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Receivers ready for big year despite changes to offense

| Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Notre Dame started spring practice a week ago with a new offensive coordinator (Mike Sanford), a receiver cross-training at running back (junior C.J. Prosise) and without a clear view as to who will be under center when the season opens in September.

But despite all the noise, the Irish receiving corps carries on.

“This is a big spring for us as a receiving corps, for everyone coming back,” junior receiver Corey Robinson said March 18. “We want to be a great receiving corps, so [spring practice] is the first step in that.”

Irish junior receiver Corey Robinson pulls in a touchdown catch during Notre Dame's 31-15 win over Syracuse at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 27.Kevin Song | The Observer
Irish junior receiver Corey Robinson pulls in a touchdown catch during Notre Dame’s 31-15 win over Syracuse at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 27.

Junior Will Fuller — whose 15 touchdown receptions ranked tied for third nationally last season — leads a receiving corps into 2015 that returns a full complement of players from last year, as senior Chris Brown, graduate student Amir Carlisle and junior Torii Hunter Jr. are all back, joining Fuller, Robinson and Prosise as the core of the group.

But despite everyone who returns, the Irish could get contributions from a pair of sophomores that did not see the field last year in Justin Brent and Corey Holmes.

“I think I see a lot of hunger in both those guys,” Robinson said. “They’ve been working hard … and I’m really excited to see what they do this year.”

Robinson also said he and the rest of the corps have faith in the youngsters.

“We’re in a group where we’re encouraging and building each other up,” he said. “When we put those guys in the situation, we’ve seen them practice, and we’ve seen them make those plays, so when they get nervous or anxious, we calm them down and say, ‘Look, guys, we do this all the time in practice, so just get out there and do it.’”

When Irish head coach Brian Kelly brought in Sanford as his new offensive coordinator, it was considered by some to be an unexpected hire. Unlike its other coaching hires of the offseason, Notre Dame already had an offensive coordinator in Mike Denbrock, who is now the associate head coach.

Sanford comes from Boise State, where he was a quarterback from 2000 through 2004, and Robinson said he is looking forward to working with the new offensive coordinator.

“It’s gonna be awesome,” Robinson said. “I’m really excited about him, excited about what he’s gonna do with the quarterbacks and offense in general. … I think we’re gonna make some big plays.”

As for the role of spring practice, Robinson said he feels like things really started to make sense for him at this time last year.

“I think towards the end of spring, right before the spring game last year, was one of the times it started to click for me,” Robinson said. “ … You go out there, and you know everything, and you know what you’ve got to do. … You just relax and … be a leader.”

Though the Irish have not yet named a starting quarterback for the 2015 season — and likely will not in the immediate future — Robinson said his unit is unfazed and has confidence in both options at quarterback, graduate student Everett Golson and junior Malik Zaire.

“I trust both of those guys, and I know they’re both incredible,” he said. “It’s one of those things where we’re just kind of sharing reps and seeing what happens with it. … We’re just trying to get it down as an offense.”

Robinson said the receiving corps knows their potential but has to stay focused on putting in their best shift each day.

“We all know how good we can be, but you can’t be talking about the future like that,” Robinson said. “So one of the things that just drives is just trying — I mean, literally every day in practice or in the weight room — to keep each other to a certain standard, like, ‘Look, guys. We’ve got to be great today.’”

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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