Prosise, ND Receivers, Playmakers on the Rise

The still-evolving case study of junior slot receiver C.J. Prosise serves as a microcosm of Notre Dame's 2014 wide receivers unit.

They're inexperienced, immensely talented, versatile, improving -- occasionally drop passes -- their best seasons are likely post-2014…and they need to improve over the next month if the Irish are to finish 4-0.

Back to the drops, or in Prosise's case, an infamous occurrence of a perfect pass bouncing off his pads to the turf.

And it would have been a touchdown. More than 60 yards in the air from the right arm of Everett Golson, into the Rice end zone.

Doink.

"They didn't say much," said Prosise of the coaching staff as he returned to the sidelines, "But I was glad I got the opportunity to make another play because I knew I wouldn't drop it again."

That opportunity came later in the half with Prosise securing a 53-yard touchdown strike from Golson on a similar route: Prosise ran deep, then across the field, out-racing his defender as Golson bought time outside the pocket.

"Ev has great ability to get out of the pocket and keep the play alive," Prosise noted at the time. "Ev has an arm, you just have to get used to it. That (touchdown pass) was sailing a little. I was just thinking about catching the ball. Not thinking about a touchdown, or what I was going to do (post-score)."

And on the first one? The drop?

"The first one, I might have been thinking about some other things," he joked.

Several Steps Since, More Remain

Two months have passed since Prosise's debut as an Irish regular against Rice. He played intermittently as a redshirt-freshman in 2013, catching five balls, but was never a major part of the weekly game plan, that after a season spent playing both Dog linebacker and safety as a member of the Irish scout team in 2012.

He was, however, a major part of most games last year, especially near season's end when he emerged as one of the team's best in both punt and kickoff coverage. In 2014 Prosise plays on three of the four Irish "run teams" (kick return the exception). It's a role he's found to be invaluable as he progresses in his craft.

"It gets you in the right mindset," said Prosise of special teams action. "You understand the intensity of the game more. At first you don't understand the speed, but special teams helps you pick up the speed of the game and you can bring it to (scrimmage)."

Prosise enters Game Nine ranked fifth on the team in receptions (19), fourth in receiving yards (294), and first in yards-per-catch (15.5). He added his second touchdown of the season last Saturday against Navy, a 78-yard catch-and-run of a Golson crossing route on the game's second snap.

Hailing from nearby Woodberry Forest, Va. (Woodberry Forest School), Prosise had plenty of friends and family on hand to enjoy his big play.

"My whole family was at the game, it was nice to play in front of them, and yeah, that was a nice start," he added.

Prosise added a 14-yard gain on a Jet Sweep handoff later in the contest. To date, Prosise has handled three Jet Sweeps gaining 26, 12, and 14 yards, respectively, all chain-moving carries.

Of his 19 catches, 10 have likewise resulted in first downs (or touchdowns). Targeted 32 times including a career-high 11 at Florida State, Prosise has suffered four drops, three of them notable:

-- The aforementioned Rice TD
-- Michigan: 3rd-and-long conversion on a crossing route screamer from Golson
-- FSU: potential game-winning score in which he was late to turn and took a shot from Jalen Ramsey as well.

He's worked diligently on his ball skills but as important, Prosise has emerged this fall as a quality perimeter blocker.

"You want to be able to work the ball on the perimeter…and you've got to have guys that are willing to block, and C.J. Prosise did an incredible job," said Kelly of Prosise's bubble screen blocking tour de force against Syracuse in Game Four. "He's 225 pounds, he's a guy that can block on the perimeter for us, and you saw that that can be an effective piece for us."

"Pieces are emerging," Kelly added of the unit. "Getting Carlisle back and Torii Hunter, they're receivers that you can hand the ball off to them, you can run screens with them, so now we're starting to develop some real pieces within that wide receiver corps that we can develop, because these are all new guys for us. They're going to be around for a while. These are guys that are underclassmen. So we're starting to develop some consistency with that group."

None of Notre Dame's eight wide receivers are seniors. Only one, junior Chris Brown, exhausts eligibility after next season.

Said Prosise of his emergence this fall as a blocker on the edge:

"Technique is a big thing but most of it is a mindset," he offered. "It's you against someone else. If they win, they're going to get the tackle. If you win, you're going to provide a big play."

"I feel like I've grown into my position. I'm a lot more comfortable with the whole offense," he added.

And Prosise, as with the rest of the group, has only scratched the surface.


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