Notebook: RB Josh Adams transcends youth, recruiting rating

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Josh Adams stayed away in the summer of 2014 from the high-exposure camps, combines and 7-on-7 competitions, where recruiting reputations are made and/or embellished.

Instead the future Notre Dame running back focused on his comeback from a knee injury, which abbreviated his junior season at Warrington (Pa.) Central Bucks South High School, and attended ND’s inaugural Irish Invasion camp.

Adams didn’t work out at the invitation-only event but did meet with the ND coaches, who already loved what they had seen on film before the injury. Fifteen months later, they’re still loving what they see from one of the least-celebrated members of the 2015 football recruiting class.

Saturday night, when 11th-ranked Notre Dame opens season No. 127 hosting Texas, the supposed No. 47 running back prospect (per Rivals) in the last recruiting cycle and three-star recruit won’t be a spectator.

The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder is one of five true freshmen who’ll line up on special teams for the Irish. He also has secured the third spot in the three-man running back rotation behind 2014 leading rusher Tarean Folston and senior position-switcher C.J. Prosise.

“I think he’s picked up things very well,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Thursday evening after practice. “I think what I like about him is his maturity and physical development in the sense that he’s stronger and more physical than we thought he would be coming in.

“He’s picked up our (pass) protections. We’re going into the season expecting to play him.”

Adams, who rushed for more than 300 yards in a game in his prep senior season and another in which is scored six touchdowns, is part of a surprising and persistent youth movement on a team loaded with returning starters and letter-winners.

As much has been written about Texas’ youth, with 15 true or redshirt freshmen in its two-deeps and among its top kicking specialists. ND, which calls its redshirt freshmen “sophomores,” has 13 such players counting the four-way tie for No. 2 tight end.

A pair of former four-star prospects, freshman Dexter Williams and sophomore converted running back Justin Brent round out a running back stable that’s big on size. Only one back, Williams (5-11, 200), checks in at lighter than Adams’ 212 pounds.

“He’s got some really elite skills, but he’s learning,” Kelly said of Williams, the No. 12 back nationally in the 2015 class. “We’re going to keep working with him. And there’s a chance he could play this year.

“Same thing with Justin Brent. We moved his position to running back, and they just both need time. Both of them just are still learning the position and getting more comfortable. Right now they’re still developmental for us.”

Checking in on Plan B

When two-year starter Everett Golson left the Notre Dame roster in May, the Irish quarterbacking depth chart went from a collective 478 career pass attempts to 35.

And all 35 belong to junior Malik Zaire, who will be making his second career start on Saturday night.

An important but overlooked thread during training camp was developing a clear No. 2 option to Zaire, with sophomore DeShone Kizer emerging as that player.

Kizer’s reps were limited last spring, as he worked almost exclusively with the third team, a decision Kelly said he would have altered had he had an inkling before the end of spring that Golson was about to parachute out for Florida State.

So how game-ready is the 6-4, 230-pounder from Toledo, Ohio, after a month of playing catch-up?

“He’s shown signs of being capable of playing at a high level, and then I see a couple of things and go (sigh) and I scratch my head,” Kelly said. “And I think that’s fairly typical of a quarterback that’s close to breaking through.

“He can go in there and I would have absolutely no question about it, he can win for us. I want him to win a championship for us. And that’s what I’m referring to in terms of breaking through. I think that’s just the consistency we’re lacking a little bit right now.”

At a (good) loss for words

Kelly’s injury report took all of about two seconds Thursday night.

Per the Irish coach there were no new injuries to add to the out-for-the-season players, defensive back Shaun Crawford and nose guard Jarron Jones.

“Go figure,” Kelly said with a smile.

Speaking of Crawford, who suffered an ACL tear in practice on Aug. 19, Kelly reported the freshman underwent surgery Thursday morning.

“Came out great,” Kelly said. “Feel good about his recovery.”


Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Unheralded Notre Dame freshman running back Josh Adams (33) has translated a strong preseason camp into playing time. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)