Pressure-filled moments aren't too big for Notre Dame freshman running back Logan Diggs
The last play Kyren Williams remembered watching before being tested for a concussion was a 15-yard reception by freshman running back Logan Diggs.
Williams, Notre Dame’s starting running back, was temporarily sidelined from last Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech when he was illegally targeted and hit in the head by linebacker Dax Hollifield. That meant Diggs, who already recorded the first carry of his Notre Dame career in the second quarter, would be needed in crunch time.
With the Irish trailing 29-21 and only 3:49 remaining in the game, the team’s three most-experienced backs weren’t available. In addition to Williams, sophomore Chris Tyree was sidelined with a turf toe injury. Senior C’Bo Flemister didn’t make the team’s travel roster and was left back in South Bend.
Diggs, who didn’t play in the first five games of the season, didn’t flinch in the moment with a crowd of 65,632 mostly making noise and cheering against Notre Dame. On the first play he re-entered the game, Diggs ran an angle route, caught a short pass from quarterback Jack Coan and picked up 12 yards after the catch to put the Irish in Virginia Tech territory.
“He showed up big time,” Williams said after No. 14 Notre Dame (5-1) completed the 32-29 comeback victory. “We expected that from Logan tonight. We always knew that he had it in him.
“He came out tonight and proved himself when he needed to prove himself on our (second-to-) last drive when the crowd was going crazy. A two-minute drive, you could see how even-keeled he was.”
How Diggs handled that moment wasn’t a surprise to those who know him best.
“Logan is the most cool, chill, calm, collected fellow you’ll meet,” said trainer Albert Brock, who worked with Diggs for the past two years at ABX Elite Sports Training in New Orleans.
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Diggs’ head coach at Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel, Nick Monica, tuned into ACC Network on Saturday night in time to watch his former player make his debut.
“He looked like he belonged out there,” Monica said. “That’s probably because of his preparation. He’s always been that way. He’s taken pride in that.
“He does a lot of little things. He appreciates those little things when he prepares and works on them. Good players don’t normally do that. His preparation got him to that point and allowed him to be successful.”
Diggs performed in big moments at Rummel High School. The Raiders finished Diggs’ junior season as state champions with a 13-0 record. That was the year Diggs showed Monica the type of player he could become.
“Playing underneath the lights and having that pressure is something he’s used to,” Brock said.
Even Diggs’ recruiting process was more pressure-packed than normal. A week before the early signing period last December, home-state LSU offered Diggs a scholarship. As a three-star running back prospect, Diggs gave Notre Dame his verbal commitment in late July 2020.
A decision to ditch the Irish for the Tigers would have been easy. He would have been following the same path from Rummel to LSU that worked well for cornerback Kristian Fulton and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in recent years.
Diggs skipped the early signing period to weigh his options and officially sealed his commitment to Notre Dame on National Signing Day in February.
“He handled it pretty well,” Monica said. “It’s just like most kids. They don’t want to make the wrong decision, so they feel the pressure.
“I was happy that he stuck it out with his original commitment, because those things nowadays can sometimes be a circus. I’m happy that he has a good head on his shoulders and a good support system that guided him to make the right decision.”
Diggs put together a productive career at Rummel, but his statistics didn't necessarily match some of the video game numbers put up by top running back recruits in high school. In a breakout junior season, Diggs rushed 165 times for 924 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He capped his career with a similar output as a senior: 138 carries for 913 yards and 10 touchdowns and 18 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Rivals ranked Diggs as the No. 19 running back in the 2021 recruiting class. 247Sports slated him No. 34 at the position. But what those recruiting analysts may have not valued enough was how well-rounded Diggs was. In the first 68 seconds of his senior highlights, Diggs plowed through a tackle attempt, hurdled a defender, broke away for a long touchdown run, leveled a defender as a lead blocker for his quarterback and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
“I don’t know if he has one strength,” Monica said. “That’s why he is what he is. He’s quick enough and elusive enough to make a guy miss when he needs to. He’s strong and physical enough to lower his shoulder and get a few extra yards when he needs to. He’s a great pass catcher. He’s physical enough and takes enough pride in his pass pro.
“He wants to be good in all phases as a running back and not just a guy who’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s a complete player, and that’s what’s going to make him a successful college back as well.”
Brock, whose client list has included NFL linebackers Deion Jones (Falcons), Kwon Alexander (Saints) and Bobby Wagner (Seahawks) and running backs Leonard Fournette (Buccaneers) and Tony Jones Jr. (Saints), has long been impressed by Diggs’ balance. Diggs can play through contact and sudden movements without losing his track.
“I hate to toot the kid’s horn because I’m his trainer, but he’s one of those kids who will take it all the way,” Brock said. “I say that not because of his physical assets. It’s just the type of mind set Logan has. Logan knows he has to approach everything the same. Logan knows it takes consistent effort. Logan knows it takes hard work.”
And when it’s time for that hard work to be reflected on the playing field — like he did on his six carries for 29 yards and one catch for 15 yards on 20 snaps at Virginia Tech — expect Diggs to make it seem routine.
“He’s pretty mild-mannered,” Monica said. “He very rarely gets worked up about anything. That goes with excitement too. It’s rare that you would see him celebrate something in football. He just kind of rolls with it.”
Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.