Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football’s Best Running Back Combos Signed In One Class
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Notre Dame’s Best Running Back Combos Signed In One Class

In three of the four recruiting cycles from 2017-20, Notre Dame signed one running back: C.J. Holmes (2017), Kyren Williams (2019) and Chris Tyree (2020).

In 2018 the Fighting Irish did ink two in three-star prospects in C’Bo Flemister and Jahmir Smith, the latter who is now at Appalachian State as a graduate transfer. Meanwhile, Holmes is now a safety at Kent State after departing from Notre Dame his freshman year.

For the first time since 2015-16, Notre Dame is looking to sign a second running back in back-to-back years.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football running back Josh Adams
Josh Adams (above) and Dexter Williams both signed with Notre Dame in 2015 and had sterling individual years to put Notre Dame in the playoff hunt in different seasons. (Bill Panzica)

In the 2021 cycle Notre Dame reeled in the tandem of four-star Audric Estime, ranked the nation’s No. 132 player by Rivals, and three-star Logan Diggs, the 2020 Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A Outstanding Offensive Player.

This week Notre Dame received a verbal from Texas four-star running back prospect Jadarian Price, but is actively seeking a complement to him. It has to be mindful that with another strong campaign from Williams in 2021 (he rushed for 1,125 yards and caught 35 passes in 2020), it’s conceivable he could turn pro after his junior year, while Flemister could opt to be a grad transfer in 2022.

Two reasons why Notre Dame signed two running backs in both 2015 and 2016 were none came aboard in 2014, and the 2013 haul saw former five-star Greg Bryant (RIP) transfer prior to the 2015 campaign.

Among the additions Irish running backs coach and run-game coordinator Lance Taylor is looking at are Tennessee’s Dallan Hayden and Pennsylvania’s Nicholas Singleton, two more four-star/Top 250 figures.

In every decade, there is one duo of running backs signed in the same class that help Notre Dame vie for a national title. For the 2020s, Notre Dame could be off to quite a start with Estime/Diggs this year and then perhaps Price and someone else in 2022.

Here are some of the standards from each decade:

2010s: Josh Adams & Dexter Williams (2015)

The best tandem signed in the Brian Kelly era, which is entering its 12th season.

During the 10-1 start in 2015, Adams set the freshman rushing record at Notre Dame with 835 yards, and later turned pro after his junior season.

Williams took a back seat until his senior year when, despite missing the first four games, romped for 995 yards, 6.3 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns while the Irish advanced to the four-team College Football Playoff.

The duo averaged 6.5 yards per carry on their 4,837 career yards, both eclipsing 1,600, the most ever by a Notre Dame running back pair from the same class.

2000s: Theo Riddick & Cierre Wood (2009)

Former head coach Charlie Weis left a strong parting gift to Kelly with these two, although Riddick lined up in the slot his sophomore and junior years.

During Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season that advanced them to the BCS Championship against title winner Alabama, Riddick rushed for 917 yards and Wood 742.

In their college careers, Wood totaled 2,447 yards on the ground and Riddick 1,169 — plus they combined for 172 catches, 120 by Riddick.

1990s: Randy Kinder & Marc Edwards (1993)

Speedster Kinder totaled 2,295 yards rushing with 18 touchdowns in his career, while powerful fullback Edwards, who would later win a Super Bowl ring, totaled 1,656 yards (including bowl games, which hadn’t been the case until 2002) and 27 scores — plus snared 46 passes for 598 yards and five more scores.

Both played prominent roles as freshmen for the 11-1 unit in 1993 that finished 11-1, with Kinder rushing for 537 yards and Edwards tallying a team-high eight touchdowns.

1980s: Tony Brooks & Ricky Watters (1987)

The first full recruiting class under Lou Holtz featured this pair that might have received a five-star rating in today’s vernacular.

Brooks finished with 2,431 career rushing yards in college and added 29 catches for 332 yards.

Watters, who played flanker for the 1988 national champs, had 1,864 yards rushing with 21 scores, and added 41 catches for 610 yards and three more scores.

1970s: Wayne Bullock & Eric Penick (1971)

The perfect combination of power and speed who as juniors helped win the 1973 national title.

Wayne The Train at fullback had the most career rushing yards (1,892) and rushing touchdowns (24) in the Ara Parseghian era.

Despite missing the majority of his senior year with an injury, Penick accumulated 1,418 yards rushing and 12 scores, none more memorable than his 85-yard jaunt in 1973 that helped end USC’s 23-game unbeaten streak.

1960s: Nick Eddy & Bill Wolski (1962)

Former head coach Joe Kuharich recruited them and Parseghian molded them into champions, including a share of the national title in 1964 with the MacArthur Bowl, and then a consensus title in 1966 when Eddy was a fifth-year senior (he was suspended from school in 1963) and third in the Heisman voting.

Eddy rushed for 1,625 career yards and 17 scores, plus averaged 16.1 yards on his 44 catches. Wolski finished with 1,429 yards rushing, notably a team-high 657 for the 9-1 crew in 1964.

1950s: Johnny Lattner & Neil Worden (1950)

Would you believe that as seniors for the unbeaten and No. 2 Irish in 1953, fullback Worden rushed for more yardage (859 at 5.9 yards per attempt) than Heisman-winning teammate Lattner (651)? The same in career rushing — 2,039 for Worden and 1,726 for Lattner.

But Lattner was the better all-around player with his prowess as a receiver, return man and on defense, which included 13 interceptions. Both were top-10 NFL picks.

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