Golson, Zaire still jousting for job, Prosise adjusting to running back
Alex Carson | Thursday, April 9, 2015
While just nine days stand between Notre Dame and the close of spring practice, the quarterback competition between graduate student Everett Golson and junior Malik Zaire is set to drag on much longer.
“They’ll continue to compete into August. No question,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said after Wednesday’s practice.
Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Theismann — who held a 20-3-2 record as Notre Dame’s starter from 1969-71 — observed yesterday’s practice, and Kelly said the two-time Pro Bowler saw a particularly good day from Golson.
“Today, Everett had a great day in the pocket,” Kelly said. “His feet were settled, he was calm; he was protecting the football. The things that were flaws for him and problems last year, if you watched him today — Joe Theismann was there today, and I don’t want to put words in Joe’s mouth but in our conversation, you would not think that was an issue at all last year in Joe’s eyes looking at Everett today.”
While Kelly thought Golson had a solid day on the practice field, he also saw positives from Zaire.
“Malik was throwing the ball accurate and on time today,” Kelly said. “So the areas where we really asked them to improve on, both of them were on their game today. I think that’s healthy competition; they’re both trying to get better and working to get better in the areas where we’ve asked them to really focus on.”
Prosise’s transition to running back
When he ran for a 50-yard touchdown during the 31-28 win over LSU at the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, most would have been excused for thinking the score was a one-time event for senior C.J. Prosise. But after a year where he caught receptions that went for more than 50 yards three times, the receiver has spent the spring cross-training at the running back position.
Kelly said Prosise’s transition to a spot in the backfield was going “surprisingly well.”
“C.J.’s not a natural football player,” Kelly said. “He’s a natural athlete. He can dunk a basketball, he can run track. … I quite frankly thought it would be a more difficult transition for him, but it just comes a lot easier than I thought. He looks like a natural running back.”
While the Irish return junior running backs Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant in the backfield for 2015, Kelly said Prosise brings some added qualities to the ground game.
“He can see things [and] is exceptional at the second level,” he said. “He’s got better speed than any of our backs, and he’s almost 218 pounds. He’s a big, long back, and he’s still running routes for us too.”
Even if Prosise does see additional time at running back this year, it should not drain the depth of the Irish receiving corps, which returns every single member of last year’s squad.
Junior Will Fuller — whose 15 touchdown receptions tied for third in the nation last year — will lead the unit again in 2015.
“He’s such a gifted player vertically,” Kelly said. “There’s no way really they can touch him down the field when he gets a release.”
Junior Corey Robinson and senior Chris Brown both finished above of the 500-receiving-yard mark last year, but Kelly said graduate student Amir Carlisle has stood out the most this spring.
“Amir Carlisle’s probably had the best spring in terms of the growth at that position, understanding the position,” he said.
And while those five players caught the majority of Notre Dame’s receptions last year, Kelly said he was looking for for increased production from a trio of receivers; junior Torii Hunter, Jr. and sophomores Corey Holmes and Justin Brent.
Defensive lineman Ishaq Williams — one of the five players held out for all of 2014 during an investigation into academic dishonesty — was in town for Notre Dame’s Pro Day workout March 31, but Kelly said he did not have an in-depth conversation with Williams.
“All we had a chance to say was, ‘Hello,’ and, ‘How are you doing?’ and we did not to get a chance to talk further than that,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be back out here after the spring game.”
Kelly also said Williams — who has one year of eligibility left — still has some things in the classroom to work through before he is eligible to be reinstated to Notre Dame.
“We know there are some hurdles for him academically that he has to work through, and he knows that as well,” he said. “What we’ll really try to get some clarity on is what his intentions are academically.”
Senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day had what Kelly described as “his first cut-it-loose day” Wednesday in his recovery from knee surgery, while Robinson and sophomore defensive lineman Andrew Trumbetti both returned to practice as expected from minor ailments.
However, defensive lineman sophomore Jonathan Bonner is slated to miss the rest of the spring due to a turf toe injury. The sophomore is scheduled to have surgery at the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday and should return in time for preseason camp in the fall, Kelly said.