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Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Backfield order still a work in progress

By Matt Fortuna

An early 10-point deficit in Notre Dame's loss at Michigan did little to help clear up the Irish's backfield pecking order.

Notre Dame ran the ball just 19 times and threw it 53 times, though Michigan stacking the box may have had as much to do with that as anything.

Amir Carlisle
Amir Carlisle leads Notre Dame running backs in carries and yards, but it's way too soon to say he's "the guy" in the Irish backfield.
"There's eight guys on the line of scrimmage," Kelly said. "If the box is plus-one and plus-two, there's not much of a running game. When we had two-shell and we had the ability to run the ball, we ran the ball effectively. And then we got behind. We were down two scores. We had to speed the game up and throw the football.

"I want balance just like everybody else in America wants balance," Kelly said. "But look, we have to throw the ball effectively when we are called upon to throw the ball and we have to run the ball effectively when we are called upon to run effectively.

"You know, balance is this panacea that everyone looks for, but you need to win football games and whatever it takes to win football games, we'd better be good at it. We'd better be good at scoring points running the ball, and we'd better be good at throwing the ball when the situations call for it."

Amir Carlisle leads all Irish running backs in both carries (19) and yards (132) through two games. His four catches for 14 yards are also the most among the backs.

George Atkinson III was the most experienced of the six-man group coming into the season, and he is the only running back to reach the end zone so far, carrying the ball 13 times for 71 yards through two games. But the junior has struggled to catch the ball, prompting former backfield mate Cierre Wood to take a playful jab at him on Twitter and prompting Kelly the day after the game to say: "He's got to stand next to me on the sideline. He's either got to catch the football, or he doesn't get scripted in those plays."

Cam McDaniel also has 13 carries, tallying 69 yards, though he had just one carry for four yards this past Saturday.

Freshmen Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant did not receive carries against the Wolverines after carrying the ball five and two times, respectively, in the opener -- though again, that stems from circumstance as much as anything. (William Mahone returned from a high ankle sprain Saturday but did not receive a carry.)

Still, Kelly has cautioned, it is too early to anoint anyone "The Guy," regardless of what the small sample size says.

"I wouldn't look too much into Amir being the guy," Kelly said. "We are two games into this. Really too early. We like the way he ran. Ran hard. Had yards after contact. Obviously we like that a lot. But we're still a work-in-progress there."