A Percy Harvin Role for CJ Prosise?

CJ Prosise - Notre Dame WR
Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

One of the lesser talked about storylines of the spring that could have a big impact for the Irish this fall is the role of CJ Prosise in the 2015 Notre Dame offense.  A lack of depth at the running back position has Prosise taking a majority of his snaps out of the backfield this spring, but popular opinion is he’ll be back with the wide receivers in the fall.  Could Prosise’s time in the backfield this spring though lead to a Percy Harvin type role for the converted defensive back?

Notre Dame hasn’t had many wide receivers capable of taking carries out of the backfield.  Golden Tate did it a little in 2009 with 25 carries for 186 yards, but other than Tate, there hasn’t been a wide receiver who has been much of a threat in the running game.  In the 2014 Music City Bowl, though, Prosise showed that he is capable of providing that threat.

With Notre Dame trailing LSU 28-21 towards the end of the 3rd quarter, CJ Prosise took a hand-off from Malik Zaire on a jet sweep and raced 50 yards through the LSU defense to tie the game up.  On the play Prosise not only showed the ability to follow blocks, but he flashed some breakaway speed by outrunning a LSU defensive on his way to the end-zone.

This spring, Prosise is getting the majority of his reps at running back with Notre Dame lacking depth at the position having just Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant as scholarship running backs on the spring roster.  Just because he’s getting reps at running back this spring though, don’t be surprised to see him back at the slot position come fall camp when reinforcements arrive for the backfield in the form of frosh Josh Adams and Dexter Williams.

A move back to wide receiver doesn’t mean carries will be in as short supply for Prosise in 2015 as they were in 2014 either though.  Prosise carried the ball 10 times for 126 yards last season with his lone touchdown coming in the Music City Bowl.  That work load should increase substantially this fall with Prosise potentially filling a Percy Harvin type role for the Irish offense this fall.

While at Florida, Harvin was an absolute weapon for Urban Meyer’s offense.  Between his sophomore and junior seasons, Harvin total 153 carries and 99 catches for a combined yardage total of just under 3,000 yards.  While Prosise isn’t as explosive as Harvin – few athletes are – Prosise is much larger and more physical which can make him a real weapon in the running game for Notre Dame.

I’d be surprised if Prosise carried the ball 75 times like Harvin averaged over his final two seasons as that would mean almost 6 carries a game for him, but he should see more than the 10 he totaled in 2014 by the time the calendar changes to October this fall.

The retooled Notre Dame offensive staff will have some exciting options with Prosise this fall.  For instance, imagine placing Prosise in the backfield along with Folston or Bryant.  If they use some misdirection to get Prosise to the perimeter where he only has to make one defender miss, Prosise will win those matchups much more often than he’ll lose them.  Lining up Prosise in a multiple back set could end up getting some one on one matchups with a linebacker in the passing game – another matchup that Prosise will exploit.

The Irish staff will have  lot of options this year on the offensive side of the ball with the talent that they have amassed, but none of the playmakers they have at their disposal offer quite the versatility that Prosise brings to the table.  For all of that talent and versatility though, Prosise still has some work to do before he’s ready to fully reach his potential.

In his second season as a wide receiver, Prosise had his ups and downs.  Everyone remembers the big plays he turned in, but there were also the crucial drops that turned out to be costly.  Before the Irish were flagged for that questionable offensive pass interference against Florida State, Prosise got his hands on a 3rd down pass that could have the difference.  It was a difficult catch for sure, but one that needs to be made in that situation.  The same thing happened a few weeks later against Louisville.  Prosise failed to come down with a tough catch in the endzone before the Irish missed the chip shot field goal that sealed their fate against the Cardinals.

Prosise’s work at running back this spring won’t help him work on his hands much so he’ll need to maximize all of the unofficial off-season workouts and every rep he gets in fall camp to do that.  His work in the backfield though is going to make him a much more versatile weapon in the Irish offensive arsenal come September.



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  1. I just want to see our best athletes tasked in the positions that help the team overall. If CJ runs, catches, kicks,etc, I don’t care. Just get our players in the most maximized positions possible. That’s what our coaches are for to assess & determine that.

    Go ND

  2. I bet ND has at least 3 receivers in the 4.4 40 range and 1 incoming freshman in the 4.3 range. It is my expectation that brown will finally put it all together and have a great year.

  3. AJ, you may well be correct. Nevertheless, I will never underestimate Christ Brown’s speed.

    I would love to see a series of three way races among Fuller, Prosise and Brown at 40,60 and 100 yards.

    Some athletes translate their pure or “raw” speed to the field of honor, some don’t as well. Fuller’s speed translates well, Brown not so much.

    Neverthless, here is the big thing. This is not the receiving corps of years past. Even as recently as 2012 we had Daniel Smith. Robby Toma and John Goodman. It’s different now. Kelly’s recruiting machine has yielded fruit. Wait until these four guys arrive in June, as in St. Brown, Boykin, Guyton and Sanders.

    This whole roster is different from what Kelly inherited. And it is quite advanced beyond the 2012 roster.

  4. David, my guess is Will Fuller would be the fastest receiver. Trying to get all your playmakers involved is a good problem to have.

  5. He’s got some quicks that’s for sure. Saw him in a video from spring practice and that straight line speed is just awesome. And fluid like butter. But not real shifty. He just finds a lane and goes. He might be the fastest WR on the team. Anyone know for sure?

  6. I, for one, would love to see Procise get a lot of touches from the backfield this year. This would be a much more reliable way to get the ball in his hands. Unfortunately he is not that great of a receiver. He seems to catch to many passes with his body, and his hands are only “ok”. Once the ball is in his hands though, he is impressive. A 220 lb. runner coming out of our backfield would be something we haven’t seen since Jonas Grey. Though I haven’t seen Procise run people over like Gray could, you certainly aren’t going to arm tackle him. If I were the staff, I would seriously consider giving Carlisle a fifth year and man the slot with Carlisle, Hunter, and Sanders (when he arrives). This would allow you to redshirt Adams and put Williams on special teams (maybe some touches out of the backfield in garbage time). This should keep Williams satisfied, get Sanders involved, and preserve a year of eligibility for one of our running backs (one of our few thin spots on the team).

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