Monday, February 11, 2008

Irish Recruiting Recap: Running Back

Last year, the Irish landed 2 what I would consider elite RBs in Robert Hughes and Armando Allen. Therefore, we all knew it was going to be a challenge landing another elite guy at the position this year. As much as we would love to be in the recruiting position of USC where we can simply stockpile 5 star guys at the position year after year, the reality is ND is not there yet. Nevertheless, the Irish landed a solid RB prospect in Jonas Gray.

Let me preface my comments by saying that I do not believe this was a great year for RBs. Aside from Darrell Scott and 1 or 2 other guys, I think everyone else I watched was solid, but not spectacular. Jonas Gray falls into that solid group. I think Jonas is an excellent get for the Irish for a couple of reasons. First, the 2 RBs the Irish landed last year are very different from one another. Robert is a power guy with some quick feet and good hands and Armando is a gamebreaker speed back. When I watch Jonas on film, he seems like a nice combination of Robert and Armando. He does not have the size or power of Robert nor does he have the football speed and quickness of Armando, but he runs low and hard and has enough speed to get the job done. Second, I really like the way Jonas initiates and takes on contact. He protects the ball well, keeps his pad level low, and is not afraid to initiate contact rather than waiting for the pursuer to hit him. Third, the kid is a leader and you can't have enough guys like that on your roster. Fourth, from watching his film, Jonas did a lot of his running from an I formation in high school, which the Irish use frequently. One of the main issues Armando had last season making the adjustment to the college game was that he spent most of his high school career as the feature back in a 1 back set. It is very different learning to read blocks from the I and following your fullback, etc.

Like every other prospect in the country, Jonas has things he will need to improve. I know he ran a 4.3 at one of the football camps, but I didn't see that blazing speed translate onto the field. His film showed good speed, but not 4.3 speed. Jonas will also need to work on his foot quickness, making his cuts quicker and more decisively. Several times on film, he decided to lower his shoulder and take on contact, when a cutback or move could have resulted in a much larger gain. That will come with experience and learning more about the position.

I normally try to think about who a player reminds me of when I am watching them. I had a hard time doing that with Jonas. Anyone have any thoughts there? I was thinking perhaps a guy like Deshaun Foster.

The Irish almost pulled off an improbable coup this recruiting season and almost landed Milton Knox of California in addition to Jonas. I am very very very high on Milton and you can mark it down -- he is going to be a big-time RB. For a guy his size, he just runs with a power you don't normally see. He reminds me a lot of a guy like Maurice Jones Drew and would have been a great back to compete with Jonas in this class.

Jonas Gray is a tremendous addition to an already talented RB corps the Irish will feature next season. While I strongly expect Robert, Armando, and James Aldridge to carry the load next season, Jonas will make his mark before he is through at ND. I am very pleased with the Irish future at RB.

Next Up: Wide Receiver


Jared said...

IG I normally completely agree with what you have to say so this is a rare disagreement....

I think Jonas is a much better get than a lot of Irish fans appreciate. He is a very balanced back (as you stated) and I think he just might be our feature guy that takes over after JA moves on. In fact I think he has the potential to be what James looked like he would be before the injury. I would much sooner take Jonas over Knox, who seems to have a lower ceiling IMO.

People seem to be touting KLM as the next Brian Smith but I think Gray is going to fill that role in this class. He has some work to do in terms of maximizing his physical skills but he clearly has them - its not like the 4.3 was a fluke (not that 40 times are the be-all and end-all).

It isn't a great year for RB's, I agree. But I think we got one of the best three this year and you can never chalk that up as anything but great news.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Ryan Grant now. He is basically a one cut back with good (not great) speed. He breaks tackles and depending on his physical development, could play on Sunday afternoons. He is patient and sees holes well at this stage in his development.