Notre Dame football: Folston making a smooth transition

Bob Wieneke

The film service that the Cocoa (Fla.) High School football program subscribes to allows head coach John Wilkinson to track who is doing his football homework, and for how long.

One guy, who happened to be Wilkinson’s No. 1 guy, always seemed to be the leader in time spent tackling tape.

That guy? Tarean Folston, now a freshman running back at Notre Dame.

“He’s just kind of a film junkie,” Wilkinson said, “so I knew he was going to fit right in.”

The fit right now is a tight one in a crowded Notre Dame backfield, but through four games, Folston is squeezing his way in.

The 5-foot-9, 207-pound Folston, who has not been made available for interviews since arriving at Notre Dame in June, has played in three of four games — he did not see action in the loss at Michigan — carrying nine times for 26 net yards and also has a reception for nine yards.

Those numbers may not scream “featured back,” but Folston did gain his most meaningful time to date in last week’s win over Michigan State. Folston played in the first quarter on a drive in which the Irish took a 3-0 lead.

Later in the half, he carried on three consecutive downs, gaining nine yards.

“Folston is very smooth,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “Just looks like everything he does is very smooth.”

Helping to smooth Folston’s transition from high school to college has been his all-around ability. According to Wilkinson, Folston is good in pass protection. He runs great routes. He’s got good hands. Good vision. Can run between the tackles and can bounce outside.

“He’s kind of one of those guys that can do it all,” Wilkinson said.”

Pressed to give Irish fans a comparable back, Wilkinson offered up the name of former Irish great Ricky Watters before expanding.

“He’s got certain traits of a lot of good backs,” Wilkinson said. “I think what sets him apart from everybody is not his physical but his mental and how he picks things up and how he understands the game of football, and what people are trying to do on offense and how defenses try to stop that. And I think that kind of gives him a leg up on some other people.”

Aiding in that is the fact that Folston’s father, James, played in the NFL for the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals.

James Folston, a linebacker, played at Louisiana-Monroe and was a second-round pick in the 1994 draft.

“He’s kind of taught him that in order to be good, you have to prepare yourself,” Wilkinson said.

One thing Folston will likely be prepared for is ND’s upcoming trip to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the Shamrock Series game against Arizona State. Folston and Cocoa played there, losing to power Dallas Skyline, in a game in which Folston had 100 yards receiving and 80 rushing.

“He did well,” Wilkinson said. “He did well.”

Wilkinson, whose team is 2-1 this year, hasn’t had a lot of chances to watch Folston this season, but did see him perform late in ND’s season-opening victory over Temple.

“I think he looked fine. I don’t think he looked nervous at all. He’s a gamer,” Wilkinson said. “He likes playing football and enjoys being out there. I don’t think he’s the type of person that gets nervous, because he prepares himself so well.”

Notre Dame's Tarean Folston before the game between Notre Dame and Michigan State on Saturday, September 21, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN