Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Running Backs and Sour Patch Kids

Fall One Foot Down position previews roll to the running backs. With a fifth-round NFL Draft pick, the coach in the previous position taking over as offensive coordinator in Louisville, and some serious off-season injuries, the Irish will have many questions to answer in the backfield this year.

With that in mind, I present the five running backs on the list as flavors of one of my favorite candies: Sour Patch Kids.

Kraft plans to raise prices on numerous products over the next year

Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Writing about Sour Patch Kids while trying to eat healthy is a slippery slope. The same may be true for reading about Sour Patch Kids, so proceed with caution.*

Let us begin.

Logan Diggs- Cherry

NCAA Football: Notre Dame in Virginia

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If you’ve ever opened a bag of Sour Patch Kids, chances are the majority were red kids. It stands to reason that the most common flavor in a typical bag corresponds to (theoretical) return #1.

A healthy Diggs looked like the most natural in the 2022 squad. His receiving numbers weren’t great (6 receptions, 51 yards, 1 TD), but his 230 rushing yards, 4.4 yards per carry, and three touchdowns on the ground were all better than Chris Tyree, though Tyree played in four other games.

Then Diggs was sidelined by a torn labrum at this spring’s Blue Gold game, most likely keeping him out until October. At the risk of straining the Sour Patch Kids metaphor, the 2022 season is one of those rare bags where cherry isn’t the dominant flavor. But assuming Diggs returns to and stays at 100% healthy in the latter half of the season, given his mix of smoothness and versatility, he should become the number one pass catcher option.

Chris Tyree & Audric Estime – Lemon & Lime

Some things just belong together. Like thunder and lightning, peanut butter and jelly, or… lemon and lime. They complement each other wonderfully. Just ask fans of Sprite.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame

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Tyree is the lighting of Estime’s Thunder. The jelly with his peanut butter. The lemon to his lime.

Tyree is a constant threat to bring kickoffs in the house, but don’t be surprised if the coaching staff shields him from lower competition for fear of another injury to an already depleted positional group. Tyree’s stature and injury history suggest he wouldn’t be successful as a workhorse, but his receiving ability (24 receptions, 258 yards, 2 TDs in 2021) and open field speed make him a fantastic gadget option.

Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech

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Estime, on the other hand, is designed to do some damage. He recorded just seven total carries last season, six of which came in a 55-0 shellacking by Georgia Tech. But Tyree’s physical condition and two serious injuries in the position group have pushed Estime to be the number one ball carrier to start the 2022 campaign.

The return of Diggs will inevitably siphon carry from Tyree and Estime. But Estime’s main opportunity is to force the coaching staff to keep giving him replays if he can prove himself in Digg’s absence.

Jadarian Price – Blue Raspberry

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for Price, he won’t be taking his first collegiate snaps until the 2023 season, barring an unlikely recovery from an Achilles tendon rupture he sustained in June. That’s disappointing given the stir the four-star early entrant made this spring.

Despite the departure of Kyren Williams after the 2021 campaign, Notre Dame’s backfield has been a perceived strength heading into 2022. That’s because they had three types of running backs — the slick Diggs, the speedy Tyree, and the punishing Estime – already in your lap. The eclectic price tag came as a new flavor (blue raspberry, if you will) and made a good situation even better.

Notre Dame fans got a glimpse of why the coaches were so smitten with Price when he recorded 126 total yards in the blue-gold game, including a 51-yard touchdown reception on a Steve Angeli screen pass.

Diggs’ injury even opened the door for Price to possibly get work as the No. 1 ball carrier, at least to start the 2022 campaign. If his rehab goes better than expected, we might get a look at Price in the postseason, although even that’s a long way off.

Gi’Bran Payne – Mystery Flavor

Syndication: Cincinnati

TONY TRIBBLE FOR THE QUESTIONER via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In case you didn’t know, in 2021, Sour Patch Kids revealed a mystery flavor as part of a promotional contest. (That taste? Banana Cream Pie). And mystery seems appropriate for Payne given how unpredictable his role will be this season.

Seemingly destined to be a redshirt this season, injuries to Diggs and Price have forced Payne to the No. 3 running back rank by default. The four-star product from LaSalle High School in Cincinnati was originally recruited by then-Indiana running backs coach Deland McCullough to play at Bloomington. Following McCullough’s tenure at Notre Dame, Payne broke away from the Hoosiers and signed with the Irish last April.

While fate has presented Payne with an opportunity to play a significant role as a freshman, he himself needs to stay healthy. As a high school junior, he missed all but one game with an ankle injury, and a recurrence of that injury handicapped him in his senior year (only 274 rushing yards on 66 carries for the season). But he flashed during his second campaign, rushing 77 times for 790 yards and nine touchdowns and catching eight passes for 141 yards and three points.

Which version of Payne Notre Dame gets could make a big contribution to the Irish running game getting through the first half of the year without Diggs.

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