Notre Dame Running Backs Seeing A Growth Spurt
Sophomore running back Kyren Williams can now fully appreciate what a difference one season can make in a college football program.
A year ago at this time the Notre Dame coaching staff was eager to utilize the then freshman's skill set in the backfield, and even had him returning kickoffs. However, after just four career carries and a dropped pass, the decision was made to redshirt him.
"My freshman season taught me that I could do this, but I just needed more time,” Williams summarized. “… I was able to work on myself, get better at all levels of football, I was able to change my body. Where I'm at now, it's where I feel the most comfortable.”
The 5-9 ½ Williams shed nine pounds of unnecessary weight (now at 195) and in his 2020 debut, was named ACC Player of the Week on offense for his 112 yards rushing (19 carries) and two scores, plus 93 yards on two catches, in last weekend’s 27-13 victory versus Duke.
He was the first Notre Dame player to post at least 90 yards rushing and 90 receiving in a game since Allen Pinkett had 193 rushing and 93 receiving in 1983 during a 23-22 loss to Air Force.
“I feel like my workload was good because during camp, I've taken a lot of reps,” Williams said. “My body has been used to going back and forth. I feel like my load is exactly where I wanted to be. I definitely thought I was going to have a big impact in this game. I came in with a great mindset and great confidence. I knew that if I just play my game, that I could play well.
“It took about a series, a couple of drives to get in my flow, to finally be able to relax, breathe and just be the player I am.”
Freshman Chris Tyree might be undergoing a similar educational phase or learning curve, although he arrives with more fanfare as a top-100 prospect. Williams took 52 snaps against Duke while Tyree was next with 13, carrying six times for 20 yards, highlighted by a 25-yard burst.
Since 1972, when the NCAA permitted freshman eligibility for good, seldom has a rookie running back at Notre Dame made an impact in the first game of his college career. Believe it or not, Tyree’s six carries were the fifth most by a Notre Dame freshman running back in an opener.
Here are the top-5 rushing totals by a Notre Dame freshman running back in the first game of a season. Interestingly, the top two later moved to the defensive backfield.
1. Jim Browner (1975, Boston College) — 24 carries, 95 yards
2. Hiawatha Francisco (1983, Purdue)— nine carries, 81 yards
3. Chris Smith (1981, LSU) — eight carries, 61 yards
4. Josh Adams (2015, Texas) — five carries, 49 yards
5. Randy Kinder (1993, Northwestern) — four carries, 26 yards
Under now 11th-year head coach Brian Kelly, Dexter Williams also had seven carries for 24 yards versus Texas in 2015, meaning he and fellow rookie Adams combined for 12 carries for 73 yards, with two scores by Adams, in that 38-3 rout.
However, when adding Tyree’s 90 yards in kick return yardage versus the Blue Devils, achieving 110 all-purpose yards in his Notre Dame debut puts him in rare triple-figures air.
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