Reports: Notre Dame RB Tarean Folston to enter 2017 NFL Draft

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Before the reality of an injury-diluted senior season unfolded for Tarean Folston, he volunteered in late August that 2016 would be his final season at Notre Dame.

It was never expected that he’d renege on that vision and return to ND for the 2017 season, even after he put up modest numbers (344 yards, 77 carries, 2 TDs) in a running back rotation that favored sophomore Josh Adams this past season.

The only question once 2016 went sideways was whether he’d spend this spring semester finishing his course work at ND so he could grad-transfer to another school this summer or plunge ahead with his initial impulse to give up his final season of college eligibility and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

On Tuesday, the day after the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, word leaked out that Folston had indeed chosen that route. Multiple outlets, citing anonymous sources, reported Folston’s decision to join Irish quarterback and probable first-rounder DeShone Kizer as early entries in the 2017 draft pool.

Irish Sports Daily reported Folston himself confirmed the draft decision. The NFL will release the official list of early entries to its 32 teams on Friday.

Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller’s latest seven-round mock draft projected the 5-foot-9, 214-pound Folston as a fifth-rounder. Other analysts have the Cocoa, Fla., product going in round six or seven, or ending up as an undrafted free agent.

The underclassmen group of running backs alone is loaded and includes Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel.

Folston finishes his ND career with 1,712 yards, a 5.0 per carry average and 11 rushing TDs. He had 31 receptions for 291 yards and a score.

Folston’s best season was 2014, when he was ND’s leading rusher with 889 yards on 175 carries and six TDs. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2015 opener against Texas in South Bend, and returned to action against the same opponent in the 2016 opener— this time in Austin, Texas.

In Folston’s absence in 2015, converted wide receiver C.J. Prosise and then-freshman Adams combined to help the Irish finish with the best yards-per-carry average in modern school history (post-World War II) at 5.63.

Adams is expected to get the bulk of the carries in the 2017 running back rotation after leading the Irish in 2016 with 933 yards on 158 carries and five TDs while battling through a chronic hamstring injury.

Fellow junior-to-be Dexter Williams (200 yards, 39 carries, 3 TDs), redshirted freshman Tony Jones Jr., and early-enrolled freshman C. J. Holmes will provide depth at the position. It’s unclear if senior-to-be Justin Brent, who redshirted in 2015 and missed last season with an injury, will return to the program in 2017.

ehansen@ndinsider.com

574-235-6112

Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Notre Dame’s Tarean Folston (25) picks up yards during the Notre Dame-Stanford NCAA college football game Saturday, October 15, 2016, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN