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Notre Dame has options in passing game

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame quarterbacks have had the benefit of having a go-to-guy in the passing game the last four seasons.

Receiver Michael Floyd was the target to look for in 2010 and 2011. Tight end and former Bishop Dwenger standout Tyler Eifert was the guy in 2012.

Floyd and Eifert also ended up being first-round NFL draft picks.

TJ Jones took over as the guy to look for last year, but in 2014, coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday he doesn't think the Irish will have to overly rely on one receiver.

"I think there are different guys," Kelly said. "Each one of them will have a different role. I don't think there is going to be one guy, per se. But who knows how that plays out during the year?

"It is all the guys that you know. We have veterans that are not here right now (DaVaris Daniels is serving a semester suspension because of an academic violation), that we hope get settled back in here. And we have some guys that got experience that are young guys, that I think have a chance to accelerate their game.

"I feel pretty good that there are enough guys out there that we don't need to have, 'He's the guy, and we're going to him.' We've got enough balance."

Kelly did point to tight end Ben Koyack, who had 10 receptions for 171 yards with three touchdowns behind Troy Niklas last year, as a settling presence right now on offense.

"He's a guy that we get the football to, a pretty reliable receiver," Kelly said.

Kelly is also seeing reliable options at slot receiver emerging early in spring practice, with running back Amir Carlisle and C.J. Prosise impressing the coach.

"(Carlisle's) doing well," Kelly said. "If he continues to move forward, it would be him and C.J. Prosise in a lot of the inside receiver positions.

"CJ Prosise is an outstanding athlete. I don't like to call guys out, but he can give us even more. I think if there is a ceiling there, I think we can get more out of C.J. He's an outstanding athlete. He doesn't have the typical body type for that position. He's a big kid, but he's an extraordinary athlete. I think there is more there, and we are seeing it.

"He's got speed. He can catch the football, and we think he can be a really good blocker as an inside guy for us. He's kind of a unique player at that position. You usually don't get them big and physical in there. I think he's got a high ceiling as well."

Carlisle is trying to rebound from a disappointing junior season when he ran for 204 yards on 47 carries and caught seven passes for 30 yards as his role diminished as Tarean Folston emerged late in the season.

Kelly said he never asked Carlisle whether the player lost confidence last season.

"To look back on some of the things, we never really gave him a great opportunity in the passing game, per se," Kelly said. "He had a couple of tough go routes out of the backfield. I don't know if I would say he lost his confidence in that sense.

"His role diminished as the season went on as Folston picked his game up. He may have felt like he was less involved in the game plan, but he's pretty confident."

Kelly also said he has liked what he has seen from sophomore Will Fuller at receiver.

"It is a matter of how far he wants to take his talents," Kelly said. "Weight room is going to be huge, getting stronger, attention to detail, all things great players need to do. But he's a pretty good one."

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