April 20, 2014 // Notre Dame Football

CJ Prosise and Amir Carlisle a Tandem at Z

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CJ Prosise - 2014 Notre Dame Blue Gold Game

CJ Prosise showed flashes of playmaking ability in the 2014 Blue Gold game. Can he carry those flashes over to the 2014 season for Notre Dame? (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today Sports)

Notre Dame has not had much production out of the slot, or “Z”, wide receiver position during the first four years of the Brian Kelly era.  Like the offense as a hole, the Z position just hasn’t fully hit it’s stride for Notre Dame under Kelly.  Like the rest of the offense though, that could be about to change.

During the Blue and Gold game last weekend Notre Dame fans got a glimpse at what Notre Dame’s latest tandem at the Z position – Cj Prosise and Amir Carlisle – are capable of.  After disappointing 2013 seasons, both converted receivers are looking to bounce back in 2014.  If the Blue Gold game is any indication – it looks like they might do just that this fall.

The highlight of the Blue and Gold game was delivered by Prosise with his 39 yard second quarter touchdown from Malik Zaire.  On the play Prosise caught a simple 5 yard in, spun around, turned on the afterburners and ran away from both Austin Collinswoth and Eilar Hardy.  You could argue that Collinsworth looked slow and that Hardy took a bad angle, but that doesn’t change the fact that Prosise was flat moving for a 220 lbs wide receiver.

Prosise looked good last spring after moving over from safety following his freshman season, but caught just 7 passes for 72 yards as a sophomore in 2013.  Up until the Blue Gold game, he wasn’t exactly having a great spring either.  ”C.J. Prosise was not in my opinion having great practices and today he showed.  He flashed today.” said head coach Brian Kelly following last weekend’s spring finale.

Will those flashes, which also included a 22 yard reception in the first quarter, carry over to the fall?  That remains to be seen, but the idea of a 220 lbs target that can run and make plays after the catch would be a huge addition to an offense that hasn’t packed much punch from the Z position

Amir Carlisle - Notre Dame WR

A move to wide receiver this spring could help Amir Carlisle rebound from a disappointing 2013 season . (Photo: Robin Alam / Icon SMI)

If Prosise can’t carry over his spring performance, and we’ve seen plenty of players in the past have big springs and then not materialize the following season, his partner in crime Amir Carlisle showed signs that he could be ready to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 campaign as well.

Carlisle missed all of spring football in 2013, but had Notre Dame beat writers buzzing with an impressive fall camp.  Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Carlisle was never able to turn all of those big plays in practice into much game production outside of his  45 yard scamper on the first play from scrimmage against Temple.  On the season Carlisle gained just 204 rushing yards total (including the 45 yarder against Temple) and caught just seven passes for 30 yards.

With a loaded backfield for 2014 featuring the three headed monster of Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant, and Cam McDaniel; playing time looked like it would be hard to come by for Carlisle.  A move to wide receiver this spring, however, has opened up a huge window of opportunity for Carlisle as the Irish enter the unofficial “OTA’s” and look towards the fall.

Despite having problems catching the football out of the backfield last season, Carlisle appears to have settled in at the slot position.  Carlisle’s hands were on full display when he hauled in a laser from Zaire for a second quarter touchdown in the Blue Gold game – the only other receiving touchdown other than Prosise’s 39 yard catch and run.

Both Prosise and Carlisle are looking for rebound seasons in 2014 and with two seasons of eligibility remaining for each, there is still plenty of time for the two of them to make their impact on the Notre Dame offense.  Notre Dame simply has not had an impact player at the Z position the last four seasons.  Outside receivers like TJ Jones and Davaris Daniels played well the last two seasons, but no one has really stepped up and consistently made plays from the slot position.

If either CJ Prosise or Amir Carlisle are able to do that in 2014, the Notre Dame offense will have a weapon it hasn’t had under Brian Kelly – a weapon that could help the Irish finally have the type of offensive success that Kelly has had every where else he’s been.  The type of offensive success that has simply eluded him and the Irish the last four years.

Comments to this Article

  • pete commented on April 21st, 2014 at 1:46 am

    agree, Notre Dame needs consistent production from the inside slot. The things I’m looking forward to seeing is the pace/tempo of this offense, how much the quarterbacks will be involved in the running game and finally the play calling.


  • Woody O’Hardy commented on April 21st, 2014 at 2:21 am

    That duo will get Zee job done! very exciting playmakers!

    This offense is loaded!!!



  • duranko commented on April 21st, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Prosise is very fast. It is only the sheer afterburners possessed
    by Brown and Fuller, that keep Prosise from top billing.

    It’s nice to see the speed of the receiving corps improving!

    Don’t Sleep (ZZZZZZZZZZZ) on our Z’s!


  • ARMAC commented on April 22nd, 2014 at 2:42 am

    The disappointing 2013 statistics for Carlisle and Prosise were more likely due to limitations at quarterback.

    This season, expect increased productivity across the board, rushing and receiving. Defenders will not be able to crowd the box, and the multiplicity of receiving threats will be a DC’s nightmare.

    Carlisle and Prosise give the offense a choice of weapons. One or the other is bound to provide a mismatch against coverage, especially with a fast gun at QB.


  • NDFanCanada commented on April 22nd, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Spring is the season for optimism. We had this same feeling about Carlisle last spring. We had hope for Atkinson to break out. We thought Bryant would dominate. We thought Tuitt would decimate. We thought Nix would break through.

    I think we need to face some reality. The offensive line is talented but young, and still not set. The receivers are all unproven – perhaps especially Daniels, who has had the most time to prove anything. Kelly is set on Golson, who has not proven he can make the reads fast enough yet to make this offence hum. ALL of those pieces will need to come together to make this a breakout offensive year. Same goes for the defense; lots of young raw talent with no depth at LB, one proven CB, a revolving door at safety, and a patched up DL. Walk-ons were starting for us in the front seven in spring ball; that is not a recipe for CFB glory.

    We are realistically, a year away, unless Whitefield has really done magic with Golson. But the spring game showed me nothing but the same old jumpy instincts to tuck and run after one progression that we saw in ’12, and that was against a vanilla defense. Golson did not take us to the NC in ’12; our defense did. He simply made the offence passable enough to ride the D into that magical season. He has better weapons this year, for sure, especially if the RBs stay healthy.

    I would say 9- 3 would be a heck of a year, given all the uncertainties.


    Ron Burgundy replied on April 22nd, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Not too optimistic aboot the season, eh?


    NDFanCanada replied on April 25th, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Wow, SEC level humour on an ND board.
    Actually, I apologize to the SEC.


  • Jerry Seppanen commented on April 22nd, 2014 at 11:35 am

    The reason 9-3 isnt too bad is look at the schedule. Ranges from 1 to 4 in
    the country. They should be very exciting this year but next year should
    be the year. Remember BK is calling the plays.


  • HURLS commented on April 22nd, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Speculation. Intelligent speculation, of course, since, well, this IS Notre Dame. (and smart people attend to our Irish) But here it is, season 4-months-away, and I’ve already heard enough speculation. T-UP THE BALL, KICK-OFF, AND LET THE KIDS HAVE SOME VICTORIOUS FUN!


  • duranko commented on April 22nd, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    I’m always fearful of the “we’re a year away” contentiom.

    And my concern is based more on emotion and scar tissue than on rational analysis. It seems at ND we’ve been surprised a couple of times, ’73 and ’88 being a couple of examples of a team that was, by consensus “a year away” We never know what the future will bring.

    Teams sometimes come together at their own pace and events are capricious.

    I disagree about the offensive line. Spring is a concave lens and a lot of guys were given shots. this helps morale and depth. Fall practice is
    a convex lens, sharpening focus, and Harry Hiestand is a master at bringing an offensive line together. His work over the last half of 2013 was remarkable, having a productive line despite losing the middle: Watt, Lombard, and Martin.

    This team has an obvious glaring weakness, at linebacker. How that is solved-OR NOT-is the tipping point for the 2014 Irish.


    NDFanCanada replied on April 25th, 2014 at 10:47 pm


    I respect your articles and comments substantially but I am a bit confused by your response here. In what way do you actually disagree with my comments about the OL being young, talented but not set? I am sure you agree they are young and talented. I said ‘ not set’ as an echo of what the coaches themselves have admitted in press interviews. So how do you disagree?

    I agree that seasons can go any which way, as 2012 proved sublimely. That is why we are speculating now. If all we can say is ‘you never know,’ well, thanks.

    I stand by my speculation that ’15 looks right now, like a more promising year than ’14. Imagine: Nyles Morgan settled in the middle, J Smith in his prime, Redfield fully settled in at safety with Russell and Luke flanking him. This looks ridiculous in promise for the D. Same with the O – Zaire ready to fly, RBs in their prime, the young WRs finding their feet, the OL solid.

    It may all come together this year, as I fervently hope. If it does, I will consider it magical, as 2012 was. Not expected, just magical.


  • SteelFanRob commented on April 23rd, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    OK, can someone please explain why, with what is expected to be a very small recruiting class, we continue to get verbals from 2 and 3 star recruits. I realize ND will never probably be able to match the single-day haul Bama had over the weekend bringing in multiple 4 and 5 star recruits. But why do we seem to be settling for very average athletes, especially so early on. perhaps this staff knows it stands no chance with elite recruits for this cycle. But what if (and I know it’s a huge IF) ND has a great season (at least 10 wins) and wins a big-time bowl game? What if then several highly rated recruits want to come to ND but have no scholarships available to them?


    Shazamrock replied on April 24th, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Not sure what recruiting source you are using to come up with this particular point of view.

    But if you go by ESPN, ND currently has 7 players listed as committed for their 2015 class.

    5 of them are currently listed as 4 stars with the remaining 2 listed as 3 stars.

    Among the 4 star recruits is Tristen Hoge, the number 1 ranked offensive center in the country, and Blake Barnett, the number 4 ranked QB.

    As it is only April, these current player rankings are based mostly on what these players did as high school juniors.

    After this, their senior year, which is still many months in the making, many of these star ratings will change before signing day. (hopefully for the better)

    For the years 2011 through 2014, ND’s overall recruiting classes have finished 9th, 9th, 4th, & 11th.

    That’s not half bad considering the ND admission standards, the 4 year scholarship commitment, and the fact that ND does not utilize the practice of over signing, greyshirting, or junior college transfers.

    ND generally reserves some scholarships for a few 5th year seniors, which are, at times, used to land a late top recruit.


  • SteelFanRob commented on April 24th, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks, Shaz, I’m talking about this class, which seems to be top heavy in 3 star recruits by what I’ve read elsewhere. It seems that every link on this site has our latest recruits as 3 stars, with a few exceptions as you say. My concern is that this class doesn’t seem to have a lot of space and most of our current commitments are for now average recruits. Of course, as you say, some or even most of these kids could blow up next season and get rated higher. I’ve said in the past I don’t put all my stock in recruiting star-power but there does seem to be some correlation between the top teams every year and recruiting blue chip players. ND seems to heading in the right direction recruiting wise, Shaz, as you point out. That’s why I’m a bit concerned that there might be a reach on a few of our current recruits. But it’s early so wait and see might be the right position after all.


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