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Man Amongst Boys: Where Does Audric Estime Rank Next To Notre Dame Greats?

Written by Cade Harper|Writer|Twitter/X: @CadeHarperIT

Photo by Pittsburgh Post

When looking at the numbers side of the table, Audric Estime isn't really up in the statistical leaders conversation. He's currently within top 20 for rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. However, if you base this argument off of talent, I believe it's a whole different story. Now Notre Dame isn't very known for the running backs they have produced, but there are some very big names here that may catch your eye. The real question here, where do you rank Audric Estime from a talent standpoint amongst the other top Irish running backs of all time? Let's discuss.

Audric's Stellar Start to the 2023 Season

Audric Estime has become a familiar name in the college football world this season. He's held the FBS leading rusher title for multiple weeks this season, leads all FBS rushers in broken tackles, is currently top 10 in yards per carry, and top 3 in rushing touchdowns this season. Estime has made himself a mark this season by putting him in contention for the Doak Walker award, which goes to the nation's best running back. Although he is only a Junior, Audric finds himself emerging as the top running back prospect in this 2024 season's upcoming NFL Draft. So far this season, he has tacked on 901 yards, for 12 touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. The New York native has recorded 4 multi score games, broken many records, and jumped up in history books for the school. As far as stats go, he isn't very high on the list for leading all time rusher, however given past circumstances, Notre Dame's offense has changed very much through the years and is a harder accomplishment to achieve. Not saying he would be number 1 on my list, but I sure think he deserves some recognition to be in the conversation for top 5 amongst all time Irish running backs. So let's rewind into history a bit and find out where Estime fits in the discussion.

Photo by WTHR

Jerome Bettis (1990 - 1992)

In somewhat recent memory, me, along with many others who I have spoken with, think Jerome Bettis just might be the most talented and accomplished Notre Dame running back of all time. Much like Estime, he isn't very deep in the list of numbers, but he had some great seasons in South Bend. In 1991, Bettis recorded his best season racking up 1,162 total yards, and 20 touchdowns. Bettis would go on to the NFL after the 92' season, forgoing his senior season, to be drafted 10th overall, the highest drafted running back in Notre Dame history. Not to mention, he runs and plays a style of football much like Estime does. Since leaving for the NFL, Bettis was - and still is, one of the most respected and praised running backs the school has ever had. Although he shared a backfield with Reggie Brooks, another Notre Dame great, they both managed to have amazing seasons and careers.

Photo by Sports Illustrated

Raghib "Rocket" Ismail (1988 - 1990)

The Rocket himself, Raghib Ismail, known as the most explosive player in Notre Dame history. Ismail, who technically was a WR, had the running ability that made him look and act like a running back. Although he is 55th on the all time rushing list, he accounts for a lot of points via receiving after the catch and rushing, which is why I'd thought he would be worth a nod here. Multiple electric returns and plays in that 88' - 90' range, most in some very big games vs Miami, going into Ann Arbor in 89', and so many others. If you argue numbers, it's not there. But me along with many others believe the rocket is one of the most talented players to ever play in Notre Dame Stadium.

Photo by 247 Sports

Darius Walker (2004 - 2006)

Moving into the top 5 of the all time rushing leaders and one of my personal favorites from the Charlie Weis era, Darius Walker. Walker holds the #4 spot in all time rushing with 4,065 total yards and 26 total touchdowns. I loved Walker growing up and even had two of his jerseys, definitely one of the more fun players to watch in those mid to late 2000 era. Walker had back to back seasons over 1,100 rushing yards with 19 total touchdowns across 2005 & 2006, a very impressive stat sheet stuffer to say the least. As far as numbers go, he certainly has the resume contend with the elite. Walker is third in all time carries (693) and third in average yards per game over a career (90.3). Walker had also held the record for most yards from a freshman running back in school history (786) until Josh Adams came in 2015 and broke it as he rushed for 835. Across 12 games in 2005, Walker ran for 100+ in all of them, a number only Allen Pinkett, the number 2 leading rusher in school history, has broke. He had a lot of great games to look back on and a ton of accomplishments, like Bettis, to back up his resume.

Where Exactly Does Audric Estime Rank?

I've had conversations all week regarding Estime's rank across all the great Notre Dame running backs from strictly a talent standpoint. You can bring up the all time leader, Autry Denson, Josh Adams from just a few years ago in 2015 - 2017, Julius Jones, and even Cierre Wood. As great as all of these guys were in South Bend, I truly believe Estime is the one that has what it takes to be the most successful running back in the pros since Jerome Bettis. Mel Kiper has Audric on his draft board as the top RB prospect, and he can potentially stay an extra year to make that stock even higher - who knows. But either way, I think he will have the most success. Of all the top 10 leaders, one of the only successful ones in the NFL was Allen Pinkett, which still wasn't necessarily "great". Estime still has plenty of time to shoot up these rankings in the all time rushing and touchdown list. With that being said, from what I have heard and my personal opinion based on pure talent and potential, I have Audric Estime in my top 5 list of all time great Notre Dame running backs. Some can disagree and come up with some good arguments here without a doubt, but it's definitely a conversation worth having to have him in the conversation. I look forward to watching him the rest of this season, and hopefully next season if he returns, but that's a conversation for another day considering the amount of depth the Irish have at the running back position.


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