C.J. Prosise named starting running back against Virginia
Mary Green | Tuesday, September 8, 2015
With junior Tarean Folston sidelined for the season with an ACL tear, senior receiver-turned-running back C.J. Prosise moved up No. 9 Notre Dame’s depth chart to the starting running back role against Virginia on Saturday.
Right behind him are true freshmen Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, both of whom received playing time against Texas as well.
At his press conference Tuesday afternoon, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Adams has picked up elements of the offense quicker than most first-year players.
“Josh does a pretty good job of recognizing the movement after the snap. That’s generally the learning curve for the younger players,” Kelly said. “They’re good on the board. They can see it and draw it up, but then they move. They weren’t in that position after the snap. So some take a little more time with that concept of pre-snap, post-snap. Josh seems to pick that up, and it’s just his ability to learn quicker than others.”
Kelly said all three backs will receive reps with the first team Saturday, but Prosise won’t play with the second team. He added that, under the current circumstances, he would like to see Prosise carry the ball between 15 and 20 times a game.
“We don’t feel like we’re putting him in a position of taxing him at that number,” Kelly said.
Recent road struggles
Virginia will present the Irish with their first game of the season on the road, where Notre Dame has struggled recently. Excluding neutral-site games, the team’s last true road win came against Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Oct. 26, 2013. Since then, the Irish have dropped five straight games of that type.
Notre Dame has also lost its last two matchups against ACC opponents, at Florida State last October and at home against Louisville in November.
“We know that Virginia plays extremely well at home as well,” Kelly said. “So our guys, what I talked to them yesterday about in particular, that this still comes down to our preparation and then meeting and exceeding our opponent’s will to win.
“I think that first home game for Virginia, playing Notre Dame, they will have a high, high will to win, and we’re going to have to match and exceed that if we want to come out of Charlottesville with a victory.”
The game marks the first time in program history Notre Dame has competed in the commonwealth of Virginia. The only other previous contest between the Irish and the Cavaliers came at the now-demolished Giants Stadium in New Jersey in 1989, a 36-13 Notre Dame victory.
Though the Irish defense kept Texas out of the red zone for the entirety of Saturday’s 38-3 win and yielded just a field goal to the Longhorns, Kelly said the sample size of a single game is too small to determine how good his defense is. However, he said he knows what the defense will need to do to have a strong season.
“Certainly, the measurement of a great defense will be in its longevity,” Kelly said. “I think we saw some good things last year and then some injuries, obviously, derailed us. I think that will certainly be the case again this year. We’re going to need to keep some key players on the field.”
Kelly said his fully-stocked defense was able to challenge Texas’ offense in a way the Irish struggled in last year.
“I think, first and foremost, I would say that our defense is so much more comfortable with the communication,” Kelly said. “We didn’t have any issues with tempo. We actually drove them out at tempo, which is a first for our defense in a sense that, obviously, that was a problem for us last year.”
Anchoring that defense was junior linebacker Jaylon Smith, who led the way with seven tackles and a sack Saturday. Kelly did not shy away from revealing how Smith stacked up against other players he’s coached in his 23-year career.
“Short answer, I haven’t coached a player like him before, period,” Kelly said. “ … He can line up with his hand on the ground. He can cover the inside receiver. He can play in the box. He can tackle in open space. There’s not much he can’t do. He’s a rare, rare defensive player. It’s just fun watching him play.”