Stanford RB Trevor Speights commits to grad transfer to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame wasn’t quite finished raiding the NCAA transfer portal.

The shopping spree for graduate transfers continued Thursday when former Stanford running back Trevor Speights announced his commitment to the Irish on Twitter.

Speights will become the fourth graduate transfer to join the Irish this offseason, following safety Isaiah Pryor (Ohio State), wide receiver Ben Skowronek (Northwestern) and cornerback Nick McCloud (N.C. State). That equals the total scholarship grad transfers the Irish added in the previous six years.

Of the four graduate transfers this offseason, Speights may have the most uncertain path to playing time.

The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Speights missed the entirety of Stanford’s 4-8 season in 2019 with an apparent injury. With a chance to finally step out of the prolific shadows of Christian McCaffrey (2016) and Bryce Love (2017-18), Speights was unable to take advantage.

In his sophomore and junior seasons with the Cardinal, Speights played in 20 games, started one and recorded 95 carries for 363 yards and one touchdown. He also caught seven passes for 54 yards.

That’s not exactly a résumé that will automatically launch him to the top of a crowded and unclear depth chart at Notre Dame. Speights has fewer career carries than Notre Dame senior Jafar Armstrong (118), fewer career touchdowns than Armstrong (eight) and juniors C’Bo Flemister (five) and Jahmir Smith (two) and undoubtedly less speed than highly touted freshman Chris Tyree. Even sophomore Kyren Williams brings an intriguing versatility to Notre Dame’s backfield.

So where does that leave Speights? If the Irish are fortunate, he can rekindle some of his high school production at McAllen (Texas) Memorial. There Speights rushed for 9,868 yards and 120 touchdowns in four seasons. That’s the Speights that current Notre Dame run game coordinator Lance Taylor recruited as Stanford’s running backs coach.

Speights signed with Stanford’s 2016 recruiting class as a three-star recruit. Rivals ranked him as the No. 22 running back in the class. 247Sports slated him as the No. 41 running back.

Notre Dame didn’t offer Speights in the same class it signed Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh at the position. Jones left Notre Dame following a senior season with 857 rushing yards. McIntosh was dismissed from the team following his sophomore season and remains on Washington State’s roster following a stop at East Mississippi Junior College.

The Irish are slated to have six scholarship running backs on the 2020 roster without accounting for former walk-on Mick Assaf, who was granted a scholarship for the 2019-20 school year. Armstrong would appear to be the leading candidate to receive the most carries if he can stay healthy. The converted wide receiver was limited to 46 carries for 122 yards and one touchdown and 13 catches for 97 receiving yards in nine games. He missed four games with an abdominal tear.

Flemister, Smith and Williams all saw action last season, though Williams preserved a year of eligibility by playing in only four games. Smith rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries. Flemister totaled 162 yards and five touchdowns on 48 carries.

Tyree, who runs a 40-yard dash in the range of 4.3 seconds, could also vie for playing time as a freshman despite his smaller stature (5-10, 190).

As the Notre Dame football team navigates a return to campus amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Irish will also need to complete their annual scholarship limbo. Former walk-ons Assaf and offensive lineman Colin Grunhard were both awarded scholarships for the 2019-20 school year at the end of last season. If they revert to walk-on status, the current scholarship count would sit at 88 — three above the NCAA maximum. The Irish have until the first day of fall-semester class on Aug. 10 to get to 85.

Because Speights graduated from Stanford, he will be allowed to play immediately at Notre Dame to use his fifth year of eligibility. But he won’t have much time to acclimate to Notre Dame’s program whenever the Irish are allowed back on campus.

Speights will need to hit the ground running to make his impact felt at Notre Dame.

Former Stanford running back Trevor Speights, right, announced his commitment to graduate transfer to Notre Dame on Thursday night.