Notre Dame freshman RB Josh Adams remains humble, hungry

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Josh Adams passes out credit like it’s candy on Halloween.

His offensive line gets some. His senior leaders get some. His coaching staff gets some. Everybody gets some.

Following a regular season in which he rushed for 757 yards and five touchdowns, averaging a team-best 7.3 yards per carry, the only person the freshman running back won’t anoint is himself.

“I’m definitely blessed to be in this position, with the leadership that we have from the seniors, with that offensive line that we have dominating all year, with Tarean (Folston) and C.J. (Prosise) helping me out, trying to make me a better player, with me and Dexter (Williams) competing in practice, trying to make each other better,” Adams said, effectively reciting the Irish roster when asked about his individual success.

“Whatever situation we’re in, we’re trying to improve from the last week and trying to be better players. That really helped on game day, especially with the offensive line picking us up, giving us the confidence that we need. I’m just happy running behind a group like that. They’re really making it easy on us, so we can stay focused and do our job and not worry about anything else. So I’m just blessed to be in this position.”

If you’re keeping score at home, the responsible parties for Adams’ meteoric rise are:

• His offensive line, which blocked for him

• His senior mentors, who guided him

• His fellow running backs, who molded him

• And his fellow freshmen, who pushed him

Ask the aforementioned parties, however, and he’s leaving someone out.

“He’s a guy who is just a complete athlete, who we knew had crazy capabilities,” sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “He had the opportunity that I had, to come in and really prove himself. It’s to the point now where he’s letting me know things that I need to know when we’re out there. That development and that trust in the coaching staff and the older guys that were in front of him has allowed him to develop into a great running back.”

It’s true, Adams would not have ripped off a school record 98-yard touchdown run against Wake Forest without the help of his offensive line. He wouldn’t have amassed 168 rushing yards against Stanford, a Notre Dame freshman record, without running backs coach Autry Denson’s steady instruction. He wouldn’t have averaged 7.3 yards per rush, fifth in school history, without Prosise setting a constant example.

But though it’s certainly a team effort, Adams has transcended his role.

“You never really understand what a freshman is going to turn out to be (until he plays),” Kizer said. “There’s a lot that goes into college football, and there’s only a handful of people that can truly grasp it as fast as Josh does — of any true freshman out there.

“Now, looking back, this is an opportunity that he took and ran with. He’s one of the better guys that I’ve seen do what he does. He truly understands the offense in and out. He’s been leading us as a true freshman.”

The next challenge may be Notre Dame’s most severe, as the CFP and AP No. 8 Irish meet CFP and AP No. 7 Ohio State (11-1) in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day. More specifically, Adams and Co. will be forced to confront the No. 2 scoring defense (14.0 points per game), No. 10 total defense (303.5 yards per game) and No. 22 rushing defense (127.3 yards per game) nationally.

While Prosise is expected to return from the high ankle sprain that sidelined him against Stanford, Adams, too, has earned his place in the game plan.

“It’s helpful, because both of them complement each other so well. Josh has proven himself to be such a hard inside physical runner, and C.J. clearly gives us that home run ability,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “So if we can ever get them tagging up together it’d be a very lethal one-two punch.”

Despite a torn ACL suffered in his junior year of high school, Adams has packed that punch. Despite his meager beginnings on the Irish depth chart, the wiry 6-foot-2, 212-pound freshman is leading the way.

Despite what he says, Notre Dame’s next-man-in deserves as much credit as anyone.

And if he has his way, the New Year’s Day press conference will more closely resemble Halloween.

“To have an opportunity to play with Team 127, it’s a great group of guys,” Adams said with a grin. “I’m just blessed to be able to have this opportunity. Obviously we had a lot of goals set for ourselves, and with what came up against us, we accomplished almost everything that we wanted to.

“Heading into this bowl game, we’re still focused. We’re still locked in, trying to end this season on a good note, even after all we’ve been through.”

mvorel@sbtinfo.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) picks up yards during the first half of Notre Dame-Stanford NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Palo Alto, Calif. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN