NFL Draft decisions await Notre Dame RB Josh Adams, LB Te'von Coney
Josh Adams said it five times, swatting away the idea with equal force and repetition.
Would Notre Dame’s standout junior running back — who was honored as the program’s Offensive Player of the Year at Friday’s annual Echoes awards show — consider sitting out the Citrus Bowl against LSU on Jan. 1 to preserve his health and potential NFL Draft standing?
“Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah,” said Adams, wearing a sleek black suit and tie, on Friday night. “I owe these guys too much, and we’ve been doing it together. We’re going to finish it together.”
Together. But for how much longer? In a transcendent junior season, Notre Dame’s 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back has rushed for 1,386 yards, just 51 yards shy of the school record set by Vagas Ferguson in 1979. His 3,154 career rushing yards rank fifth all-time, behind just Darius Walker (3,249), Ferguson (3,472), Allen Pinkett (4,131) and his current running backs coach, Autry Denson (4,318).
The Warrington, Pa., native could realistically claim his coach’s record with a predictably productive senior season.
But will there be a senior season at all?
“I’ve been so busy just enjoying the season that we’ve had and taking it all in with the guys that we’ve had,” Adams said, skillfully deflecting the question. “Obviously it’s something that I will have to think about. But I’m just excited to continue to be here and go to the bowl game that we have in Orlando.
“I’m just trying to live in the moment and enjoy being around my teammates and just having fun with those guys and just going to Disneyland.”
Of course, someone will have to inform Adams that Orlando, Fla., is home to Disney World, not Disneyland. For now, his focus is fixed on No. 16 LSU (9-3) — not an amusement park, and not the tantalizing tease of the 2018 NFL Draft.
But, sooner or later, he’ll have to make a decision.
He isn’t the only one.
Like Adams, linebacker Te’von Coney made a quantum leap in his junior season, leading the Irish in both tackles (99) and tackles for loss (13) despite starting just six games and splitting reps with senior captain Greer Martini.
Coney has stockpiled 174 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and three sacks in a back-loaded three-year Irish career.
“It was wonderful,” Coney said of his breakthrough junior season. “It was a humbling experience for me. I was happy to be able to go through it. It changed me as a person. It changed me as a player.
“I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to have someone like (linebackers coach Clark) Lea, who stays on me each and every day, pushing me and challenging me to be my best.”
Those days may be numbered. The 6-1, 240-pound native of Palm Beach Gardens Fla., accepted the “Impact Player Award” on Friday night in a blue suit with bedazzled red, shining shoes.
But where will Coney’s yellow brick road lead him — to South Bend, or the siren song of the NFL?
“We’ll see,” said Coney, who confirmed that he requested feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. “It’s something I have to think about with my family and obviously my coaches and put everything in perspective.”
Here’s some perspective on the big picture for No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3): without departing linebackers and team captains Nyles Morgan and Martini in 2018, the Irish offer a glaring lack of experience in their linebacker corps. Besides Coney, no other player on Notre Dame’s roster next fall will have started a game at the middle or weakside linebacker positions.
After being honored with the Rockne Student-Athlete Award on Friday, senior rover Drue Tranquill — who made 74 tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss this season and has started 24 consecutive games — announced that he will return to Notre Dame for a fifth year in 2018.
Eighth-year head coach Brian Kelly must be hoping he isn’t the only one.
Two of Notre Dame’s most productive juniors have decisions yet to make. But first, they have a bowl game to win … and an amusement park to visit.