Aug 6, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
After arriving on campus as a safety, junior C.J. Prosise has made the switch to wide receiver, giving the Irish an intriguing athlete in the slot. Built like a linebacker with sprinter speed, it looked like Prosise was poised to make his mark in 2013 after a strong spring, but made only a modest impact on the 2013 offense.
Joined by Amir Carlisle at the Z, Prosise will have more opportunities as Brian Kelly opens up the Irish attack, hoping to turn one of the highlights of the Blue-Gold game into touchdowns that matters when it counts.
Let’s take a look at the Virginia native.
6’0.5″ 220 lbs.
Junior, No. 20
A three-star recruit with mostly regional offers, Prosise committed to the Irish in May, taking himself off the board early, after starring at Woodberry Forrest, opening the pipeline at the prep school that brought Doug Randolph and Greer Martini to South Bend.
But Prosise had some intriguing traits — a second-place finish in the 100m dash and seven return touchdowns — hinting at an athlete with plenty of explosiveness. Originally inked as a safety, Kelly talked about what excited him about Prosise on Signing Day 2012.
“He can return punts, kick offs, and when you’re talking about our defense he is somebody that can play half the field,” Kelly said. “He has to be a great tackler at times, he will be asked to play close to the line of scrimmage, he has the size and the athletic ability.”
Freshman Season (2012): Did not see action.
Sophomore Season (2013): Played in all 13 games as a wide receiver after making the position switch the previous spring. Made seven catches on the season, two coming against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Made four tackles on special teams as well.
Notre Dame doesn’t have many athletes like Prosise, who moves really well for a 220-pounder at wide receiver. While he’s hardly the prototype at slot receiver, he serves as a perfect complement to Amir Carlisle, with a physicality and size that should be a difficult matchup for defenses.
It’s hard to think of Prosise and not think back to his impressive touchdown in the Blue-Gold game, where he burned past Austin Collinsworth and exploded into the end zone. That play captured what makes Prosise such an intriguing weapon, but also was what Kelly must have seen in practice at times that spring, as he challenged the rising junior to raise his game.
The Irish will play up to six receivers regularly this fall. It’s hard for me to see a way that Prosise doesn’t physically (at least talent-wise) fit into that group, though he’ll need to show some urgency as he enters his second year of competition at wide receiver.
At this point, how Kelly and Mike Denbrock distribute touches at wide receiver will likely dictate how productive Prosise is on Saturdays. Simply doubling his production from last year feels like the baseline expectation, though it shouldn’t be too much to ask of Prosise to improve on the relatively modest 10.3 yards per catch he had in 2013.
(Of course, if the kick returner job is still up for grabs with George Atkinson off to the NFL, Prosise might be able to do some damage from there.)
Ultimately, opening up the playbook could be the one thing that helps Prosise the most. If Notre Dame has the athletes, they need to find a way to get them the touches. At running back, that means finding the right mix for Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant and Cam McDaniel. At receiver, it means getting six or seven guys opportunities.
The slot has always been a spot that had Percy Harvin-like versatility. Outside of a few fly sweeps, we have yet to see that from the Irish. Kelly has the creativity. He’s also got the personnel, with a former running back in Carlisle playing there along with a 220-pounder who would be as the Irish’s biggest running back on the roster.
Let’s see if that’s a way to get Prosise involved in 2014.
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Torii Hunter Jr.