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  • Associated Press Notre Dame running back Josh Adams stiff arms Temple linebacker Chapelle Russell on Sept. 2. Irish coach Brian Kelly says, “Josh has got to start to get some kind of national recognition for the kind of season that he's having.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2017 1:00 am

Kelly touts 'stud' back Adams

Irish coach: Junior should be considered for Heisman Trophy

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame at North Carolina

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

TV: ABC

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

It's never too early to talk Heisman Trophy. At least, Brian Kelly doesn't think so.

Once the calendar flipped to October, Notre Dame's coach entered campaign mode. As of this week, Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley is considered the front-runner for the Heisman, which is presented annually to the best player in college football.

Kelly has heard all about Barkley, who leads the FBS in all-purpose yardage. Kelly respects that, but he's trying to start the Heisman push for one of his own players, junior tailback Josh Adams.

“He's a stud,” Kelly said. “I mean, look, Barkley is a great player at Penn State, but Josh has got to start to get some kind of national recognition for the kind of season that he's having.”

Adams is on pace for a 1,500-yard rushing season, which would break Notre Dame's school record of 1,437 yards, set by Vagas Ferguson in 1979. Adams is averaging an eye-popping 9.1 yards per carry, which ranks third in the nation and would also be a Notre Dame record.

If winning the Heisman is a goal Adams covets, he's kept that to himself. A native of Warrington, Pennsylvania, Adams wants to speak louder on the field than away from it. When asked a question about individual achievements, Adams nearly always defuses the situation with a shy grin and turns it into praise for his teammates.

“We have a great offensive line,” Adams said Saturday after rushing for 159 yards on eight carries in a win over Miami (Ohio). “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.”

Adams is fourth in the nation in rushing yards (658) despite sitting out six full quarters either because of injury or rest.

“I'm feeling blessed,” the first-year team captain said.

Since 1999, only two non-quarterbacks (Alabama tailbacks Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry) have claimed the Heisman. Although it has become a quarterback's award, many view Adams as the Irish's best candidate for the stiff-arming statue since Manti Te'o.

Teo, of course, finished second in 2012. He, like Adams, wasn't the most likely of Heisman contenders. But Notre Dame has had seven Heisman winners, tied with Ohio State for the most of any school, and sometimes candidates come out of left field.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Adams is no big surprise. He had four 100-yard performances as a freshman and four as a sophomore. Still, on a national basis, Adams is not yet a talked-about player such as Barkley or Stanford halfback Bryce Love.

Barkley has produced touchdowns four different ways: rushing, receiving, passing and returning a kickoff. Love leads the nation in rushing with 1,088 yards.

It's early, but Kelly is doing his best to propel Adams into the thick of the Heisman conversation.

“He is a load,” Kelly said. “He's a big, physical runner who gets in the open and then runs away from people, so this is a special back who's having a special year.”

Notes: Kelly announced Tuesday that starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush is day-to-day with soreness in his right foot. An X-ray and MRI revealed no damage. Kelly said Wimbush is wearing a walking boot only “to be really, really conservative.”

cgoff@jg.net