We pick up our series of players ready for prime time in 2013 with a player who has yet to play a single down for Notre Dame since transferring from rival USC over a year ago.
On Monday we took a look at Keivarae Russell, a freshman All-American in 2012 who started 12 games as a true freshman last season. Today we move over to the offense side of the ball an look at how Amir Carlisle, a player who hasn’t even played in 12 single spring practices for the Irish, could be the key to the success of the 2013 Notre Dame offense.
Amir Carlisle’s long journey to Notre Dame
Brian Kelly and his staff identified Amir Carlisle as one of their top targets on the offensive side of the ball for the recruiting class of 2011 and did a great job of recruiting the California native. In fact, at various points throughout that recruiting cycle, many felt Carlisle would end up in South Bend. He ended up selecting USC, however, electing to stay closer to home.
Once Carlisle hit the practice field for Southern Cal as a true freshman, he started to draw some rave reviews. It looked like Carlisle was going to be an instant impact freshman for the Trojans in 2009, but nagging injuries prevented him from really making as much of an impact as many felt he would coming out of fall camp.
Despite what looked like a promising future with USC, Carlisle decided to transfer following his freshman year after his father received a job at Purdue and his family moved from the west coast to Indiana. With his family in Indiana and his previous interest in Notre Dame, the door opened up for Brian Kelly to add a player to his roster that he coveted the year before.
Opportunity lost for Carlisle in 2012
Typically a transfer student will have to sit out the next season at their new school, but in the case of Amir Carlisle, he petitioned the NCAA for a hardship waiver which the NCAA granted allowing him to be eligible for the 2012 season for Notre Dame. Even with a crowded backfield led by Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, many expected Carlisle to immediately join the mix for playing time.
After suffering nagging injuries as a freshman at USC, the sophomore to be broke his ankle in a non contact drill right before spring practice kicked off last year.
Originally it was thought that Carlisle would miss the spring but be fully ready fall camp. The injury turned out to be more severe than originally thought, however, and Carlisle was not able to fully regain the strength he needed in his ankle to be ready for playing time in 2012 thus retaining the year of eligibility that was granted to him when his hardship waiver was granted.
Can Amir Carlisle stay healthy in 2013?
Reports heading into spring practice a few months ago were that Carlisle was not only fully healthy, but was ready to breakout. Then early reports out of spring practice stated that Carlisle was turning heads in the first few days of camp. Just as he was getting started though, he suffered yet another injury. This time Carlisle broke his collarbone and would one again miss the rest of spring practice.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “how is a kid who has missed the last two springs and all of last season ready for prime time this fall?” Easy. When healthy, Carlisle can flat out play and is really a perfect fit for this offense.
With question marks at the running back position this fall as Notre Dame looks to replace the leadership and consistency of Theo Riddick and the big play ability of Cierre Wood, Carlisle will almost certainly get a lot of work at out of the backfield this year as well as in the slot. At this time last year we heard a lot about Notre Dame cross training running backs and slot receivers but didn’t see that plan put too much into action last year – if Carlisle stays healthy he has the exact skill-set to excel in such a role.
With the transfer of Davonte Neal, there isn’t anyone on the Notre Dame offense better suited to the fill the Percy Harvin-esque role that Brian Kelly, Chuck Martin, and Tony Alford envisioned when they decided to transition Alford from coaching wide receivers exclusively to working with the slot receivers and running backs. Carlisle is elusive and has moves in the open field. His straight line 40 yard dash speed might not be jaw dropping, but his quickness, athleticism, and stop-go speed is off the charts.
Most of the talk heading into the season has been about whether or not George Atkinson can key the Irish ground game or if incoming 5-star running back recruit can handle the load as a true freshman, but Carlisle could be the key here for the Irish ground game. Just like last year when all of the talk at running back centered around Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick became an afterthought, the same could be the case with Carlisle this year.
While not built to be an every-down, featured back type of runner, Carlisle very well could play a role similar to what Percy Harvin did for Florida a few years back when he recorded at least 400 yards receiving and rushing in each of his three seasons in Gainesville.
So far Carlisle has not shown he can stay healthy for an entire season – or even a full 15 practice spring camp. If he can stay healthy this year, however, Carlisle will not only breakout for Notre Dame after not playing a single down for the Irish to this point in his career – but he will do so in a big way. It may be stretch to say that a junior who hasn’t seen live action in over two years is ready to be a big playmaker for a team, but in the case of Carlisle, it really will just be a matter of if he is able to stay healthy for a full 12 game season.
Previous Posts in this Seriees
6. Ready for Prime Time ’13 – Keivarae Russell – Monday, June 16