Getting to know the depth chart is a rite of passage for a young football player. But few get to know the depth chart like CJ Prosise.
Last season, Prosise joined the roster as a promising safety before taking reps at outside linebacker when Danny Spond got injured. Later in the year, he served as a scout team wide receiver, replicating Alabama’s wide receivers when giving the Irish defense a competitive look. For a young kid trying to get acclimated to college football, the multiple positions and challenges didn’t seem to faze Prosise.
“You work where they put you at and do the best that you can,” Prosise said last week. “Just get better every day.”
That flexibility has allowed Prosise to be one of the stories of the spring, as the six-foot, 220-pound rising sophomore has taken over the inside track at the slot receiver. With Davonte Neal leaving South Bend to be closer to his newborn daughter, the door has opened for Prosise, and the youngster has caught the eye of head coach Brian Kelly.
“It was pretty evident that he’s going to be a really good player,” Kelly said. “He just needs a lot more work.”
That work has come this spring, with Prosise one of the only healthy inside receivers on the roster. Perhaps just as important, it came before the season, in the run-up to the BCS Championship game. The look Prosise gave the Irish’s starting defense was good enough to convince the coaching staff that Prosise was worth a look on the offensive side of the ball. If it meant getting on the field sooner, it was okay to Prosise.
“That’s what I came here to do. To play,” Prosise said. “If receiver is the best opportunity for me to play, then I want to play receiver.”
It’s rare that a football player has the size and athleticism to play as divergent of positions as wide receiver and outside linebacker, especially in the Irish’s system. Prosise has also dabbled in the return game, with speed and strength that could work on both punts and kickoffs.
With the slot position being inhabited by all shapes and sizes this spring, including tight end Ben Koyack, it’ll be interesting to see how Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin use the position — especially with a physical, but raw presence like Prosise now an option.
One thing is for certain. It looks like Prosise will help the Irish offense sooner than later.