- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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The "1-8" connection that good friends Malik Zaire (No. 8) and Greg Bryant (No. 1) talked about last season will have to be put on hold. But Notre Dame should be in position to withstand the four-game suspension to their highly touted running back.
Yes, the run game should be more of a factor with Zaire under center this fall. But Bryant's time with the Irish thus far has been far more about potential than production, and his biggest bursts have often come in the special-teams department -- an area that will likely take a bigger hit in the season's first month than the backfield will.
Tarean Folston -- like Bryant, a four-star 2013 prospect from Florida -- has been far more productive carrying the ball so far. He started 10 games last season, tallying 889 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He entered the spring as the top back, and his biggest competition for that spot might have come from someone other than Bryant.
Head coach Brian Kelly and the rest of the Irish staff was effusive in their praise of C.J. Prosise, who cross-trained at running back and receiver this spring. Just look at the end of Kelly's answer after the Blue-Gold spring game when asked about the offensive line and running game in general:
"Running backs, all three of them are capable of being a really solid force. Folston is just really solid in all phases. I thought Greg did some pretty good things today. But again, the guy that keeps jumping out at us is C.J. Prosise."
Perhaps the Irish foresaw the Bryant suspension -- for the vaguely termed team rules violation -- coming way back in the spring, forcing the move of Prosise to the backfield, although the move would have made sense anyway given the fact that Folston and Bryant were the Irish's only two scholarship running backs this spring. In any case, the decision proved to be prescient.
While Folston is steady and reliable, Prosise, a redshirt junior who began his career as a defensive back, is a big-play threat. He tallied a play of 20 or more yards in nine different games last season and had four plays of 50 or more yards. He averaged 17.8 yards per catch, and he gives the Irish offense the kind of versatility it hasn't seen since Theo Riddick was a dual-threat in 2012, the year Notre Dame reached the national title game.
Riddick took advantage of the move and the circumstances following it -- returning starter Cierre Wood was suspended the first two games of the season for an unspecified team rules violation and he never re-took his starting job upon his return.
Prosise's team-best 12-carry, 64-yard performance in April's spring game further validated his switch, and it's a move that, along with the continued emergence of Folston, could have Bryant fighting for carries upon his Oct. 3 at Clemson.
17dPaula Lavigne and Nicole Noren