Considering he galloped into the back of a gauntlet machine a little more than a month ago, Irish junior Cam McDaniel couldn’t have been all that frightened by the Purdue defense.
By the time the Coppell, Texas, native iced the final 7:22 off the clock in the 31-24 win Saturday, he had already received four stitches above his right ear from a first-half collision. Needless to say, he had been through his fair share of battles by the time he helped the Irish survive against the Boilermakers.
The self-proclaimed “Southern boy” unintentionally starred in the gauntlet mishap that became a YouTube sensation, but he has been able to laugh it off since the incident.
“So you all saw Twitter. It was just a ball security drill. That was it,” McDaniel quipped. “We just set up the wrong direction and nobody was awake that day and it was the middle of camp and we were all kind of tired I guess and nobody realized it was the wrong way.”
As the season progresses and McDaniel continues to vie for the bulk of the carries, he says the high-profile nature of suiting up for Notre Dame is part of what attracted him to the university.
“I would say I have complete confidence in myself to get the job done against anybody really,” he said. “It’s just the way I am, that’s why I’m here. That’s why I chose Notre Dame. I knew we were gonna be playing big-time schools the moment I was accepted here. I was made ready at that point.”
This week presents a new challenge: Michigan State’s No. 1-ranked defense.
“They like to stop the run,” McDaniel said. “They’re physical runstoppers and their safeties fly downhill. Everybody gets in on the action. You can stop the tape when the ballcarrier is being taken down and sometimes there’s 11 guys between the hashes running to the ball. That’s something that it’s going to be a challenge that we’re looking to live up to.”
The Spartans are consistently one of the most physical teams on the Irish schedule, and this year should be no different. Head coach Brian Kelly was asked Tuesday whether McDaniel is the ideal back to face a physical front like Michigan State’s.
“It can [help] in certain instances certainly,” Kelly said. “We do so many other things as you know. Pass receiving is important for the running back, right. Amir Carlisle did a tremendous job in pass protection for us on Saturday.
“Here's a guy that we were all talking about. What's the first thing that came to your mind when we talked about Amir Carlisle? His speed, right. He's tremendous in pass protection, stuck his nose in there; was as physical as Cam McDaniel in pass protection.”
Regardless of McDaniel’s performance at Purdue, the running back situation is still a very fluid one for Kelly. He maintains that each of the five players will continue to receive carries. Through three games, McDaniel trails junior Amir Carlisle by one carry for the team lead. He might not have the top 40 time or recruiting ranking, but McDaniel says his heart is one attribute he would gladly compare to anyone else’s.
“I don’t know if it gets me in a rhythm per say, it’s just that at that time of the game when you’re in a four-minute offense and running out the clock, it just goes to who wants it more,” he said. “I think the offensive line and myself on Saturday night accomplished that. That’s just what it comes down to for the offense. I feel like we made a statement the other night with our toughness and physicality at the end of the game.”
McDaniel even made a statement of his own.