Unguardable -- and with Room to Grow

Notre Dame's offensive MVP last fall ranked among the team's least likely candidates for such an honor last spring.

One year ago today, the word on Will Fuller in the early portion of Notre Dame's spring session was that the talented sophomore was having issues catching the football -- he had good hands, but "concentration drops" continued to plague him in practice.

The perceived weakness proved true, as Fuller led the 2014 Irish in dropped passes (12 by my judgement).

Fortunately for Fuller, Irish fans, and head coach Brian Kelly, he also led Notre Dame in everything else.

Receptions, pass targets, yards from scrimmage, touchdowns, pass interferences drawn, big plays provided (*40-yard receptions, 30-20, you name it), third-down conversion catches, and overall offensive impact -- the best player on Kelly's most productive offense during the head coach's five seasons at the helm in South Bend.

Entering his junior season, Fuller is poised to provide much more.

"He's a factor in every game we've played," said Kelly heading into last year's season-finale at USC. "Louisville had probably two of the better corners in the country, and he ran by them at will. He has obviously put himself in a position to be considered one of Notre Dame's finest receivers -- and he's done it in very short order. "

Kelly parsed his praise for Fuller throughout 2014 -- it was clear he was Notre Dame's top offensive weapon, but the head coach felt he was capable of much more. When Kelly got on him for a poor effort on third down early against Syracuse, Fuller responded with a 23-yard score, a 72-yard score, and a third-down reception to move the chains thereafter.

When Kelly offered (responding to a question that had nothing to do with Fuller) that his star receiver had both practiced and then played poorly against Navy, Fuller's next three outings produced a combined total of 20 receptions, 363 yards, and five touchdowns.

And when Fuller admitted he and the rest of his Irish teammates no-showed offensively at USC, it became clear Kelly's message had finally, albeit one Saturday too late, sunk in:

No one in the college game stopped Will Fuller last season with the exception of Will Fuller.

"I think what it is, is the mental toughness, the ability to make the tough catches," said Kelly. "And he's only going to get better."

FULLER ON FIRE
A playmaker from the outset last season, Fuller either scored a touchdown or produced a crucial, game-changing play (Stanford) in 12 of 13 contests.

-- Top 10 Outings: Rice, Michigan, Syracuse, North Carolina, FSU, ASU, Northwestern, Louisville
-- Honorable Mentions: Purdue, LSU
-- End-Season Ranking: No. 3 (Day, Smith, Fuller, Luke, Schmidt, Folston, Rochell, Stanley, Golson, Riggs)
-- (My) Ranking Entering Spring 2015: No. 4 (Smith, Stanley, Day, Fuller, Rochell...)

-- *A complete breakdown of Notre Dame's wide receivers last season can be found here.


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