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CFF Targets - One for the Gipper...
Several signs point towards Notre Dame RB Audric Estime reaching CFF stardom in 2023
You are the most selfish player I ever coached
- Coach Dan Devine, Rudy (1993)
"Rudy" is an inspirational sports film based on the true story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger. It follows Rudy's relentless pursuit to overcome his physical limitations and fulfill his dream of playing football for the University of Notre Dame (ND) in the 1970s, showcasing the power of perseverance, determination, and the indomitable human spirit. In it, then ND head coach Dan Devine calls Rudy the most selfish player he had ever coached. The context is that — apparently — Rudy was so relentless in his pursuit to see the field, the coach finally cracked and gave him an opportunity.
Truthfully, in the world of CFF one hopes that every one of his players is as selfish as Rudy — give em’ all the touches, all the minutes, give it all! Indeed, with that kind of selfish attitude, some are wondering: was Rudy the original volume pig? Well, as a defensive player, the answer is an emphatic ‘NO’; the fact that he actually wasn’t very good at football doesn’t help either. But the legacy lives on nonetheless, and today we are going to feature another ND player who 1) plays offence, and 2) has some major talent. RB Audric Estime is the man of the hour, and (to my surprise), there is a lot to like about his CFF profile.
Coaching & System
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is a fresh face in the college football (CFB) coaching ranks. He’s been a long time stalwart on the defensive side of the ball, and he finally got his shot to be CEO of a major program when former ND head coach Brian Kelly took the LSU job late in 2021. Since his background is defence, we’re not going to spend time going through his track record.
His OC — Gerad Parker, is a name to know in CFF. Parker spent last season as the TEs coach at ND, but before that he was the OC of two Leddie Brown-led West Virginia teams. Brown was a workhorse for the Mountaineers in the backfield in both seasons, going over 1000 yards rushing in each. He finished 2021 with a total of nearly 1300 yards and 14 TDs, and over 1200 yards and 11 TDs in 2020. Combining his rush attempts (223) and receptions (36) from the 2021 season, Brown averaged 21.5 touches per game over 12 games that season (20.1 FPG in 1-ppr). If we do the same thing for 2020, the average comes out to a wonderful 23 touches per game over 10 games (20.3 FPG).
I wrote an article the other day for Mississippi State’s Jo’Quavious Marks; in it I emphasized the importance of touches for the RB position with respect to clearing 20 FPG. The usage for WVU’s RB Brown under Parker is exactly what we want to see. The only thing is that these are the only two seasons where Parker has called plays so far in his career, and there was also a co-OC listed at WVU during this time who was also responsible for overseeing the RBs. Point being that we don’t really know how much of that offence was due to Parker’s preferences as a play caller. I am slightly concerned that his position group assignments have predominantly been TEs/WRs, which might mean the RB usage was more due to the influence of the co-OC at WVU.
ND brought in stud QB Sam Hartman this offseason, suggesting they are ready to get serious about elevating the passing game. That’s all well and good, but there is a lack of standouts on this roster as it relates to elite pass-catchers currently. There is true freshman Gatehouse, a jumbo Chase Claypool-esque WR who has been making headlines, and we can count on ND to bring along another TE, but overall this team feels like it could still be quite run-oriented in 2023.
RB Audric Estime — 5’11, 227
Rising junior RB Audric Estime is a bruising back by way of upstate New York. In 2022, he made a name for himself rushing for 920 yards and 11 TDs on 156 carries in 12 games for the Fighting Irish (13.8 FPG). He appears to fit the mold of the classic bigger back, as he was used sparingly in the pass game in 2022 and 2021.
He returns to Notre Dame for his junior season, and the runway to heavier volume appeared to open up for him this offseason, as fellow RBs Logan Diggs (transfer) and Chris Tyree (position change) have each vacated the backfield. In 2022, Diggs rushed for 821 yards and 4 TDs on 165 carries in 2022 (12.4 FPG), and Tyree rushed for 444 yards and 3 TDs on 100 carries (8.63 FPG). Let’s just say Estime absorbs about half of the vacated carries (~130), our guy would be hitting around 280 rush attempts next season.
Leddie Brown never saw more than 260 total touches in a season while at WVU, so it might not be the case that Estime takes on half of the vacated touches, but even if he were to absorb a decent sized portion of those, I think it’s likely he sees over 200 carries in 2023. It’s certainly the case that when looking at this backfield right now there is a dearth of warm bodies. Any time the RB1 and RB3 leaves, that’s generally a good sign for the future volume of the RB2.
As fate would have it, while writing this article Penn State’s Devyn Ford transferred to Notre Dame. Ford figures to probably slot in as RB2, or RB3 at worst. I guess the question will be how much of the workload will he shoulder? There are 260 carries vacating this backfield, Estime already saw over 150 last season; so there’s plenty to go around even if Estime takes on another 100+. That being said, with former Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman in the fold, the Irish will probably be passing the ball more often. Between the three lead RBs last year, the runners carried the rock over 410 times total. That number is probably going to go down this season.
ND is likely to pass more often this season. That alone was not much of a concern initially, however with Ford transferring in and likely absorbing some of the vacated carries, the size of the proverbial milkshake is something to consider now with additional straws in the fold.
We’re working with a pretty unknown track record with this coaching staff as it relates to run-game usage. As I mentioned in the C&S section, I’m giving credit to Parker for Leddie Brown at face value, but I am not sure if he was the one responsible.
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