Notebook: Imprecise status for Prosise opens door for frosh

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The more Brian Kelly filibustered Thursday evening about senior running back C.J. Prosise’s expected game-day status, the more it became apparent freshman Josh Adams might have a chance to chase some history.

Or at least grab a larger share of the spotlight Saturday on Senior Day, when the CFP No. 4 and AP sixth-ranked Irish (8-1) close out the home portion of their season with Wake Forest (3-6) at Notre Dame Stadium.

What is known about Prosise is that on Thursday he had his first “football activity of the week” since suffering a concussion and injuring his neck in last Saturday’s 42-30 victory at Pitt.

To call it a full-out practice session would be overstating it. Kelly, ND’s head coach, admitted Prosise didn’t do any contact work. And earlier in the week, Kelly said that Wednesday would probably be the cutoff day in terms of a deadline for Prosise to be practicing if he wanted a realistic shot at playing against Wake.

Prosise left the Pitt game in the first quarter, 25 yards shy of the 18th 1,000-yard rushing season in Notre Dame history.

“It’s not my decision to make, really,” Kelly said of Prosise’s Saturday status. “It’s still in the hands of the doctors. He looked good to me.”

Prosise is also dealing with a shoulder condition that Kelly admitted that the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder would likely be “fighting through the rest of the year.”

Even if Prosise gets medical clearance for the Wake Forest game, Kelly said there would be expanded roles for the next men in, Adams and fellow freshman Dexter Williams.

“They’ve had a great week of practice, but I’m not going to rule (Prosise) out,” Kelly said. “I think he would like to play if he’s capable. We’ll see where it goes. It might be a gametime decision.”

Adams is coming off a 147-yard performance against Pitt and the nation’s No. 28 defense. His yardage total and carries (20) both represent career highs after garnering just one carry in ND’s previous two games combined.

He also had a TD reception, his fourth score overall this season, and a special teams tackle in that game.

The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder’s use has been erratic, but his production has been anything but. ND’s second-leading rusher has maintained a high yards-per-carry average all season.

And his current mark (7.6) would qualify for the third-highest in a season in ND history, behind only George Gipp (8.1, 1920) and Reggie Brooks (8.0, 1992), that is if he can maintain it and if he can glean 46 carries over the balance of the season to get to the minimum of 100 needed to qualify for inclusion in the record book.

With 412 yards on the season, Adams is just 59 yards away from passing injured junior Tarean Folston for sixth place on the single-season freshman rushing charts.

Darius Walker (786) leads, followed by Jerome Heavens (785), Adams’ position coach — Autry Denson (695), Randy Kinder (537), Allen Pinkett (532) and Folston (470).

Williams, meanwhile, has 78 yards in 17 carries and a TD.

“We love the way he runs the ball,” Kelly said of the 5-11, 200-pounder. “There is no question about his physical ability. He's got to learn more about some of the intricate parts of the game and just keep learning and practice. Practice at the same level each and every day.”

Mulling next step for St. Brown

Freshman wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown’s numbers this season (7 games played, 1 reception for 8 yards) severely camouflage his impressive progress behind closed doors and the 6-4, 205-pounder’s promise for 2016 and beyond.

Which is why the Notre Dame coaching staff may have a bit of a dilemma on its hands in terms of how best to deal with what appears to be a significant shoulder injury St. Brown suffered during Wednesday’s practice.

“We’ll have him get an MRI,” Kelly said. “Landed on it yesterday in a 1-on-1 drill. We think it could be a second- or third-degree (AC joint) sprain, so we’ll get a better look at it.”

The hope is that St. Brown would be back in time for ND’s bowl or playoff game. But if it’s an injury that may require surgery at some point, the question is whether putting that off until January is really the best option long term.

“What we don’t want to do is put the kid off where he doesn’t get an offseason for weight training,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be a dynamic football player.

“So we’ve got to make some decisions in terms of whether this is an injury that he can come back and play in 4-6 weeks, or if it’s something that’s going to be longer, and we want to repair it. And we just don’t have the information until the MRI.”

Sanford’s influence

Sure, Kelly at one point last offseason said he wanted first-year offensive coordinator/QBs coach Mike Sanford to turn the offensive meeting room upside down.

But the head coach’s No. 1 priority was for Sanford to develop and evolve the quarterbacks at ND. In Kelly’s first five seasons, he had never had a QB finish higher than 30th nationally in pass efficiency or an offense finish in the top 35 in scoring, as he did multiple times at Cincinnati before arriving at ND.

This year he has both. Redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer ranks 16th nationally in passing efficiency, with the second-highest, single-season rating in Notre Dame history (160.5), and an offense rated 21st in scoring 37.1 points per game and less than a point off the school-record pace of 37.6 set in 1968.

“He's very special,” Kizer said of Sanford. “His ability to communicate and his ability to coach is some of the best I've been able to experience on my own. He takes college football and does it right.

“There is not a lot of gray area with us. There is always an answer for everything. At the college level, specifically, being a guy who is stepping into a new world the way I am, he's allowed things to be simplified. He's taken situations in which we didn't necessarily have an answer to, and he gives me a clear and concise answer that allows me to understand the situation a lot better.”

Kelly said the fact Sanford has a background as an offensive coordinator and not just a position coach helps him see both the big picture and the nuanced details of improving QB play.

“I think he does a great job there,” Kelly said. “The things (that) stand out to me: Building the confidence, really working hard on the communications. And when you have that communication, you build a cohesive unit. And then the skill development. He’s done a terrific job in those three areas.”

Wake DT suspended

Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson announced Thursday that starting defensive tackle Josh Banks has been suspended for the final three games of the season, including Saturday’s matchup at ND.

Clawson cited a violation of undisclosed team rules for the action.

The 6-4, 275-pound redshirt junior had 24 tackles. Redshirt freshman Willie Yarbary (9 tackles) moves up to take Banks’ place.

Smith makes the cut

Notre Dame junior linebacker Jaylon Smith was one of eight players named Thursday as semifinalists for the Lott Impact Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top college defensive player “who exemplifies the best in character and performance.”

Joining Smith on the list are safety Jeremy Cash (Duke), defensive end Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), linebacker Tyler Matakevich (Temple), defensive end Carl Nassib (Penn State), defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (Oklahoma State), linebacker Joshua Perry (Ohio State), cornerback Jaylen Ramsey (Florida State) and linebacker Eric Striker (Oklahoma).

The winner will be announced Dec. 13. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was the 2012 winner.

ehansen@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Notre Dame freshman Josh Adams (33), coming off a 147-yard performance against Pitt last Saturday, figures to be heavily in the mix this Saturday even if starter C.J. Prosise is medically cleared for the game against Wake Forest. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)