Recruiting Reset: Notre Dame deep, talented at running back

RECRUITING RESET

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame didn’t waste much time in adding a running back to the 2016 recruiting class.

Tony Jones Jr., a three-star recruit, gave the Irish his verbal commitment on March 22. New running backs coach Autry Denson was in his first month on the job at Notre Dame and he already had a new player to look forward to coaching.

Whether or not the Irish add a second running back into the mix for the 2016 class remains to be seen. The most likely option seems to be a versatile player who could line up as a slot receiver and in the backfield at times as well.

With Dexter Williams and Josh Adams in Notre Dame’s freshman class, the Irish can move forward with running back being a position of strength and depth in the future.

COMMITMENT

• Tony Jones Jr., 6-0, 210; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: A relationship between Notre Dame associate head coach Mike Denbrock and Jones’ father gave the Irish a leg up in the recruitment of Jones. Now the Irish will get to utilize the powerful legs of Jones in the future.

Jones may be Notre Dame’s most physical running back recruit since the Irish signed five-star Greg Bryant in 2013. Jones excels between the tackles and has the straight-line speed to outrun the secondary for big gains.

He has made a concerted effort in the past few months to improve as a pass catcher and become a more well-rounded running back. He rushed for 771 yards and 12 touchdowns on 66 carries in his junior season at IMG Academy. He caught two passes for 31 yards and one touchdown.

Jones also shows his athleticism on the baseball diamond, a sport he also hopes to play at Notre Dame. This past season, Jones hit for a .491 average with 26 hits, 16 runs and nine RBI in 18 games.

247Sports slates Jones as the No. 21 running back in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 34 at the position.

SLOT OPTIONS

• Damian Alloway, 5-9, 170; Fontana (Calif.) Summit: A July visit to Notre Dame cemented the Irish as legitimate contenders to land the four-star recruit. With plans for him to return on an official visit this season for a game, the only question seems to be if he will be committed to the Irish before then.

Alloway described his recruitment as a two-team race between UCLA and Notre Dame. The home-state pull could keep him in California, but all the momentum seems to be with the Irish. UCLA has caused Notre Dame plenty of headaches in the past few recruiting cycles, so it would be foolish to dismiss the Bruins.

Alloway’s versatility was on display as a junior. He rushed for 642 yards and eight touchdowns, caught 32 passes for 635 yards and 10 TDs and returned four kicks for scores. 247Sports slates him as the No. 4 all-purpose back in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 20 wide receiver.

• Melquise Stovall, 5-8, 180; Lancaster (Calif.) Paraclete: The four-star recruit has been eyeing an official visit to Notre Dame since the moment Denbrock extended him a scholarship offer in June. Stovall was committed to USC at the time, but he put himself back on the market when he withdrew his commitment Saturday.

Stovall, who is not related to former Irish wide receiver Maurice Stovall, could play a number of positions including running back, wide receiver and cornerback. Last season, he rushed for 1,603 yards and 20 touchdowns, caught 21 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns and added two return touchdowns — one an interception, the other a punt.

Rivals ranks Stovall as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 3 at the position.

LOOKING ELSEWHERE

Elijah Holyfield, 5-10, 204; College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy: Notre Dame hosted Holyfield and his father, former boxing superstar Evander Holyfield, in March, but the Irish have fallen out of the race for the four-star recruit. Holyfield recently trimmed his list of top schools to five SEC programs: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The similar running styles of Jones and Holyfield made adding the latter to the class a lower priority. Rivals ranks Holyfield as the No. 5 running back in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 9 at the position.

Devwah Whaley, 6-0, 205; Beaumont (Texas) Central: A May offer from Notre Dame may have been too late. Days earlier, Whaley named a top 10 list that didn’t include the Irish. His top five in June didn’t include Notre Dame either.

The four-star recruit from the Lone Star State is focusing on Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Georgia. 247Sports slates Whaley as the No. 3 running back in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 10 at the position.

MISSED TARGETS

Ohio State commit Kareem Walker (Five stars from Rivals); Baylor commit Kameron Martin (Four stars).

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

ESPN ranks Notre Dame running back commit Tony Jones Jr. No. 23 at his position in the 2016 recruiting class. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)

Part two in a seven-part series breaking down where Notre Dame stands at each position group in the 2016 recruiting class.

Part one: Quarterbacks