Last year's X-factor now a Z

Rep after rep, he's there. A quick move to shake free. A catch despite heavy contact. Separation regardless of the clutching and grabbing that comes with the drill. Amir Carlisle is making plays this spring. Stop us if you've heard this before.

Notre Dame's breakout player before he suffered a shoulder injury last spring, and among the most impressive athletes in fall camp 2013, Carlisle earned the starting nod in the Irish backfield to open the 2013 season vs. Temple.

His first meaningful touch as an Irish competitor provided 45 yards around the end. You could argue one of his last came two weeks later when he fumbled as the Irish clung late to a seven point lead at Purdue.

Carlisle's 2013 season began a downward spiral with that miscue in West Lafayette. Notre Dame's defense bailed him out but the damage was done -- other Irish runners emerged in his stead.

"It was what it was. I didn't have the best game (at Purdue)," Carlisle admitted. "I kept high spirits throughout that, worked hard at practice. For me, I was the same guy throughout, and worked hard each and every day. Whenever my number was called, I ran out onto the field."

His number was called 42 times, either via the rush or pass, prior to that fumble in Game No. 3 -- just 23 times thereafter.

Targeted for a combined 12 passes against Temple, Michigan, and Purdue (seven were completed), Carlisle saw just seven throws in the final 10 games. None were successful.


Carlisle earned a combined 16 rushes and pass targets at Purdue.

Until this spring session, where Carlisle catches everything, at least during an aggregate three hours of practice time viewed by Irish Eyes.

"I actually was all for it," Carlisle said of the move to slot receiver. "A new change, new scenery. I'm always willing to help the team out in any way possible. I was all for it."

The former USC transfer has been nothing but a positive influence during his 26 months in South Bend.

"Like I always say, I play to glorify God," Carlisle said last October in the midst of his struggles. "As a competitor, I want to play. I do. It starts on the practice field getting better every day. I'm going to continue to do what I do, give 110 percent on every play and when my number is called, do what I can and try to make a play for my team."

Perhaps that's why head coach Brian Kelly offered Carlisle might not have had a chance to succeed as a receiver last season.

"To look back on some of the things, we never gave him a great opportunity in the passing game, per se," Kelly said. "He had a couple tough go routes out of the backfield."

"His role diminished as the season went on as (Tarean) Folston picked his game up," Kelly continued. "He may have felt like he was less involved in the game plan, but he looks pretty confident right now."

Carlisle, who reps as often as does C.J. Prosise in the slot, has turned the page after a disappointing 2013.

"I wouldn't say I lost my confidence, I just had to deal with adversity," Carlisle said. "It was my first year being out wide, playing in the slot as a wide receiver. There were going to be some growing pains with that.

"The more I'm out there, the more I'm running routes, the more I'm catching passes, the more comfortable I am, especially with the more minute details of the game -- releases, knowing how to run a zone versus man route," he added. "It's still new to me, but it's definitely becoming more comfortable."


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