Opportunity Abounds for Prosise

Notre Dame found a playmaker in slot receiver and special teams ace C.J. Prosise last fall. Now the Irish coaching staff wants to see if the versatile athlete can lend a hand from the backfield as well.

Some position switches are easier to sell to the outside world than others.

For example, when a six-foot, 220-pound junior slot receiver takes a jet sweep handoff 50 yards to the house -- running through, eluding, and out-running would-be LSU tacklers along the way -- a spring-time evaluation at running back seems prudent.

"I think during the year we saw that potential," said head coach Brian Kelly of the nine other handoffs Prosise earned last fall. "We had always kind of talked about it during the year in terms of we always like getting the ball in his hands because he's outstanding when he's running after the catch. Go back to the Navy game (a 55-yard catch-and-run touchdown). Get the ball in his hands, and he's got a chance to go.

"I think it was more of a cumulative workload that gave us that and certainly his speed when he has the ball in his arm is pretty clear against even SEC talent."

In addition to his 50-yard rushing score vs. the Tigers, Prosise gained 26 (Stanford), 12 (North Carolina), 14 (Navy), and 27 yards on four additional Jet Sweeps (plus five others that were stuffed up front). His 50-yarder in the Music City Bowl tied the score at 28 just four snaps after the Tigers had taken their first lead, 28-21, on an 89-yard touchdown sprint by Leonard Fournette.

But that was all part of the 2014 offensive attack's change-of-pace. Today's spring practice in South Bend, Prosise embarked on his initial foray into the Notre Dame's running backs unit.

"I'm still getting used to the steps, trying to stay low, keep my pad level down," said Prosise of his initial adjustments. "And I'm still learning (pass) protection and stuff like that."

And to be clear, it's a cross-training situation, but Prosise needs more reps at running back than he does in the slot, at least when the Irish are more than five months removed from a meaningful kickoff.

"Mostly running back in individual drills, trying to get the techniques down," he said. "But in 7-on-7 today I was at receiver. I'll go back-and-forth."

Prosise noted that though pad level was part of his success on jet sweeps, it's different in the backfield. "Just because it's coming from a different angle. You have to get used to seeing the defense in a different way," he said.

A play-maker in space last fall, Prosise was happy for the opportunity:

"I was excited. I heard a little buzz about it and they kept telling me they wanted me to see the ball more, so I wasn't really surprised. I get to touch the ball a little more and learn the offense from a new perspective," he said.

The second position tweak of Prosise's career will likely prove less challenging than did the 180-degree change of the first.

"Because it's already the offensive side of the ball it's an easier transition, but there's still a learning curve," Prosise said in comparison to his spring 2013 move from safety to the slot. "It's stuff I've already been doing -- a lot new, but also some stuff I already knew."

What he's known to date is a penchant for the big play. Among his 29 receptions last season were four in excess of 40 yards (Will Fuller led the team with five such gains), another of 33 yards, plus five more in excess of 20 yards (third behind Fuller, 10, and Corey Robinson, 8).

Prosise added five chain-moving receptions on third down and along the way earned Notre Dame's Special Teams Player of the Year award for his efforts in punt and kickoff coverage.

Might the slot/RB/special teamer add another duty to his ever-expanding list?

"We'll have to talk to Coach (Scott) Booker," said Prosise when asked if he might work in a punt return role this fall, a spot that helped him earn first-team all-state honors at Woodberry Forest School (Woodberry, Va.) as a prep senior. "But if they put me back there, I definitely think I can do a good job."

Almost anywhere.

The versatile Prosise made an impact, major or otherwise, in nine of 13 games last season. His final film review ranking (#13 overall) served as his high-water mark for any point during the 2014 season.

By the Numbers:
-- 54 pass targets (including 12 vs. FSU) 29 receptions, 516 yards, 2 TD, plus 5 dropped passes
-- Five third-down conversion receptions
-- 10 rushes, 126 yards, TD
-- 13 snaps gaining 20 yards or more including each of his three scores
-- 10 combined tackles punt/kickoff coverage
-- Top 10 Outings: Syracuse, ASU, LSU
-- Honorable Mention: Purdue, Navy
-- Made Key Plays: Rice, Stanford, UNC, FSU
-- End-Season Ranking Through Film Reviews: No. 13 (Day, Smith, Fuller, Luke, Schmidt, Folston, Rochell, Stanley, Golson, Riggs, Jones, Robinson, Prosise…)

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