2013 Sneak Peak: Running BacksLed by the senior duo of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood and backed ably by change-of-pace sophomore George Atkinson III and his classmate, fan favorite Cam McDaniel, Notre Dame's runners produced 2,026 of the team's 2,430 rushing yards, scored 19 of its 22 touchdowns and averaged a collective 5.53 yards per carry. The quartet lost just 60 yards over the course of the season; the 2011 duo of Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray lost a combined 105.
With one member a lock for the Irisheyes.com Top 10 and another who'll likely finish among its top 15, the 2013 running backs unit will have its hands full in an attempt to match the consistent, reliable production of their predecessors.
Who's Departing? Theo Riddick (1,244 yards from scrimmage, 4.9 per carry, 35 receptions and 6 total TD. Riddick led the offense with 69 first downs in 2012. His classmate Cierre Wood is will enter his name into the NFL Draft for evaluation and an official grade. At present, Irisheyes.com assumes Wood will turn pro at season's end. He's set to graduate on time with his fellow seniors.
Who's Returning? George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel will be true juniors; while redshirt-transfer Amir Carlisle will be a sophomore in terms of eligibility (a member of the junior class). Current freshman Will Mahone was withheld from action this year and will thus be eligible through 2016.
Who's Joining? 6'0" 210-pound Katy, Texas (Cincho Ranch, HS) product, Jamel James committed in late July. James runs with north-south power -- a requirement in the current Irish offense -- and is a four-star prospect per FOX Sports NEXT. Recent highlights can be found here.
Who Might Join? FOX Sports NEXT No. 2 rated running back and four-star prospect Greg Bryant. A former Oklahoma verbal pledge, Bryant will visit at an ideal time considering Notre Dame's undefeated season has concluded: during its third annual Awards Ceremony on December 7 -- the same event that weighed heavily upon Manti Te'o's decision to return for his senior season. (Highlights here.)
Also in the mix is Cocoa, Fla (Cocoa, HS) four-star Tarean Folston (5'10" 190).
Click here for highlights.
Inside Info: "If you've never really had something, I don't know about everyone else, but I'm willing to work as hard as I can until I have to do that. I was kind of poor growing up and my mother, she sacrificed everything she had for me and mine, so I want to make it so anything she wants she can have, without asking, no hesitation. I have tunnel vision, nothing is going to get in my way to do what I have to do."
-- Cierre Wood, November 2011.
Pure Speculation: Bryant commits by December 10; Wood graduates and departs for the NFL; Atkinson wins the job in the spring as Carlisle continues to fight back from a broken ankle suffered last March. The transfer doesn't show true form until the summer at which point the race for the lead role begins anew. Look for three running backs to again contribute heavily next fall with four earning more than 30 carries, none more than 150. No running back will record as many receptions as did Theo Riddick, 35 and counting, next season but two will score more touchdowns than his team-leading five to date.