- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
No coaching staff wants to lose its top commitment, and running back is a position where a team often needs two or even three quality players at the spot.
However, if Notre Dame is going to lose its top player in the 2014 class, running back is the one position where the Fighting Irish can afford to take a hit. The Irish lost RB Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic), No. 47 in the ESPN 300, who decommitted Tuesday, according to 247Sports.com.
The 6-foot-0, 221-pound Hood, No. 7 at his position nationally, was set to provide another backfield option for Coach Brian Kelly once he arrived in 2014, possibly in time for the spring semester. The Irish already have a surplus of options going into the 2013 season and for the foreseeable future, which softens the blow of Hood reneging on his verbal pledge.
Kelly believes he has six capable running backs on his roster at the moment, led by leading returning rusher George Atkinson III. Atkinson has two seasons of eligibility left, and redshirt sophomore Amir Carlisle has three.
Notre Dame is loaded with talented freshmen at running back, too. Four-star running back William Mahone, who signed in 2012, is coming off a redshirt season, and Kelly is impressed with what he is seeing from the No. 15 running back nationally in the 2012 class. In the 2013 class, Notre Dame signed No. 2 running back Greg Bryant and No. 6 athlete Tarean Folston, who will play running back for the Irish.
Kelly raved about those freshmen during a recent news conference.
"Probably more pleased with that group than any," Kelly said. "You have guys that can help us win right now. Greg Bryant can help us win. Will Mahone had a great offseason, he's had a great camp. He's playing a little bit more in the slot. He's got very good ball skills. We didn't even know how good his ball skills were until we started to put him in the slot a little more. He's really come on and probably been one of those guys in the first few days that has caught our attention."
Despite the options, Notre Dame is still faced with turning that potential into the same punch it had in 2012, when the Irish rushed for more than 200 yards in seven games behind Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. If those six couldn't provide the on-field results Riddick and Wood did, Hood would have come in and been given a shot to be the offense’s workhorse.
Distance has been a factor for Hood this spring, when he originally dropped several Midwest schools before selecting the Irish. With that, he could likely end up in the ACC with North Carolina as a considerable favorite, with Clemson being another option.
487dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert