Tarean Folston, C.J. Prosise take charge of running backs
Mary Green | Friday, September 4, 2015
Notre Dame opened its season last year against Rice with a steady rotation in the backfield.
Cam McDaniel took the carries during the first Irish drive, Tarean Folston rushed in the second drive, and Greg Bryant stepped in for the third. Rinse and repeat throughout the 48-17 win.
This year, Notre Dame has seven running backs on its roster, along with a receiver, sophomore Justin Brent, who might find himself in the backfield before long.
Among those eight options, however, only the junior Folston has substantial game experience at the position.
McDaniel graduated last year, and Bryant is ineligible to play this season due to academic issues, leaving Folston as the lone remainder from that trio.
However, it’s not as though Folston will be the only back to bear the load in 2015.
To make up for the losses of Bryant and McDaniel, and to capitalize on the speed he flashed as a receiver, the Irish cross-trained senior C.J. Prosise at the position, which turned into a full-time gig in the backfield when Bryant’s ineligibility was announced at the beginning of August.
“C.J., he’s a freak athlete, man,” Folston said. “He has the position; he knows the position. C.J. does everything like a running back. He just made that switch over to running back, and he already looks like a complete back.”
Though Prosise earned praise from his coaches in the spring because of that quick transition, Folston said a heated rivalry hasn’t developed between the teammates searching for playing time.
“I always practice to be great, so when another back comes in, I hope the best for him too,” he said. “I hope that he practices the same way that I’m trying to practice, so it’s not like, oh, I’m trying to beat him out for this spot.
“It’s a teamwork thing, so we’re working together, and things that I may not know or may have trouble with, he helps me. Things that he may not know or has trouble with, I help him, so it’s that brotherly type deal here.”
Despite Folston’s unique veteran status, his coaches are still looking for him to reach his ceiling this season, a ceiling which head coach Brian Kelly said Folston might not have set high enough for himself.
“Maybe I have a higher expectation of him at times than he does of himself, and that’s where we continue to communicate on a day-to-day basis that I think there’s so much more out there for him,” Kelly said. “I’ve seen that kind of manifest itself in practice. He’s had a really good couple of weeks in practice, and I hope to see that come out on Saturday, because I think he’s a terrific back, and I think there’s much more for him to achieve.”
Folston, who said he has “something to prove” in Saturday’s opener, was coy when asked what he wants to prove for himself.
“You’re gonna see,” he said. “That’s all I can say. You’re gonna see.”
He’ll hit the field alongside his running backs corps, a position that was sometimes overlooked this offseason behind the rest of the offense, where a first-year starting quarterback, strong line and stocked receivers pool have taken precedence.
But Folston said his group is fine with flying under the radar if they’re playing with such a talented offense.
“It’s great to have receivers like that out on the field with you because that opens up running lanes for you because defensive coordinators will have to figure out how to stop the pass game, but we’ve got a great running back corps,” he said. “ … Our whole O-line’s doing great right now. I love running behind those guys, and I know they’re going to lead the way this season.”
When it comes to leading those running backs this season as the lone veteran in the backfield, Folston has advice that’s simple yet to the point.
“I tell everybody, you know, run hard,” he said. “You can’t be stopped. Whenever in practice anybody comes in, I just tell them to just run hard. Do you. Play ball like you know how. That’s all anyone can do is play ball like they know how. They made it here for a reason, so they know how to play ball.”