The wide receiver position is loaded for Notre Dame heading into 2015. The Irish have an All-American candidate in Will Fuller, a massive red-zone target in Corey Robinson, and a jack of all trades in CJ Prosise – even if Prosise is moonlighting at running back this spring. Of all the weapons the Irish have at the position though, it’s a 5th year senior with just 37 career receptions who is impressing Brian Kelly the most this spring.
“Amir Carlisle has probably had the best spring in terms of the growth at that position, understanding the position,” Kelly said of the former USC transfer and one time running back. Impressing in practice has never been a problem for Carlisle though. After battling injuries over his first two seasons, Carlisle has regularly been listed as one of the most impressive players on the field when the media gets to view practice over the last few seasons.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, however, Carlisle hasn’t been able to put it all together on the field the last two seasons despite flashing the big play ability that has been evident in practice from the beginning.
On Carlisle’s first carry in a Notre Dame uniform, he raced 45 yards down the field against Temple to open the 2013 season. Carlisle’s next 45 carries over the course of the season would cover just 159 yards and the staff lost confidence in Carlisle as a runner after a crucial fumble against Purdue.
Last year brought a move to wide receiver as the Notre Dame coaching staff attempted to get Carlisle the ball in space where he could let his athleticism take over. Again, Carlisle started off the season strong, but failed to maintain that success over the course of the year. In week two against Michigan Carlisle hauled in a career high 7 passes for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Carlisle would have catch seven more passes over the next five weeks before flashing his big play ability again against Arizona State with a three catch, 92 yard performance highlighted by a 25 yard touchdown in the 4th quarter that at the time cut the Sun Devils one time 31 point lead to just three before the Irish gave the game away on turnovers.
After two seasons, Carlisle has just 30 catches, 339 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air and another 254 yards on the ground (note: 7 of Carlisle’s career receptions came in 2011 while at USC).
According to Kelly on Wednesday though, Carlisle has shown consistency that he lacked a year ago. “The guy that I think has had the most consistent spring is Amir (Carlisle),” Kelly said when discussing his wide receiving corps.
Perhaps its playing the same position for consecutive seasons. Perhaps its being healthy for an extended period of time for the first time in his career after being in and out of the injury report for much of his first two years at Notre Dame. Whatever the reason, Carlisle’s timing couldn’t be any better considering he’s entering his final year of eligibility.
Heading into 2015 Carlisle is also going to have a fight on his hands for playing time with CJ Prosise and Torii Hunter. Prosise flashed how much of a playmaker he could be in the Music City Bowl and Hunter, a rising junior, is fully healthy this spring for the first time in his career.
Personally, I’ve been predicting big things for Carlisle each of the last two seasons and still think he’s capable of providing big plays for the Notre Dame offense. The rise of CJ Prosise, who I also think is primed for a huge season, will cut into Carlisle’s opportunities this year; but there should be plenty of balls to go around in the Notre Dame offense.
Carlisle’s career to this point has been full of promise, but up until now the former 4-star recruit, hasn’t been able fulfill his potential. With all of the talent Notre Dame has at wide receiver, Carlisle is going to have to continue to grow and show the consistency that Kelly called out on Wednesday in order to close out his career on a high note. He’s always had the talent to do so, but with just one year of eligibility left, time is almost out for him to show it on the field.