Over the last couple of a weeks a few Notre Dame blogs released lists of the top 25 players on the 2013 Notre Dame football roster. We thought it was a great idea so we decided to do our own countdown as well and will roll out posts for each player from 25 through number 1 over the next few weeks.
We are starting our countdown with one of the surprise breakout players from this past spring – CJ Prosise.
CJ Prosise spent his freshman season “red-shirting” as a safety in what turned out to be a loaded Notre Dame secondary. This spring, however, the Virginia native moved over to the offensive side of the ball after Notre Dame suffered some attrition at wide receiver with the transfers of Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson. Their departure turned out to be Prosise’s gain when he established himself pretty quick as a potential playmaker out of the slot position for the Irish offense.
As Notre Dame inches closer to fall camp, the Irish will be on the look out for a new man in the slot with Robby Toma chasing his NFL dreams this summer as an undrafted free agent following a very solid career in South Bend.
Why CJ Prosise could be ranked higher
If Prosise wins the starting slot wide receiver position he is going to see a lot of attention from Tommy Rees – especially with a pair of talented wide recievers – TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels – starting on the outside an occupying the attention of opposing secondaries. As a big target for Rees, Prosise will also receive some additional attention as Rees shown over the years to a reliance on his tight ends and bigger receivers.
Notre Dame could also very well look to Prosise to revive what has been an anemic punt return game in 2013. The Irish have essentially employed a fair catch only policy in the punt return department over the last few years, but Brian Kelly has vowed to change that this season. Right now, Prosise is one of the leading candidates for the job and the only thing standing in the way of him and the punt return duties this fall might be the coaches not wanting to overwhelm their athletic sophomore as he continues to adjust to the wide receiver position.
Prosise showed in high school that he has the ability to make plays in the return department. Watch him field a punt off a few bounces, wait for a lane to open up, and then follower blockers to the end zone in the video below.
Why CJ Prosise could be ranked lower
While Prosise certainly has a lot of potential to be a playmaker in the Notre Dame offense, he aslo very well could experience growing pains as he adjusts to the wide receiver position. He showed signs of big play ability in the spring, but will he be consistent enough while facing off against opposing defenses to remain in the lineup and be a consistent contributor? That remains to be seen.
Given the learning curve he is currently undergoing at wide receiver, it is also very possible that the punt return role could be considered too much to dump on his lap this fall despite his ability to make plays in that area. If he struggles with a larger load at receiver, the staff could pull back on his special teams duties to let him ease into his new role.
Standing in Prosise’s way at the slot position will also be Amir Carlisle and whatever role the Notre Dame coaching staff develops for him. Carlisle is precisely the hybrid running back/wide receiver the Irish staff is looking for to fill the role of a Theo Riddick although Carlisle could end up seeing plenty of time as a receiver as well as a running back. Carlisle has yet to be able to stay healthy for Notre Dame, but if he does his role will impact the role Prosise plays this fall.
What would a successful season in 2013 be for CJ Prosise?
If Prosise locks down the slot wide receiver and punt return duties for Notre Dame his 2013 season will have been a major success. After spending last season on defense, Prosise turned heads out of the slot position this spring despite being physically bigger than a typical slot wide receiver.
If Prosise is indeed Notre Dame’s slot receiver this fall, a successful campaign would consist of 20-30 catches for 250-300 yards and a couple of scores based on the production of last year’s slot receiver Robby Toma (24 catches, 252 yards).
As a punt returner, a season of successfully fielding all of the punts sent his way while averaging anything positive would be considered a major improvement considering Davonte Neal gained just 46 yards on 21 returns with a long of 11 during the 2012 season. If Prosise is able to break even just one punt return for more than 20 yards he will deserve a major ovation from the Irish faithful in the crowd wherever the game is played.
Just missed the cut – Kyle Brindza, Tarean Folston, Carlo Calabrese, Nick Martin, and Chris Brown.