After spending the last few days running through the linebacking corps, our countdown of Notre Dame’s top 25 players on the 2013 roster moves back over to the offensive side of the ball with one of the players I am most excited to see in 2013 – Amir Carlisle.
There isn’t a single player on the Notre Dame roster this year who I’m more excited to see play this fall than the former USC transfer. After missing all of last year with an ankle injury and then the spring with a shoulder injury, we haven’t seen what Carlisle is capable of in a Notre Dame uniform just yet.
Despite the injuries though, Carlisle has drawn rave reviews both at Notre Dame and at USC in practice. At USC Carlisle saw the field as a true freshman in a fairly crowded Trojan backfield, but a nagging ankle injury slowed him down as a frosh. After transferring to Notre Dame last year another ankle injury ended up costing Carlisle his sophomore season – a season he could have played after being granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA.
Heading into the spring a lot was expected of Carlisle as Notre Dame looks to replace Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood at running back and Robby Toma at the slot wide receiver position – two areas Carlisle’s skillset is tailor made to help. In the first full contact practice of the spring though, Carlisle went down with a separated shoulder and his spring was done.
As fall camp gets underway, Carlisle is finally healthy for the first time since arriving at Notre Dame and is poised for a breakout junior season.
Why Amir Carlisle could be ranked higher
Carlisle is one of those players where the sky is the limit for what he is capable of doing if he can stay healthy. Notre Dame hasn’t had a weapon like Carlisle that is so versatile with great speed in a long time. Theo Riddick was a jack of all trades and one of the toughest runners Notre Dame has seen for a while, but lacked top end speed.
Carlisle isn’t nearly the tough runner Riddick is – not many backs are – but his overall skillset is similar in that he can run the ball out of the backfield and split out side in the slot and feel very comfortable.
If Carlisle plays in all 13 games for Notre Dame this year, I have little doubt he will put up some big numbers and make a lot of big plays for the Irish along the way making his ranking at #15 seem really out of whack.
The toughest job for the Notre Dame coaches with regards to Carlisle is going to be finding the exact role that fits him best. Given his injury history, a role involving a lot of carries out of the backfield might not be the greatest of ideas. Carlisle’s skill in the open field is also something the Irish will want to exploit early and often as well.
Why Amir Carlisle could be ranked lower
Injuries. Honestly, the only thing that could hold Carlisle back this year would be more injuries. Considering his freshman year at USC was slowed by injuries, his sophomore year was completely lost to them, and then the spring of his junior season was wiped out by another the injury factor is a legitimate concern too.
Other than injuries, there isn’t much standing in Carlisle’s way of being an impact player this fall – even a crowded backfield featuring George Atkinson, the resurgent Will Mahone, Cam McDaniel, and the freshman duo of Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. Carlisle’s got too much talent to not be on the field this fall. He just needs to actually be able to be on the field to make it happen.
Based on talent and potential for impact, I would have had Carlisle ranked just outside the top 5, but his various injuries pushed him down.
What would a successful 2013 season be for Amir Carlisle?
While it’s clear that Carlisle will see the field this fall and will make an impact, it is really tough to figure out exactly what that will entail. Carlisle will see a mix of carries from the running back position, receptions as a wide receiver, and possibly return yards in a punt return game that Kelly and his staff hope to revive this year.
What the mix of all of those opportunities is remains to be seen. Will Kelly and Chuck Martin use Carlisle out of the slot to replace Robby Toma and mix in some carries? Toma had a few carries early last season but not many during the rest of the season. Carlisle has more skill as a runner than Toma though.
Or, will the Irish staff get Carlisle more carries out of the back and use multiple back sets with he and Atkinson or Bryant to create mismatches in the passing game? The staff will have t figure that out between now and August 31, but one thing is certain – it’s a great problem for them to have to solve.
A successful season for Carlisle in 2013 primarily will involve staying healthy. If he does that, his carries, receptions, and opportunities to make big plays will be plentiful. Overall, a good season for Carlisle would involve him touching the ball at least 10 times a game between playing on offense and returning punts.
The rest of our countdown so far:
#16 - Danny Spond – ILB
#17 – Dan Fox – ILB
#18 – Jarrett Grace – ILB
#19 – Greg Bryant – RB
#20 – Christian Lombard – RT
#21 – Elijah Shumate – S
#22 – Jaylon Smith – OLB
#23 – Ishaq Williams – OLB/DE
#24 – Max Redfield – S
#25 – CJ Prosise – WR