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Freshman Focus: Will Fuller

Jul 3, 2013, 11:37 AM EDT

WillFuller

With Justin Ferguson and Davonte Neal gone, and Torii Hunter Jr. still recovering from a leg injury, Philadelphia native Will Fuller won’t just be an anonymous freshman when camp opens in August. The six-foot-one receiver could find himself in a battle for early playing time, and given the opportunity to find his way into a depth chart that’s still looking to sort itself out.

Fuller has been a low profile national recruit even while taking Philadelphia high school football by storm. The All-State performer, and the MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League, Fuller flipped an early commitment to Penn State into an Irish pledge, thanks to the work of area recruiter Harry Hiestand.

Let’s take a closer look at what the Irish are getting in Fuller.

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

Fuller made a late jump in the recruiting rankings thanks to some excellent camp work, but still only appeared in Rivals Top 250, garnering four stars from them. But while that’d give you the idea he’s a lesser recruit, head coach Brian Kelly talked about the surprise player Fuller could become on Signing Day.

“He’s a young man that we believe that if there’s a guy that flew under the radar a little bit, it was William Fuller,” Kelly said in early February. “The thing that really clearly stands out is his ball skills.  He can run and catch the football.  Any time that we got a chance to observe him, he was running and catching, just terrific ball skills.  We think as he develops physically, he also has that speed, that top‑end speed that can obviously impact football games.”

Fuller had an early offer to Penn State, but had mostly regional offers, highlighted by Boston College, Rutgers, and Temple.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

There just isn’t a ton of depth in front of Fuller that’s going to keep him off the field. Outside of TJ Jones and Davaris Daniels, the race to seize playing time is wide open. One thing Fuller will need to do is show that he’s up to the task physically.

There seem to be plenty of similarities between Fuller and Chris Brown, another freshman that physically wasn’t totally ready for action, but could help the team in a limited fashion. Yet Fuller has been heralded for his hands, while Brown’s are still a work in progress, so there’s a chance he could do more than just run the deep patterns.

With the ever-changing Z (slot) position now evolving into a position where Daniel Smith or a detached tight end can play, there still is a chance this could be a place for Fuller to seize an opening. He’s got the speed and athleticism needed, and while CJ Prosise looked to put his mark on that position during spring drills, the football will likely be spread around quite often this year, without an All-American first option on the roster.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

It’s hard to jump to any conclusions before fall camp even opens, but Fuller just feels like one of those high school late-bloomers that is a perfect developmental prospect. While the depth chart doesn’t lend itself to patience, there’s reason to believe that the Philadelphia prospect will end up being a very productive football player in South Bend.

Whether that’s on the inside or outside remains to be seen right now. If Fuller sprouts and grows a few more inches while he’s in South Bend, a long and lanky speedster looks like a great fit on the outside, and something the Irish desperately could use. But he also looks like he could fit in the TJ Jones mold as a guy that starts inside and move out throughout his career.

What Fuller’s top-end speed truly is could also be a determining factor. There’s a belief that he’s a guy that can blow the top off of a defense, which is something the Irish need with Chris Brown looking like the lone true vertical threat. But if Fuller possesses great speed and elite hands? That’s a great recipe for success.

 

 

  1. ndnapa - Jul 3, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Fuller was the guy that has the star potential out of this year’s very good crop of WRs. You could see it on his tape. Very similar to Brent’s tape in quality and a great complement to his talents. I’d love to see Fuller and Zaire develop great chemistry this year, as they will both get a lot of playing time, IMO.

    really think the 4 FR WR’s were a very underrated haul and all do different things well. Very optimistic about them and Brent.

  2. padomer - Jul 3, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    west philadelphia??

    • mattnef - Jul 3, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      Born and raised.
      On the playground is where he spent most of his days.

  3. dudeacow - Jul 3, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    This guy is the most natural wide receiver that we picked up this year. Not raw at all, he is also the most polished and has the best route-running skills and probably the best hands. If he is able to have sub-4.4 speed that the staff thinks he will eventually have, he will be the next great receiver for the Irish. The reason he was rated low was because of his short offer list, which was due to his early commitment to Penn State. He also is bone-skinny. This boy needs a sandwich.

  4. mtflsmitty - Jul 4, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    Not many here that are bigger homers than me, but I have to throw a little luke-warm water on some of this. Optimism is one thing. Blind optimism is another. I think you guys are getting a bit ahead of yourselves.

    Almost no one, other than the coach who successfully recruited Fuller, seems to have thought he has star potential. Recruiting ranking services are fairly skilled at projecting players future impact. Not to say *** star guys can’t have great careers. It’s just that it happens far less frequently that fours or fives. Way less frequently.

    All Philly Catholic League
    “If he sprouts a few inches”
    “If he is able to have a sub 4.4″
    “A lot of playing time with Zaire this year”

    Of course, I’d love to see him do well. But frankly if I had to wager, I’d bet his career will look more like Cam’s and less like ND’s next great receiver.

    (Upon re-reading this post, I want you all to know I stand by my comments, but I will be giving myself a thumbs down)

  5. yaketyyacc - Jul 4, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    we haven’t played one game yet. so, far, it is all moot. still, fuller smells like that kind of player, that breaks onto the gridiron and has people saying, who was that. good luck, fuller, the luck of the Irish.

  6. shaunodame - Jul 4, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Fuller has got to be the coolest Will from Philly since The Fresh Prince himself, Mr.Gettin-Jiggy-Wit-It, aka Agent Jay.

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