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Irish A-to-Z: Amir Carlisle

Jun 18, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

Amir Carlisle AP

After a broken ankle robbed Notre Dame fans of seeing Amir Carlisle in his first season in South Bend and a collarbone crack ended his first spring in its infancy, Carlisle finally hit the field for the Irish in 2013. Starting the opening game against Temple, it was a winding road to South Bend, beginning with the Irish finishing second for his recruitment but transferring to Notre Dame when his family relocated from California to Indiana for his father’s job. (Dad Duane is the head of sports performance at Purdue.)

After a long wait, Carlisle’s time with the Irish started with a bang, a 45-yard burst around the left side of the offensive line on Notre Dame’s first play of the season. But the season ended with a whimper for Carlisle, who lost his place in the Irish running back rotation after a late-game fumble against Purdue started a downward spiral that turned him into a little-used offensive part.

Rebooting things this spring saw Carlisle determined to find his place in the Irish offense, only this time as a slot receiver. That mission seems accomplished, with the veteran likely starting next season’s opener at a new position.

Let’s take a closer look at Amir Carlisle.


5’10”, 190 lbs.
Senior, No. 3



A top-100 prospect out of Northern California, Notre Dame got a visit from Carlisle in December, but couldn’t end up closing the deal on the all-purpose running back. Before he broke Notre Dame’s heart, Carlisle broke Stanford’s, backing away from his commitment to Jim Harbaugh and flipping to USC after Harbaugh headed to the NFL.

As a recruit, it wasn’t certain how the relatively slight Carlisle would make it as an every-down running back, but his ball skills and moves in the open field had many teams seeing a pass-catching back and special teams ace from the start.

Carlisle showed that type of talent at USC during his injury-plagued freshman year and actually looked solid returning kicks in George Atkinson’s place against Rutgers.



Freshman Season (2011): Played in eight games for USC, carrying the ball 19 times for 118 yards. Gained 90 yards on ten carries against Colorado, while also catching two passes for 31 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore Season (2012): Even though he was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, Carlisle missed the entire season after lingering nerve damage from an ankle break before spring practice kept him off the field.

Junior Season (2013): Started four games while appearing in all 13 for the Irish. Averaged 4.3 yards a carry on 47 attempts. Also caught seven passes. Season-opening game against Temple saw Carlisle gain 68 yards on seven carries.



What happens with Carlisle from here will be interesting to watch. As Brian Kelly searches for an answer at slot receiver in his spread offense, Carlisle appears to have the diverse skill-set that’s been coveted since Kelly came to South Bend. But after struggling down the stretch and putting up pedestrian numbers in his debut season at Notre Dame, assuming Carlisle is the answer is a reach.

That being said, Kelly’s evaluation of his running back is worth noting. After going out on a ledge by calling Theo Riddick an “elite player,” and waiting until 2012 for that to come true, Kelly has given similar glowing reports to Carlisle. No, he didn’t make a huge impact in 2013. But Carlisle has two more years of eligibility and after a year off and multiple injuries, rust — not to mention a five-deep depth chart that made establishing a rhythm impossible — could have played a part.

The undersized pinball runner isn’t the type of three-down back that should be featured in the Irish offense. Assuming (and maybe it’s a stretch) that Carisle returns with confidence and gets rid of the drops that plagued him after the Purdue fumble, Notre Dame might finally have a weapon at the Z receiver.



I’ve gone out on a ledge before on Carlisle, putting him among my ten best players on the Irish roster heading into last season. I was wrong then, though I don’t think I’d be wrong now to think he’ll contribute something to the Irish offense as a full-time receiver.

But projecting a guy who couldn’t crack five-yards a touch to all of a sudden become the next Lache Seastrunk is a pipe-dream as well. The reality is usually somewhere in the middle, so let’s just assume that’s what happens with Carlisle. And while it’s tempting to think that Carlisle will finally be the running back/hybrid that Irish fans crave a la Percy Harvin, we might get to see one or two jet sweeps or runs like TJ Jones had last season, but it’ll never be enough.

Carlisle is a talented skill player. He’s got speed and ability that didn’t often exist on this roster before Kelly came to town. A fast track in Notre Dame Stadium will help. So will the scar tissue that comes from a disappointing debut seasonat ND. But Carlisle will either make an early move next season or be surpassed by C.J. Prosise, a 220-pounder with a different physicality at the position.


The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage


  1. iamgolden4life - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    I’ll keep my hopes up on this young man. As stated above it was probably tough for him to get going with a full stable of backs. I think he’s better off in the slot where he could make people miss and opponents pay for bad tackling. I’ll take 2 more years with any kid with explosiveness. Boy I’m pumped for the season to begin, only because I know it’s going to be wild ride this year. The schedule, the hype, the haters, but that’s why… WeAreND

  2. newmexicoirish - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    I still think Amir can be a genuine weapon in the kick off return. He runs down hill, is very elusive, and he has elite speed. He didn’t have Golson throwing to him either, so I think he is going to be much more effective as a Z back. Lastly, I can’t wait to see him run on field turf. We are going to see some jaw dropping speed!

  3. shaunodame - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    I hope I’m wrong, and he has a big breakout year, but for my money I think CJ Prosise will be the slot receiver come game 12 (or 13 and maybe 14) next year. Also think Justin Brent has better prospects long term in the slot, with Robinson and
    Fuller on the outside.

    But Keith, please please please explain to me why we call our Slot receiver the Z? Traditionally X and Z are the outside receivers, and I’ve heard the Slot called by a few different letters but never a Z. I ask this every time it comes up in an article so let’s bury this hatchet once and for all. Thanks.

    • iamgolden4life - Jun 18, 2014 at 9:01 PM

      Cause we run the spread offense, GOIRISH

      • shaunodame - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:58 AM

        That’s not it tho. Plenty of teams run the spread with Z as the outside WR still.

      • irishwilliamsport - Jun 19, 2014 at 9:27 AM


        Any more recruiting news ? You seem to be dialed in to what’s happening.

  4. onward2victory - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    Love Amir!! I am all in on him this year. *If* he stays healthy, I know he’s gonna have a big season! Great athlete, and a great example of a quality ND kid!

  5. yaketyyacc - Jun 19, 2014 at 4:01 AM

    Good luck Amir!

  6. blackirish23 - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    72 days until kick-off, 68 athletes still left to cover.

    Good Luck Keith!!

  7. steincj36 - Jun 19, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Keith- I don’t want to wait until the next mailbag.
    Can you find out if the ruling in DC about the Redskins has anyone in South Bend worried? I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time until the PC police bully us out of 175 years of tradition.

  8. nudeman - Jun 19, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    Thought he got a little bit of a raw deal last year. Playing time seemed to decrease markedly after he dropped that pass coming out of the backfield against Purdue. But it was a fastball from about 20 feet and tough for anyone to catch. Still very talented and could make a big contribution.

  9. nudeman - Jun 19, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Barnett just announced he’s going into the priesthood.
    Unless he decides to do a Mormon mission.
    Developing story.

  10. iamgolden4life - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    I’ve Asked Keith a few times to post a list not sure if he will, so hear some names I know of that will attended the Irish Invasion and through the weekend. Justin Hilliard(LB), Ykili Ross(CB), 2016 CA QB Malik Henry, Cordell Broadus(Wr), Nicco Fertitta, Jacques Patrick(RB), Tevon Coney (LB), Austin Bryant(DE), Josh Adams(RB), Jerome Baker(LB), KJ Hill(WR), Adonis Thomas(LB) along with most of our current commits. I’m sure I missed a few but these are the main ones. Quick note I heard Jashon Cornell might also be attending which I find strange b/c he just cancelled his trip to Penn St for family matters. Also Damien Harris could be making an appearance. I wouldn’t let it surprise you if something big is brewing in Damien Harris b/c he’s gonna want to play and as you know our depth chart is slim when it comes to the (RB) position, he just may be the ticket that would also land us Hilliard along with Cornell. WeAreND

    • johngaltisspeaking - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:40 PM

      I dont think we land any of the Ohio State Players. Hillard is Ohio state 100 percent. Cornell is Ohio State. I see us picking up some good 3 star recruits to finish off the class with a few 4 star kids but we are not going to be a top 10 class. I think we will land around 17 to 15 area. Keep in mind Urban lost 1 game last year. I don’t think Waller will sign with ND as well as he will be buried in depth.

      • onward2victory - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:54 PM

        FNC, is that you??

    • onward2victory - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      One Foot Down has a listing they put up today.

  11. yllibnosredna - Jun 19, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Meyer lost 2 games last year, and one of them was to a team that ND beat. He’s certainly one of the premier coaches and recruiters in the nation right now, but I don’t think his star is shining quite as bright as before. Plus, BK has beat him out for some critical recruits in the last few cycles. So I don’t see why OSU has such an edge over ND for Hilliard and Cornell at this point.

    • iamgolden4life - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:14 PM

      yllibnosredna, U make good points, John It wouldn’t surprise me if that is exactly what happens. I will say that I think one of these 3 in (Hilliard, Cornell, D.Harries) is leaning to Notre Dame, and I think it is Hilliard. Brian Van Gorder is the trump card in all this. If he can convince him how perfectly he would fit in this defense during his visit along with his coaching experience, then I think he will surprise a lot of people with his decision. This is what makes CFB & recruiting so damn fun while also so damn stressful. Time for a cold beer. WEAreND

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