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.