre Dame tried the same with Amir Carlisle without nearly the same level of success. Now, Carlisle wasn’t a bad player by any means, but he also didn’t have nearly the same level of impact as either Riddick or Prosise during the course of his career.
Armstrong will get his first taste of running back on Tuesday most likely when the Irish conduct their first practice of spring football 2018. When he does, he will also be wearing a new number after ditching the #25 he wore in 2017 as a frosh for #8 as he along with five other Notre Dame players have changed their numbers for the 2018 season.