A Year Away -- Still?Junior safety Nicky Baratti was the fourth from his smallish but precocious 2012 class of defenders to find regular playing time as true freshmen.
A weekly competitor during that squad's championship quest, Baratti's two standout plays -- an end zone interception vs. Michigan and an open-field punt return tackle of USC's Robert Woods -- offered a glimpse of what the Irish staff and fans would see over the next three seasons.
Two shoulder surgeries and more than 14 months later, Baratti hasn't had another chance to impact a college football Saturday, and it's likely he won't return to full contact in time to play in April's meaningless spring scrimmage, either.
"He's going to be ready-- if we're playing a football game in April, he's cleared to play," said head coach Brian Kelly of Baratti. "Whether we put him in, in full contact because of a second surgery, I think that's still questionable. We may just want to ride right through the spring and have his first contact be in the fall."
Erring on the side of caution seems prudent with a player that could challenge for a starting job and will be in the (heavy) safety rotation in good health next fall.
Forgotten ManC.J. Prosise has experienced more in his brief Irish career than most competitors due over a five-year stay in South Bend.
From 2012 backup safety, to backup dog linebacker, to bowl season scout team receiver, to 2013 spring sensation, to 2013 opening game starter in the slot, the junior (redshirt-sophomore) enters spring ball 2014 as more of an afterthought -- at least in the eyes of the Irish fan base -- than leading man.
Whether it be due to last year's quartet of four-star freshmen targets and their early development, or merely the presence of prodigious talent Justin Brent as an early enrollee, or simply the words of praise heaped upon 2013 Scout Team Player of the Year Torii Hunter by Brian Kelly in December, Prosise's name has faded to the background, at least in comparison to last year's spring session when he served as the talk of the town.
It's the natural evolution of a player whose strengths and weaknesses are no longer theoretical but displayed on Saturday's for all to see: Prosise started three games (including the first and last), played in all 13, and caught seven passes (five for first down yardage) as a rookie slot receiver last fall.
He also managed four late-season tackles in punt coverage, upgrading that unit with his presence.
Slot target C.J. Prosise
Notre Dame will feature six, if not seven, and possibly eight regular receivers in next year's offense. Forecasting an official starter outside of (suspended) senior DaVaris Daniels is futile, but if pressed, my money is on Prosise when the team breaks camp this April…and next August.
Certain StarterBarring injury, junior (redshirt-sophomore) long-snapper Scott Daly ranks among a short list of players under the Dome that, in good health, will likely start every game from late August's season opener through their respective graduations. (Daly, Jaylon Smith, Keivarae Russell, Sheldon Day, Kyle Brindza…maybe Ronnie Stanley?)
A 13-game starter last fall, Daly recorded two tackles in punt coverage but more important, executed largely without error as the team's snapper in 51 punts, 27 field goals, and 42 PAT. (Notre Dame's only blocked punt falls squarely on the poor effort of one disinterested blocker in a mid-September win over Michigan State.)
Now he has to repeat that trifecta of near-perfection for 2014, 2015, and if awarded a fifth season in South Bend, 2016 as well.
Such is life as a scholarship long-snapper...
Note: Click the links below for previous spring status reports: