December Call-ups

BCS Bowl games aren't won in December but the seeds of future championship contenders can nonetheless be planted. Saturday, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly offered a pair of 2013 freshmen scout teamers, Torii Hunter, Jr., and Durham Smythe, as players of note for future seasons.

For most of 2012, true freshman C.J. Prosise flip-flopped between scout team and varsity roles, both at safety and outside linebacker.

For most of December that season, while his Irish varsity teammates prepared for a BCS Championship game, Prosise, a 6'2" 215-pound speedster, made his most important position switch to date: wide receiver.

One season later, Prosise has 12 games played and two collegiate starts under his belt -- with three seasons of eligibility remaining. Poised to push for a two-deep role this spring and next season, Prosise might have found company at an already crowded wide receiver position for 2014.

"He's a good kid. He's a pretty good player. That's all I'll tell you," said Kelly of Torii Hunter, the 2013 Scout Team Player of the Year. "He hasn't caught a pass, he hasn't caught a touchdown, but you're going to be talking about him. He's a pretty good player. I don't know if he can hit (a baseball) or anything like that. I'm talking about football. I don't know if he can steal bases or catch fly balls, but he can play football."

A potential two-sport athlete, Hunter will have to wait before attempting to join the likes of current Irish junior basketball swingman and baseball pitcher Pat Connaughton and former star receiver/pitcher Jeff Samardzija as a contributor to the Irish diamond.

"My rule relative to two-sport athletes is once you establish yourself in the sport that's paying for your education, then I'm open to working with that second sport," said Kelly of any future Hunter might have roaming Frank Eck Stadium's outfield. "So he's got to establish himself in the spring. Once he establishes himself in the spring, which I'm certain he will, then we'll allow him to work out a schedule that can do both.

Asked of Hunter's potential as a baseball player, Kelly immediately deferred to those in the know. "I'm speculating that I know anything about what (Irish baseball manager) Mik (Aoki) knows about baseball, so I really couldn't tell you. I haven't looked at a minute of film when it comes to baseball, and I really don't know what he can do and what his skill set is. I know what he can do on a football field. I have no idea baseball-wise."

Tight End U -- Again

Notre Dame's two-deep at tight end never wavered in 2013: Mackey Award candidate was backed ably by classmate and former No. 1 tight end prospect Ben Koyack. Niklas was solid from the outset while Koyack played his best ball from mid-season forward. Because the Irish trust their "12 package," two tight ends often take the field simultaneously.

Both Niklas and Koyack will graduate and exhaust their eligibility following the 2014 season. An opening thus exists for the current freshmen pair of Mike Heuerman and the less-heralded Durham Smythe.

The moniker affixed to Smythe's name no longer applies.

"Durham Smythe is going to be a really good player, really good player," said Kelly, asked specifically about a player that impressed him since season's end.

"Outstanding ball skills. He's going to continue to get bigger and stronger. I don't want to over-hype him, but he has some really unique ball skills for that position that he plays. As long as he continues to develop and get stronger physically, and he doesn't get into a hybrid position in terms of not getting strong enough to play as an in-line tight end, he's going to be an exceptional player."

A Texas native (Belton, HS), the 6'4" 235-pound Smythe was's No. 6 ranked tight end in the 2013 class. Heuerman was it's No. 10 but received more fanfare as A.) a prospect choosing between Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Miami, and B.) an early enrollee taking part in spring ball.

Shoulder surgery shelved the 6'3" 225-pounder from Naples for most of the fall season and Smythe received ample practice reps in his stead. Both are eligible through 2017 after being withheld from action this fall. Top Stories