Adam Poltrack

Tarean Folston Should Lead The Irish RBs In 2014

Created on Apr. 13, 2014 9:58 AM EST

In the NFL, running backs not named Adrian Peterson rarely are worth a serious investment. They take too much punishment, resulting in frequent injuries. Ephemeral as running backs can be, GMs tend to cycle through them about as fast as teenagers do cell phones and are wary of building their teams around ball-carriers.

In the college game, however, the position is far more stable, and a steady presence there is integral for all but the most pass-happy offenses.

Everyone has heard the old adage: “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” Having two running backs, however, is just fine. In fact, that’s the sweet spot. One workhorse and one scatback, one bruiser and one cruiser, one bolt of lightning and one clap of thunder; whatever the composition, tandems work great in backfields — but three’s a crowd.

What, then, do we call five? A Tokyo subway car? Times Square on New Year's? Either way, one thing is clear: Heading into 2013, Notre Dame’s backfield was well past max capacity, and it remained that way for much of the year. Brian Kelly basically held open auditions for the job.

It wasn’t until mid-season that the pack began to thin. That’s when Cam McDaniel proved himself reliable enough to demand the bulk of the carries. Soon after, though, freshman RB Tarean Folston began to get his legs under him, showcasing the skills that made him a four-star recruit.

So, how does the landscape look in 2014 and beyond? Here’s a rundown of the contenders and our take on where they fit into the rotation:

1. Tarean Folston, Sophomore

He balances the ingredients of the running back cocktail better than any other back on the team. Strength, balance, vision, agility, speed; the kid has all the tools, we just need to see him put it together for a full season.

2. Cam McDaniel, Senior

With his fearless style and his vice-like grip on the ball, it's tempting to put McDaniel in the ol' reliable box, but that’s selling him a bit short. He showed his explosiveness in some key moments last year and it’s clear that — though it’s not his game — he has the ability to break a big play here and there.

3. Amir Carlisle, Senior

Carlisle’s college career has been the worst kind of roller coaster. The speedy running back saw reps early in his USC days, but a rash of injuries and stiff competition drove him to transfer to South Bend. He looked ready to shoulder a good portion of the load coming into 2013, but couldn’t do much of anything right on Saturdays. When he wasn't missing blocks or fumbling, he was busy dropping pass after pass after pass after ... you get the idea. Carlisle will find himself riding the pine in 2014 if he doesn’t shape up quickly.

X. Greg Bryant, Sophomore

As in X-factor. Bryant arrived in South Bend more highly-touted than Folston, but an early injury and an inability to pick up the offense derailed his 2013 season before it ever got started. If the former five-star recruit can get his X’s and O’s sorted out this year, watch out. He’s got the talent to be an impact back and to challenge any back on the team.

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