The barbeques and firework displays of the 4th of July have come and gone, and for college football fanatics that can only mean one thing: the football season is now less than two months away. To celebrate the season’s impending arrival, UHND.com is ready to roll out its “Now or Never” series for 2015, starting with wide receiver Amir Carlisle.
Amir Carlisle was a five-foot-ten-inch, 181-pound running back recruit from Sunnyvale, California. The Golden State native was a Top 100 prospect ranked as the No. 9 recruit in California and the No. 4 all-purpose running back in the country, boasting offers from the likes of Arizona State, Stanford and USC. Notre Dame battled for Carlisle’s signature but came in second place to the Trojans.
Carlisle carried the ball 19 times for 123 yards – a 6.2 yards per carry average – his freshman year at USC before an injury ended his season. His freshman season would be his lone one at USC, as Carlisle would transfer to Notre Dame upon his father being named the director of sports performance at Purdue.
Reason for Optimism
One of the greatest reasons for optimism this season for Amir Carlisle stems from opportunity. The recent four-game suspension of running back Greg Bryant will result in C.J. Prosise seeing increased carries at running back to supplement starter Tarean Folston. This development will provide Carlisle a window to be the main target at the slot wide receiver position.
Amir’s potential has never been a question. The fifth-year senior has speed and change of direction ability and appeared to be a perfect candidate for the slot. The biggest obstacle for Carlisle had been his penchant for drops, something he had appeared to overcome last season. In Notre Dame’s 31-0 drubbing of Michigan, Carlisle made several elite, clutch receptions that kept the chains moving. The Michigan game was the best of his career, as he hauled in 7 passes for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Michigan contest proved Carlisle has the ability to produce at the position.
Head coach Brian Kelly has spoken highly of Carlisle’s growth during the offseason, telling the media Carlisle has “probably had the best spring” at the slot position. Kelly’s assessment has been echoed by Carlisle himself.
“During the offseason, I really tried to understand the ‘why’ – why am I running this route?” Carlisle told The Elkhart Truth. “I (got) with the quarterbacks to understand what their reads are. It’s being able to adapt to different defenses on the run and having to kind of think quick on your toes.”
Reason for Doubt
Carlisle’s career has been marked by injuries, missing portions of his freshman season due to injury and all of the following season, his first at Notre Dame. Even when Amir has been healthy enough to stay on the field for an extended period of time, the only consistency the California native has shown involves flashing his potential only to disappear back into the shadows. Carlisle followed up his career best performance against Michigan in 2014 by falling behind C.J. Prosise on the depth chart. If Carlisle hasn’t made the most of his opportunities in the past, what in his background inspires confidence that he will now?
Outlook for 2015
Amir Carlisle’s outlook for 2015 can be summarized into one question: has his inconsistent performance been due to the learning curve associated with moving to a new position, or has Carlisle already reached his ceiling? Though every player learns at a different rate, the production of C.J. Prosise at running back thus far – a position he has never played, even in high school – suggests the latter is more likely than the former for Carlisle.
Still, Carlisle has a chance to have a productive season. With Kelly likely to lean on the running game with Zaire at quarterback and an elite offensive line at his disposal, Carlisle does not have to be a top-tier wide receiver to have success in the slot. An efficient rushing attack and the increased coverage rising star Will Fuller will experience will leave Carlisle with a lot of one-on-one matchups that he should be able to win on a regular basis.
The suspension of Bryant has given Carlisle one final opportunity to realize the potential so many college programs fought for while he was in high school. If he doesn’t make the most of it, Notre Dame has a pool of young, up-and-coming wide receivers looking for their own opportunity to shine.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him. Scott can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.