Jafar Armstrong, Jahmir Smith and Colin Grunhard add to Notre Dame roster churn

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Jafar Armstrong started his college career as a wide receiver, moved to running back as a sophomore and then moved back to wide receiver at midseason this year.

Saturday he’s moving again.

Moving on.

Per a source, he’s joined in the transfer portal at the moment by junior running back Jahmir Smith, who in October left the roster to focus on improving his mental health, and reserve center Colin Grunhard, Armstrong tweeted his news Saturday evening. was the first to report the news.

Given the size of Notre Dame’s incoming freshman class for 2021 — 27 and counting — it figures that the three departing players will eventually have some company.

Armstrong and Grunhard, former teammates at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, Kan., can grad transfer without sitting out. Smith may also gain immediate eligibility depending upon whether seemingly imminent NCAA transfer rule changes remain on schedule.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Armstrong opened the 2018 and 2019 seasons at Notre Dame’s No. 1 option at running back, In 2018, Dexter Williams came back from a four-game suspension to start the season to leapfrog Armstrong on the depth chart.

In 2019, it was Tony Jones Jr. who did so.

In both seasons, injuries played a role in Armstrong’s diminished opportunities.

In 2020, sophomore Kyren Williams, freshman Chris Tyrie and junior C’Bo Flemister flipped the depth chart.

Armstrong rushed for 22 yards and 17 carries and caught three passes as a running back for 38 yards this season before moving back to wide receiver in late October. But he couldn’t gain traction there either and didn’t have a touch on offense after ND’s 45-3 romp at Pitt on Oct. 24.

His best season was 2018, when he ran for 402 yards and seven TDs on 72 carries.

Smith’s most productive season was 2019, when he ran for 180 yards on 42 carries with two touchdowns. This past season, all five carries for 15 yards for the 5-11, 205-pound Sanford, N.C., product came in ND’s Sept. 12 season opener with Duke.

Grunhard walked on to the ND program in 2017 and was awarded a scholarship on Christmas Day 2019.

The 6-1, 290-pound son of former Holtz Era Irish standout center Tim Grunhard got cameos in three games this past season — against Duke, South Florida and Syracuse. He saw action in seven games in 2019 and three in 2018 after redshirting in 2017.

In addition to presiding over roster management, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s busy offseason includes accelerating the search for Clark Lea’s successor as defensive coordinator. The new Vanderbilt head coach’s 51st and final game at ND — and 38th in a coordinator role — was one of his most challenging, a 31-14 Irish loss to No. 1 Alabama, Friday in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

“Obviously there's some competitiveness involved in this,” Kelly said Thursday of the hiring process. “There are other openings for coordinators positions, so we can't be sitting on our hands as we look around the country or even internally.

“We have to be able to look at this from a perspective of there's candidates out there that are being looked at by other schools as well. I've got to have that in mind. So relative to the process, we've got to be on top of it.”

Notre Dame’s Jafar Armstrong (8) exits the field following a 31-14 loss to Alabama in the Rose Bowl/CFP semifinal, Friday at Arlington, Texas. Armstrong plans to enter the transfer portal.