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Bye week grades: Running backs

RUNNING BACKS

Grade: B+

Summary: The running backs, along with the offensive line, have been the backbone of this offense through the first-third of the season. From rushing for 293 yards in a rout of Navy to coming up with big plays when needed most in wins against Michigan State and Michigan, the Irish ground game has been effective. We can't forget that the first two contests came without the suspended Cierre Wood, who rushed for 1,102 yards last season. Wood has been solid, but Theo Riddick has been the star in his return to the backfield. Individual numbers outside of Week 1 have not been eye-opening, but Notre Dame's depth in the backfield has been crucial in a season that the running game has been counted upon so much while the passing game works out its issues. The Irish have also faced two of the better defensive fronts in the nation through four weeks in Michigan State and Purdue.

The backups: George Atkinson III rushed for 99 yards in the opener and is probably the fastest player on the team. Becoming a better slot receiver will add another threat to his arsenal and help him get on the field more. Cam McDaniel had a strong opening performance against Navy. USC transfer Amir Carlisle has yet to play and might redshirt this season.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive line

Offensive line

Linebackers