Entering the 2015 season, C.J. Prosise was one of the bigger mysteries in college football. He started the season third on the depth chart, but a season-ending injury to Tarean Folston pushed him to the starting spot. In his first start facing Virginia, Prosise rushed for an impressive 155 yards and a touchdown.
To follow that up that performance, he rushed for 198 yards and a monstrous three touchdowns against Georgia Tech. That performance including a 91-yarder, the longest rushing touchdown in Notre Dame Stadium history. Such impressive stats may have seemed dim before his promotion to starter. Let’s take a look at the C.J. Prosise as he prepares for his leap to the NFL.
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After redshirting his first year in South Bend, Prosise actually played 13 games as a wide receiver and was active on special teams. During that season, he totaled seven receptions for 72 yards. He followed that up the next season with 29 receptions for 516 yards and two touchdowns while leading the team in special teams tackles. His experience in catching the ball is fairly deep and it shows in his play.
He is an experienced route-runner for someone at his position and displays the soft hands necessary to make some difficult catches. Despite being the starting running back with over 1000 yards rushing, Prosise has still managed to total 26 receptions for 308 yards and a touchdown so far this season. He will go into the league compared to some of the better receiving backs like Arian Foster or DeMarco Murray.
+Explosive Burst Out of the Hole
Prosise is a strong runner that is difficult to bring down. He plays with incredible balance and is a smooth runner, forcing defenders to have to hit him hard, wrap him up, and bring him down. However, what makes him special his ability to explode out of the hole once he sees it. No better example of this than the aforementioned record-setting run against Georgia Tech. He patiently waits for his blocks to set up, identifies the hole, and explodes into the open field. Once he’s gone, there is no chance anybody is going to catch him.
Another example is a touchdown he ran against USC. He patiently waits for his blocks to set before exploding around the edge. You can also see he demonstrates good vision; identifying where he will have a chance for yards and making the right decision.
+Lack of Experience
While his experience as a receiver helps him to be a threat from the backfield in the passing game, it also demonstrates his inexperience at the position as a whole. This will be something on the minds of scouts, coaches, and executives alike. While it shouldn’t hinder his abilities in the NFL, his lack of experience will give him a label as a “project player”, no matter how unjustifiable it may be. Prosise will have to do a good job demonstrating the nuances of the position he’s learned in just one year of playing at the position. If he can demonstrate this at the combine and his pro-day, he can alleviate some of those fears.
While I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a weakness, this is one of those key areas of inexperience that Prosise will definitely need to continue to improve. There are times where Prosise identifies a player leaking into the backfield and there are others where he steps up against the wrong hole and the quarterback gets sacked. In a press conference after Notre Dame beat Navy, 42-24, Head Coach Brian Kelly identified this saying, “I think he’s (Prosise) still evolving within that role (running back). Missed a couple of protections today, but I think what I like the most about him is he is in that learning curve…”
Final Thoughts and Projection
Based on his huge production this season, coupled with his sky-high potential, there’s no reason to think Prosise isn’t a player capable of succeeding in the NFL. He is difficult to tackle due to his physical running style and displays tremendous balance. He’s a smooth runner and demonstrates outstanding patience to allow his blocks to develop before exploding through the hole and showing off game-breaking speed. He is a good receiver out of the backfield, making him a “dual-threat” of sorts at the position. Yes, he is inexperienced and will need to work out the kinks in his pass-protection, but I think Prosise will be a starter as a pro.
While Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry currently sit as the top-two running backs in the 2016 class, Prosise has demonstrated the ability to sneak in as that third back. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he leap-frogged someone, as he is versatile and can play in any scheme.
Projection: 2nd Round
Pro Comparison: Arian Foster
Potential Teams: Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans