C. J. Prosise

Prosise emerging as playmaker at two positions


Most thought C.J. Prosise spending spring practice working with the running backs was a contingency plan—finding a capable body to split carries with Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. But Prosise has emerged as a true wildcard in the Irish offense, with Brian Kelly looking for new ways to get the football in the 220-pounder’s hands.

Kelly raised a few eyebrows after Saturday’s scrimmage when he said he thought Prosise could get 10 carries a game as a running back this fall. That number—in last year’s offense at least—would put him near the top of the food chain, a pretty extraordinary rise at a position top-lined by Folston and Bryant.

Kelly put Notre Dame’s running backs on notice after watching Prosise continue his strong spring.

“I want guys competing and if you watched C.J. Prosise, if I were those two, I’d feel like they better be careful because he’s got elite speed in the second level,” Kelly raved. “We had Max Redfield chasing him and he couldn’t catch him today.

“I think C.J. puts some pressure on both of those guys and I want to create some more competition. We have some freshmen coming in in the fall. It’s trying to create competition and I think that brings out the best in all those guys.”

Prosise might bring out the best in Kelly’s offense, restructured with the addition of Mike Sanford this offseason. And after leading the Irish in yards per catch and yards per carry last season, this spring Prosise has made it clear that he’s worthy of a much larger sample size.

“C.J’s as good a player as we’ve got on our offense right now, in my opinion,” associate head coach Mike Denbrock said. “He’s versatile. He can play anywhere we put him.”

Prosise made Saturday’s biggest play with a 70-yard touchdown run, beating safety John Turner to the corner and then running away from Matthias Farley into the end zone. It was a long-distance score that looked a lot like the game-changer Prosise made in the Music City Bowl, when he took a jet sweep and went 50 yards for a touchdown against one of the SEC’s top units.

With the ability to make big plays as both a runner and receiver, Notre Dame finally has a coveted crossover back/receiver, taking us into the “Is C.J. Prosise our Percy Harvin?” discussion, a long-standing hope for those that have watched Brian Kelly’s offense evolve.

Before he was known as an NFL hot potato, Harvin was the X-factor in Urban Meyer’s offense. Prosise could end up being the Missing Z, a multi-faceted slot player that’s been elusive, the closest being Theo Riddick, who bounced between receiver and running back before serving as the workhorse of the 2012 offense.

Kelly compared Prosise’s abilities to Riddick, a true compliment considering Kelly’s trust in Riddick during crunch time.

“One of the great assets that Theo had was when it was tough running time, he stuck his nose in there. He was a tough, physical runner,” Kelly said. “For as much as he’s made a career [in the NFL] catching out of the backfield, he won games for us because he was one of our toughest runners. I think C.J. can do that, too. He’s almost 220 pounds. When you put him up against those two other guys, he looks like he towers over them.”

We’ve seen spring successes before, and they haven’t always translated to big performances come fall. (George Atkinson comes to mind most recently at the running back position.) But Prosise’s arrival in the backfield comes at a perfect time, with Sanford’s inclusion in the offensive construct allowing some key changes to be made.

As we watch the quarterback position evolve, Prosise’s presence on the field will force defenses to account for him. If he’s motioning into the backfield, it changes the basic math that often times dictates scheme for defenses. Add in a capable quarterback running game, more from the duo of Folston and Bryant and a weapon like Will Fuller on the perimeter, and the Irish are going to present big matchup problems for opponents.

After starting his career at safety and then making the transition to receiver, Prosise interestingly may have found his home in the Irish offense with another position switch. And after coming into college with the “athlete” tag attached, Prosise’s versatility, matched with some elite speed and size, make him another unlikely star in the making.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

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DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend



Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.


Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

Tom Loy, Irish 247

Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.