Notre Dame gaining ground with RB recruits


South Bend Tribune


Left empty-handed in 2014, Notre Dame remains without a running back commit in the 2015 class.

Despite nothing to show for all its work, the Irish staff has put itself in a strong position to land a stud or two at the position come February. With any luck, running backs coach Tony Alford will reel in a haul similar to the Florida duo of Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant in 2013.

The pitch is simple: After the 2014 season, only Folston and Bryant will remain as running backs on the Notre Dame roster. Following a season in which Folston had significant playing time as a freshman, the Irish have proof that an early path to the field is within reach.

It’s a potent combination, and with Alford, arguably Notre Dame’s best recruiter, on the job, the odds of good news on signing day are high. The Irish have already hosted a number of top targets. Here’s a look at where they stand with some of the top running backs across the country.


• Jacques Patrick, 6-2, 225; Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek: Patrick backed up his alleged interest in Notre Dame with a pair of visits to South Bend this summer including the Irish Invasion. Now the Irish have emerged as a legitimate contender. Patrick spent most of the camp talking with fellow Florida running backs Folston and Bryant, forcing thoughts of all three spending time in Notre Dame’s backfield.

A tall player, in terms of backs, Patrick combines size and speed as a complete back. Such a skill set has Patrick in the crosshairs of top programs like Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan.

Last season, Patrick racked up 2,153 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. If the Irish can land an official visit from Patrick, expect them to be in the mix of schools for Patrick come signing day.

Rivals rates Patrick as a five-star prospect and the No. 2 running back in the country. 247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 3 running back.

• Soso Jamabo, 6-3, 200; Plano (Texas) West: Notre Dame gained momentum in Texas last recruiting cycle, but a commitment from Jamabo would trump February’s three signees. The Irish solidified themselves as a contender when Jamabo visited in early June. Following the visit, Jamabo tweeted, “Notre Dame was dope….#GoIrish,” and changed his profile picture to a photo taken on his visit.

The usual suspects of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Baylor stand as top competition for Jamabo. Alabama, USC, Oregon and others will try to pull him out of the region.

Jamabo emerged as an elite prospect following a sophomore season with 1,697 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. He followed that up with 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Rivals ranks Jamabo as the No.4 running back in the 2015 class. 247Sports slates him at No. 12.

• Ty’Son Williams, 5-11, 200; Sumter (S.C.) Crestwood: With plans for a summer visit, Williams appeared to be the top candidate for a commitment to Notre Dame. However, a visit to Notre Dame has yet to happen. Williams previously told 247Sports that the Irish sat at the top of his list of favorites, but South Carolina, Clemson, Wisconsin and Georgia figure to be worthy contenders.

Notre Dame will continue to try to get Williams on campus in July with the three-star running back considering a decision before his senior season gets underway. He has already visited South Carolina three times since the start of spring.

As a junior, Williams rushed for 1,516 yards and 16 touchdowns. Rivals ranks him as the No. 32 running back in the class. 247Sports slates him at No. 46.

• Josh Adams, 6-1, 185; Warrington (Pa.) Central Bucks South: A serious knee injury hasn’t turned major programs away from Adams. The Pennsylvania native missed the last four games of his junior season after suffering a torn ACL. Adams visited Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion, but did not participate in the camp. Notre Dame’s goal of two running backs lowers the risk in taking Adams with his injury history.

The Irish appear to be fighting Penn State and Pittsburgh for Adams, despite the Nittany Lions already having two running back commits.

Adams rushed for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first six games as a junior before his injury. As a sophomore, Adams rushed for 2,089 yards and 28 touchdowns. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 16 running back. Rivals rates him as a three-star recruit and 18th-best in his state.


• Kirk Merritt, 5-11, 200; Destrehan (La.) High: Calling Merritt only a running back, isn’t doing him justice. He’s the perfect fit at Notre Dame as a combination player with roles in the backfield, in the slot and on special teams. Think Theo Riddick circa 2012. Merritt has mentioned an official visit to Notre Dame as a possibility, but has only visited LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama and Auburn.

The Irish haven’t had a ton of luck landing recruits out of Louisiana while competing with the SEC. If Notre Dame could land the four-star Merritt and offensive line commit Jerry Tillery in the same class, the fortunes could start to turn. 247Sports slates Merritt as the No. 6 all-purpose back. Rivals ranks him as the No. 19 wide receiver.

• Cameron Scarlett, 6-1, 205; Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic: The Catholic connection to Scarlett’s high school could help bridge the distance from Portland to South Bend. Scarlett recently told Rivals that he plans to narrow his list to five schools and that Oregon, Stanford and Notre Dame would make the list. A fall official visit to South Bend seems likely for Scarlett, who rushed for 1,640 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. Rivals rates Scarlett as a four-star recruit and the No. 8 all-purpose running back. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 64 athlete.

• Ray-Ray McCloud, 5-9, 175; Tampa (Fla.) Sickles: Another target from the Sunshine State, McCloud owns the skill set of a versatile threat out of the backfield and as a returner. McCloud’s offers come from all over the country, but he will be a tough pull out of the south. In June, McCloud made visits to UCLA and USC but has yet to visit Notre Dame.

The four-star prospect rushed for 2,316 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior. Rivals ranks McCloud as the No. 2 athlete in the class. 247Sports slates him at No. 14 for the multifaceted position.

• Damien Harris, 5-11, 205; Berea (Ky.) Madison Southern: Notre Dame continues to sit on the edge of anything meaningful with Harris. The Irish made Harris’ top eight in June despite not being included in his top 10 in March. Any interest from Harris has come in the form of conversation rather than action. Still, he’s a talent worth being patient for to land a visit in the fall.

Last season, Harris rushed for 2,621 yards and 42 touchdowns. Rivals ranks him as a five-star prospect and the top running back in the class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 2 running back.

• Nyheim Hines, 5-9, 178; Garner (N.C.) High: The Irish will battle their quasi-conference foes in the ACC for Hines. Notre Dame lost out on Charlotte running back Elijah Hood last cycle to North Carolina, but a return to the state to recruit the prolific Hines is warranted. As a junior, Hines rushed for 3,137 yards and 49 touchdowns. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 all-purpose back. Rivals rates him a three-star recruit and No. 9 at the position.

• Aca’cedric Ware, 6-0, 196; Cedar Hill (Texas) High: An offer to Ware in late May put Notre Dame in position to be a contender for this three-star running back from Texas. Ware has said he’d like to make a trip to South Bend at some point in July. If he makes the visit, the Irish could start to make a real push. Ware rushed for 1,270 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Rivals ranks him as the No. 35 running back. 247Sports slates him No. 61.

• T.J. Simmons, 6-0, 195; Lakeland (Fla.) Christian: Any movement with Simmons would have to come later in the cycle. On Monday, he plans to announce a decision between Florida, Ohio State, UCLA and LSU. With Alford recruiting in Florida, it’s hard to rule out running backs in the state even after a verbal commitment elsewhere. Rivals rates Simmons as a four-star prospect and the No. 21 running back. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and No. 38 at the position.

Jacques Patrick is a prime target at running back for Notre Dame. (Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel/Chris Hays)

Part two in a seven-day series bringing a position-by-position analysis of Notre Dame's 2015 football recruiting efforts.

Sunday: Quarterbacks

Monday: Running backs

Tuesday: Wide receivers

Wednesday: Offensive line/Tight ends

Thursday: Defensive line

Friday: Linebackers

Saturday: Defensive backs