Assessing what's next for Notre Dame RB recruiting in the 2022 class

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Another four-star running back might join Jadarian Price in Notre Dame’s 2022 recruiting class.

The Irish are not finished pursuing 2022 running backs after landing a verbal commitment from Price on Sunday. They will look to pair the Denison (Texas) High product with one more at the position this cycle. And the remaining options are teeming with promise.

Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers’ Dallan Hayden, Shillington (Pa.) Governor Mifflin’s Nicholas Singleton and Littleton (Colo.) Valor Christian’s Gavin Sawchuk are the running backs Notre Dame appears to be pursuing the hardest. Like Price, all three of them hold four-star distinction on 247Sports and Rivals.

College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy’s Damari Alston, Rockwall (Texas) Heath’s Zach Evans and Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Oakland’s Jordan James are among other Irish running back targets who are worth knowing.

Only once in the Brian Kelly Era has Notre Dame signed two running backs who garnered at least four-star status on 247Sports and Rivals: 2013 with Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. So with their recent surge in running back recruiting, the Irish could assemble a historically strong class at the position in 2022.

No. 1 running back Kyren Williams signed with Notre Dame in the 2019 class. Lance Taylor continued the momentum after replacing Autry Denson as Irish running backs coach. Taylor helped sign four-star running backs in back-to-back cycles, adding speedster Chris Tyree (2020) and hefty bruiser Audric Estime (2021). Three-star running back Logan Diggs also signed with Notre Dame last cycle.

Now the Irish could add to their loaded running back room by signing Price and one of Hayden, Singleton or Sawchuk. Here’s a closer look at that big three.

Dallan Hayden, 5-11, 195; Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers

If Dallan’s last name sounds familiar, it might be because of his father, Aaron.

Once a recruit from Detroit approximately 30 years ago, Aaron Hayden came close to signing with Notre Dame. He ultimately chose Tennessee, though, before spending four years as a running back in the NFL.

As a freshman, Hayden helped lift the Volunteers to a 35-34 victory over the Irish on Nov. 9, 1991. He caught a 26-yard touchdown pass on a screen late in the fourth quarter. The game, known as the “Miracle at South Bend,” saw Notre Dame enter halftime with a 31-7 lead.

Now both programs are among Dallan’s favorites. The Irish will hope to make amends on losing Aaron by signing his son.

“He always tells me that it comes down to what I want to do,” Dallan said on his father’s influence. “He said he’s going to support me no matter what I do.”

Ohio State and Oregon were the two other schools Hayden included in his top four list he released on Jan. 1. Illinois recently emerged as an option, too. The Illini extended Hayden a scholarship offer on Jan. 20. They also received a transfer commitment from his older brother, former Arkansas and East Carolina running back Chase Hayden, last month.

Some schools initially targeted Hayden on defense. He impressed as a cornerback earlier in his career at Christian Brothers. Then as a junior last season, Hayden secured a larger role as the lead running back.

Taylor offered Hayden last June — months before he turned 232 carries for 2,010 yards and 24 touchdowns across nine games.

“They were one of the first schools to be all in on me at running back,” Hayden said. “It means a lot, because they are a big-time program. I feel like most people doubted me at running back. So for them to show that interest from day one meant a lot.”

A handful of Notre Dame coaches — including Kelly, Taylor and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees — held a Zoom call with Hayden last Thursday. In hopes to secure Hayden’s commitment soon, the Irish are beginning to involve Kelly more in his recruitment.

Hayden has yet to visit South Bend. He plans to take multiple do-it-yourself trips to schools from his top list during the recruiting dead period this spring. Then he will announce his decision.

“Their football history, they are one of the blue bloods,” said Hayden on why the Irish appeal to him. “Their tradition speaks for itself. Championships. They did really well this year in the ACC. They are always getting wins. Then their academics. They are one of the best schools in America for academics. So it’s really a great place academically and athletically.”

247Sports: No. 22 RB, No. 231 overall | Rivals: No. 19 RB, No. 159 overall

Nicholas Singleton, 6-0, 205; Shillington (Pa.) Governor Mifflin

Identifying Singleton as a top target early in his recruitment has helped Notre Dame hold firm as one of his top schools.

The Irish offered Singleton on Nov. 23, 2019. He was the first running back and seventh overall recruit in the 2022 class to pick up an offer from Notre Dame. At that point, Singleton had offers from only a handful of Power Five programs.

“They have been telling me ever since they offered me that I’m their main priority,” Singleton said. “They want me to be part of the team and come back to campus.”

Singleton came to South Bend twice during the 2019 season for the games against USC and Boston College. He intended to return for an Irish recruiting camp last June until the COVID-19 pandemic materialized.

Once the dead period is lifted, Singleton plans to visit Notre Dame. Earlier this month, the NCAA extended the dead period through May 31. It was set to expire on April 15.

“I was going to see a lot of schools, but now I can’t,” Singleton said. “I needed to go, because I was going to cut down my list soon and commit sometime in the summer. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I’m mad about it.”

After his prolific junior season, Singleton garnered more offers. He recorded 1,311 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 107 carries across eight games. Penn State and Ohio State are perceived as the biggest threats to Notre Dame’s chances of signing him.

“Probably just the academic piece,” said Singleton on the main question he wants answered regarding the Irish. “When I went there two times, I didn’t really talk to the academic advisor like that. So I probably want to get down there and talk more to the academic advisor. And talk more with the coaching staff.”

Kelly recently increased his involvement in Singleton’s recruitment like he did with Hayden. Singleton said Kelly spoke with him last Saturday.

“He’s a really nice coach, nice person,” Singleton said. “Notre Dame has a good football team. The coaching staff is really amazing. I talk to Taylor, Kelly and Rees. I have a good relationship with those guys. They are amazing.”

247Sports: No. 6 RB, No. 88 overall | Rivals: No. 7 RB, No. 126 overall

Gavin Sawchuk, 5-11, 175; Littleton (Colo.) Valor Christian

Hayden or Singleton signing with Notre Dame seems like a realistic possibility. Sawchuk isn’t, at least as of now.

Oklahoma is widely considered Sawchuk’s top school, followed by Stanford and Michigan. Still, the Irish are not finished recruiting Sawchuk. Notre Dame’s coaching staff intends to heavily court Sawchuk and involve Kelly in his recruitment.

Rivals (No. 1 running back, No. 44 overall) and 247Sports (No. 3 running back, No. 43 overall) both rank Sawchuk significantly higher than Hayden and Singleton. Across eight games as a junior last season, Sawchuk tallied 1,239 yards and 17 touchdowns on 131 rushes.

The Irish likely won’t make up enough ground to land Sawchuk. Losing him won’t matter much if they eventually sign Price and Hayden or Singleton.

Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers’ Dallan Hayden, a four-star running back in the 2022 recruiting class, considers Notre Dame as a top school.

The following recruits are verbally committed to Notre Dame's 2022 class, which ranks No. 6 and No. 7 nationally on 247Sports and Rivals, respectively.

RB Jadarian Price

DE Aiden Gobaira

DE Tyson Ford

OT Ty Chan

LB Nolan Ziegler

TE Jack Nickel

OL Joey Tanona