Notre Dame RB Adams faces big choice

Dec 28, 2017 - 8:47 PM A tough decision awaits Notre Dame running back Josh Adams: Should he stay or should he go?

For at least one more game, Adams will be able to avoid the question while also trying to avoid tacklers. The star junior will lead No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3) against No. 17 LSU (9-3) on Monday afternoon in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando's Camping World Stadium.

The Fighting Irish, who are looking for their third 10-win season under coach Brian Kelly, owe much of their success to Adams' strength and athleticism in the backfield. Adams has rushed for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns this season while averaging 7.3 yards per carry.

"We have a great offensive line," Adams told reporters during the season. "A lot of credit goes to them. When we have guys like that to run behind, it's kind of easy to go out there and have fun."

The production has boosted Adams' career totals with the Fighting Irish to 3,157 yards and 22 scores over his first three seasons. He has climbed within 1,162 rushing yards of surpassing Autry Denson as the most prolific running back in the history of Notre Dame.

Another season in South Bend would give Adams a great shot at the record. But is it worth the risk?

Adams could appeal to plenty of NFL teams if he gives up his final year of eligibility and declares for the draft this spring. The 21-year-old has amassed 465 carries in college and played through injuries this year. Most draft pundits project him to be selected between the second and fourth rounds if he leaves early.

Although Adams is more of a north-south runner, he also has shown the ability to break long runs. He leads the nation with seven rushes of 60-plus yards and four runs of 70-plus yards on the season.

Scouts will have plenty of other reasons to watch the Fighting Irish take on the Tigers. Offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson both could be first-round picks, and others such as junior linebacker Te'Von Cooney must decide like Adams whether to turn pro or return to campus next fall.

Regardless, a solid performance on New Year's Day will help Kelly and his assistant coaches with their recruiting efforts going forward. Kelly is 68-34, including 3-3 in bowl games, since his arrival in 2010.

This season has represented a nice rebound for the Fighting Irish, who won only four games in 2016. This year, Notre Dame won eight of its first nine games before falling short at Miami and at Stanford.



PLAYERS TO WATCH

--QB Brandon Wimbush has a great deal of potential, but he has endured a much rockier season than he hoped for entering 2017. He could use a good finish in a high-profile bowl game against LSU. On the year, Wimbush has completed only 49.8 percent of his passes for 1,818 yards and six touchdowns.

--LB Nyles Morgan is a senior captain who will want to finish his college career in style. He is second on the team with 83 tackles, including 6 1/2 tackles for loss.

--TE Durham Smythe could take on a bigger role in the passing game, which is shorthanded because of injuries and suspensions. Most relevant for Smythe is the absence of fellow TE Alize Mack (suspension), which means that Wimbush's options in the short and intermediate passing game could be limited.



ROSTER REPORT

--TE Alize Mack did not travel to Orlando and will not play in the Citrus Bowl after he was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. Mack caught 19 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown this year.

--WR Kevin Stepherson will not play in the Citrus Bowl after a pair of recent arrests, including one incident in which he allegedly shoplifted from a department store near campus. Stepherson caught 19 passes for 359 yards this season and led the team with five touchdowns.

--WR Chase Claypool will miss Monday's game because of a right shoulder injury, coach Brian Kelly said. Claypool was injured during one of his team's practices for the bowl game. He finished the season with 29 catches for 402 yards and two touchdowns.






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