Notre Dame Football: 3 Players Key For Success In 2015
Spring practice is coming to a close in South Bend.
This coming Saturday marks the official end with the annual Blue-Gold game.
Notre Dame football took several unexpected twists in 2014 that affected not just 1 phase of the game.
Injuries forced the defense into unchartered waters, a quarterback returning from hiatus coughed up the football more times then ever and a youth movement overall kept the team from establishing themselves of a single identity.
And depth was challenged and became an issue late in 2014.
2015 is very promising for the Irish.
But of course every year is - especially in mid April.
Outside of the usual suspects performing their established roles to perfection or close to it- there are other players returning that will impact the team in big ways.
And should their performances command bigger roles and they morph into starters or atleast rise on the depth chart- Notre Dame football will be very special again this coming season.
Heavy emphasis on depth.
1- Jarrett Grace
Long time away from anything-especially football in South Bend.
Injuries have kept the top prospect and 1 time Teo role player from seeing ample playing time.
Grace has been cleared at this point for full contact and returned Monday to the field.
Earlier this week, Grace offered insight to his recovery:
“I feel really close,I don’t know if maybe I think of myself as some guy that always thought he was really athletic even if that was never the case. I don’t know if I could ever say ’yes’ to that question, but I am feeling pretty good.”
“My thought process all along was, ’I’m going to play. I’m going to play. That’s all I’m going to think about,’” he said. “But then, you know, reality kind of set in, and I was like, ”Man, I’m not really running right now.’ That was frustrating, but at the same time, I couldn’t dwell on that. I just had to do whatever I could to be ready for whenever that time came.“
Joe Schmidt and Nyles Morgan will align themselves with Grace this season.
But Grace will impact the entire defense should he return to form heading into the Arizona State game in Dallas where he suffered his injury nearly 2 years ago.
His needed leadership and play alone will energize an already elite group to even higher levels, and of course-provide depth all around.
2- CJ Prosise
Elite players can find themselves on both sides in due time.
CJ Prosise has done exactly that, and after practice this week- he has put pressure on the runningbacks already on roster- Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant- as he joins them with his position change.
In Detroit, former USC back Reggie Bush lamented of the skills of former Irish back Theo Riddick:
"He has a natural given ability to be able to make people miss in space," Bush said. "... He's far more advanced now compared to where I was as a rookie. I wasn't as good of a natural runner, it took me a couple years to get to that point and he already kinda has that. So, I'm sure you'll see him used a lot in the passing game this year and the running game."
High praise from a rival in college, but in comparison to whom many perceive as the next Theo Riddick with CJ Prosise.
Brian Kelly praised the abilities of Prosise in the same manner this week:
“Surprisingly well. C.J.‘s not a natural football player. He’s a natural athlete,” Kelly said. “He can dunk a basketball, he can run track. He can do so many things effortlessly, in a sense. (Football) doesn’t come to him naturally. I quite frankly thought it would be a more difficult transition for him, but it has come a lot easier than I thought.”
In 2014, Prosise averaged 12 yards a rush.
As a receiver, he caught 29 passes for 516 total yards.
With the additions of incoming freshmen Dexter Williams and Josh Adams added to the position, the Irish will have much needed depth.
The only problem now appears to be getting touches for each.
And with a possible quarterback dual role on the horizon, having a proven impact player like Prosise can offer a variety of packages for all, along with a form of security.
Prosise may not push for a starters role, but his skills will provide outlets and at times, he will spell Folston or Bryant- a luxury most coaches would envy: depth and skill in the backfield.
(Bryant is also currently working on punt returns)
3- Chris Brown
The image was telling and offered up a glimpse of what many believed was destined to be a splendid career for then first year receiver Chris Brown.
His first reception as an Irish player against #8 Oklahoma on their National Championship run.
A 50 yard bomb from Everett Golson.
Since then, only glimpses of his speed and talent have emerged.
In 2014, Brown caught 39 passes for 548 yards, a 14.1 yard average and a meger 1 touchdown.
But 2014 seems to be the year that has sparked Brown to better things.
Against Syracuse, Brown had his career high 6 receptions.
And on the season, he had the second most starts at the receiver position.
Within his 39 receptions, 24 went for a first down.
Last season, leading receiver Will Fuller racked up 76 receptions for 1094 yards and elevated himself among the top 10 receivers in the nation.
With a quarterback unsettled and very much off his game, Fuller thrived still.
The perception coming from within the walls of South Bend indicates that the best player thus far in practice has been Chris Brown.
Combined with Amir Carlisle and Fuller, Brown seeks to have his career year, reclaim his elite label from 2012 and push an offense over the top again.
Depth at another position for the Irish- coupled with NFL talent.