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A Five Headed Monster? Running Back Roles Uncertain After Week 0 Matchup with Navy

Written By: Phil Kowalis Writer Twitter: @PhilKowalisIT

Photo by 247 Sports


Heading into Notre Dame's season opener, Audric Estime was the featured back, and sophomores Gi'Bryan Payne and Jadarian Price along with freshman Jeremiyah Love and Penn State transfer Devyn Ford would battle it out to earn the backup role and pick up the carries available in relief of Estime.


After the first series of the game, a 13 play 81-yard drive that saw Estime carry six times for 29 yards and a touchdown, everything seemed to be going as planned. Things changed following the first play of Notre Dame's next possession, however, as a 13-yard run by Estime which saw the ball punched free by a Navy defender at the end of the run occurred early into the possession. The ball would end up being knocked out of bounds, and the Irish retained possession, but Estime would head to the sidelines after being replaced by Payne.

Jadarian Price would cap that drive with a 19-yard touchdown run putting the Irish up 14-0.

Estime would not return for the rest of the half, as Payne, Price, Love and Ford would all see action during his absence.


Estime did return to start the third quarter and finished the game with a team high 95 yards on 16 carries and the first quarter touchdown, but the question remained, what was the cause of Estime's prolonged absence in the first half. Was Estime's absence a result of an injury, was it a result of discipline or was it game plan related? An answer would come during the post-game press conference when Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said that Estime's absence was indeed game plan related, as Freeman stated that he and running backs coach Deland McCullough had informed the running back room that they all would see action against Navy and noted that Estime would just have to exhibit patience and spoke highly of the way Estime handled the situation and the effort given once he returned to game action.

So, Mystery solved right? Well not so fast my friend.


This week when Freeman met with the media, he mentioned that Estime was actually benched because of his fumble, and that by putting the ball on the ground, Estime had not met the standards established within the running back room and the program, but that Estime would remain the starter. Freeman also spoke on the overall talent in the running back room, and that everyone had deserved the opportunity to see playing time moving forward.

How will the events of the opening week of the season and Freeman's remarks to the press effect the running back room going forward? Let me provide a roadmap for how I see the rest of the season unfolding.

Photo by The Baltimore Sun


For the home opener this week against Tennessee State, I expect to see a heavy dose of the running back rotation again as all five should see action in what should be a blowout against a severely overmatched opponent. Moving into weeks three and four, as the Irish take on North Carolina State on the road and return home to face Central Michigan, expect to see a rotation continuing as the ultimate goal should be to keep Estime healthy entering the meat of the schedule beginning with Ohio State in week five. Once we reach week five and the showdown with Ohio State and through the remainder of the season, I expect Freeman and McCullough to return to the three headed monster type-system seen a year ago, with Estime getting the bulk of the carries and Payne and Price filling the backup role. There is no doubt that Estime should remain the starter throughout the season barring injury or the fumble bug becoming a major issue, as Freeman has said that he will remain the man to lead the Irish running game.


Price and Payne should be engaged in a season long duel for the backup spot and in my opinion, Ford will be the odd man out and find himself number four on the depth chart. While Love is definitely talented enough to see playing time this season, I really expect his playing

time to be limited to four games or less to keep his red shirt year intact. That's my thoughts on the running back situation going forward, now all we can do is sit back and see how the season will play out!


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