C.J. Prosise

Brian Kelly spreading optimism heading to Notre Dame spring game

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Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has a lot on his plate as head coach of the Fighting Irish this spring. He needs to make a decision between Malik Zaire and Deshone Kizer. He needs to plug some key holes on defense (so long Sheldon Day, Joe Schmidt, Jaylon Smith). He needs to figure out if he has the right players on the field to keep the offense moving (adios Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise). Rest assured though, Kelly is feeling optimistic about his program as the spring starts to draw to a close.

Kelly sat down for an interview with Jac Collinsworth (you may know his father, Chris) to discuss new contributors, his quarterback competition and more ahead of the spring game in South Bend coming up this weekend (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network on Saturday)

Notre Dame CB KeiVarae Russell declares for 2016 NFL Draft

Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
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Add Notre Dame cornerback KeiVarae Russell to the growing list of underclassmen opting to enter the NFL Draft this spring. The junior defensive back from Notre Dame announced his decision to turn pro through an interview with Sports Illustrateds Pete Thamel, which was published Monday.

In the SI story, Russell says he made the decision to declare for the NFL Draft regardless of the decision by the NCAA regarding a year of eligibility. Russell missed the 2014 season due to a violation of Notre Dame’s honor code, which also saw a handful of other players from the Fighting Irish miss playing time as well. Russell returned to the team this season but missed the final two games of the year after suffering a broken tibia against Boston College. He does not expect to participate in any combine activities at the NFL Scouting Combine later this year leading up to the NFL Draft.

“I’m back on track as far as progressing as a player,” Russell said. “I’m ready to fulfill my dream and help out my family and do other things I wanted to do in my life.”

Russell is scheduled to graduate from Notre Dame in one more semester, this despite having to attend classes at a community college following his honor code violation for academic integrity.

Russell joins fellow Irish players C.J. Prosise and Will Fuller as underclassmen to declare a year early for the NFL Draft. Keith Arnold of our sister site Inside the Irish posted an interesting though following the Fuller news yesterday…

Arnold was referring to Notre Dame linebacker Jaylen Smith , who suffered a severe knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Smith’s injury is a reminder that a devastating injury can occur at any time, and that can convince some talented college players to test the NFL waters as early as possible.

Notre Dame WR Will Fuller leaving Irish for NFL Draft

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Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller will be joining the pool of underclassmen declaring early for the 2016 NFL Draft. Fuller announced his decision to leave Notre Dame for the NFL today with a released statement, which he shared on his Twitter account.

Earlier during the season Fuller said he had plans to come back for his senior season in 2016, but obviously he had a change of heart. He will join teammate C.J. Prosise as an early entrant in the NFL Draft pool. Prosise announced his decision to leave the Irish yesterday.

Fuller was Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2015 with 1,258 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. He also led the Irish in receiving in 2014 with 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns. Rotoworld suggests Fuller could be chosen in any one of the first three rounds of the NFL Draft this spring and tabs him as one of the draft’s best vertical targets.

Irish RB C.J. Prosise latest to leave early for NFL

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Notre Dame already knew it would need to replace an All-American offensive lineman who was leaving school early. Now, one of the players for which Ronnie Stanley cleared holes is moving on as well.

On Instagram Saturday, C.J. Prosise announced that he will be leaving the Irish a year early in order to make himself available for the April NFL draft. The running back’s decision, which has been expected given his talent and the position he plays, comes one day after Notre Dame closed out its season with a loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

It also came a couple of days after he confirmed that he had received a grade from the NFL’s draft advisory committee, but declined to reveal the result.

After rushing for just 126 yards combined the previous two seasons, the converted wide receiver broke out as a redshirt junior in 2015 in leading the Irish with 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those totals were tied for 57th and 46th nationally, respectively, although those numbers are somewhat skewed by the fact that he recorded no statistics in two of the final three regular season games as well as essentially the entire bowl game because of ankle and concussion issues.

One area that will likely catch the eyes of NFL scouts, besides his speed, is his pass-catching ability as he was fifth on the Irish in receptions (26) and receiving yards (308).

Despite Prosise’s early departure, the Golden Domers should be more than fine in the backfield.

Tarean Folston, the team’s leading rusher in 2014, is expected to be fully healthy after sustaining a knee injury in the season opener and missing the remainder of the 2015 season.  Josh Adams, second on the team with a school freshman record 835 yards and a team-leading 7.1 yards per carry, returns, as does fellow freshman Dexter Williams (81 yards on 21 carries). The Irish also have commitments from a pair of touted 2016 running back prospects, Tony Jones. Jr. and Deon McIntosh.

Two Notre Dame starting defenders to miss Fiesta Bowl

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Two Notre Dame defensive starters will miss Friday’s Fiesta Bowl, though for opposite reasons, Irish head coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday.

Junior safety Max Redfield will take the proverbial Greyhound back to South Bend after violating team rules while in Arizona, and junior cornerback Devin Butler broke a bone in his foot on Monday.

Redfield will likely be replaced by captain and senior Matthias Farley, notes our own J.J. Stankevitz but, due to injuries already suffered at the safety position, Notre Dame will have next to nothing behind Farley and fellow starter Elijah Shumate.

Replacing Butler will likely be sophomore Nick Watkins and freshman Nick Coleman.

Redfield was the club’s third-leading tackler with 64 stops on the season, while Butler recorded 11 tackles and two pass breakups.

Elsewhere on the injury front, Kelly noted running back C.J. Prosise and nose guard Jarron Jones continue to progress toward seeing the field against Ohio State.