Thin Irish RB corps making it work this spring


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame has a pair of ballyhooed running backs bursting with potential, on the brink of potential stardom. The problem, for now, is that Notre Dame has only those two running backs, period, in its entire backfield.

So new position coach Autry Denson likes what he has seen so far this spring from Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, but he has had to take extra precaution in managing the pair's workload until reinforcements arrive this summer.

"Probably what you said: You only have two scholarship running backs," Denson cracked when asked what the difficulties were. "So you're a little bit thin, so you've got to make sure that at the same time you're pushing those guys, but you're being smart enough from a rep distribution standpoint that you're not running them into the ground so that they can have time to recover. And then emphasizing, like you would always, being proactive with a lot of post-practice things, making sure the ice tub and things of that nature. But really just getting them out there, getting them mentally ready to practice every day and not even thinking about it.

"At that point, when you're in the game, you're the only back that matters. So just getting them to go out there, play every play with the intensity that I need them to. I tell them: Four-to-six seconds of maximum effort, then you'll take your rest in-between."

A pair of former four-star backs from Florida entering their third years with the Irish, Folston and Bryant have seen varying degrees of success thus far. The 5-foot-9.5, 214-pound Folston has been the more productive of the two, tallying 1,359 rushing yards over the past two seasons, including a team-best 889-yard campaign last year, with six touchdowns to boot. (He added 190 receiving yards and one more score through the air.)

The 5-10, 205-pound Bryant has demonstrated spurts of explosiveness here and there, rushing for 289 yards and three scores last season while establishing himself as a reliable punt-return threat, averaging 11.8 yards per return. He received a medical redshirt in 2013 after a knee issue cut short his rookie campaign after Week 4.

Come June, both players will be aided by the arrivals of freshmen Dexter Williams and Josh Adams. Williams, in particular, was a major coup for the Irish, as he was an ESPN four-star recruit and the No. 5 tailback in the nation.

All of the pupils can take a cue from their new position coach, as Denson remains the Irish's all-time leading rusher (4,318 yards). After arriving to Notre Dame in February from Miami (Ohio), with a winter pitstop at USF in-between, Denson has not had much time for sentimentality, given all the catching up he and the Irish staff had to do this spring.

"You know what, coaching's just like being a player: The minute you stop to admire, you're gonna have a problem," Denson said. "So we'll take care of all of that later. I'm here to do a job. I've got to keep pushing, keep pushing, staying ahead. So I haven't had time, nor do I want to have time, to kind of sit back and do that. There will be a time for that later."