NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Change just seems to come easily for members of the Notre Dame football team. Last season it was Theo Riddick moving seamlessly from receiver to running back, Matthias Farley going from receiver to safety, Troy Niklas from linebacker to tight end, and KeiVarae Russell making the switch from receiver to cornerback.
Those cross-trainers helped the Irish to a 12-0 regular season and the program's first BCS Championship Game appearance. C.J. Prosise is the latest Fighting Irish player to make the cross-training leap - going from safety as a freshman to slot receiver this spring.
"It's a product of continuing to evaluate the guys in your program," Irish receivers coach Mike Denbrock said of Prosise's position switch. "If you have a need at a certain position you can't be afraid to try to put guys in spots where the team becomes a little bit stronger. That's really what started it."
The need at slot began with the graduation of Robby Toma from last year's team. Toma was Notre Dame's top slot target last season with 24 catches for 252 yards. The switch to the new position has given Prosise a new opportunity this spring.
"I wasn't upset or anything," Prosise said of moving from offense to defense. "I can't say I was excited either, but I was definitely ready. It's a new challenge in my life and a new challenge in my career here."
Prosise has not been officially told he will stay at receiver forever, but he says the Irish coaching staff told him he has a much better chance to see more playing time in the near future at receiver, and he jumped at that opportunity. He found out just two days before the spring began that he would be making the move to offense.
"It definitely happened really fast," Prosise said. "But college is a fast game and you've just gotta get used to it."
"I definitely watched a lot of receiver clips when I went back to my room that night." Prosise continued. "I was just trying to get ready for the next day. I was preparing my hands and slapping my hands, because I hadn't caught a couple passes in a while. The first day I was slapping them down like I was still a DB."
The original plan for Prosise was more an experiment than a definite permanent position switch. Moving him to slot (Z) receiver would give the Irish an option behind the highly touted Davonte' Neal, who was number one on the depth chart entering the spring. That changed when Neal transferred just after spring practice began and Prosise quickly became more of a necessity than a luxury.
"We're working with him every day at receiver," Denbrock said recently. "He has really been a bright spot - the last few practices in particular. As he gets more and more comfortable with what we're asking him to do. There's a guy who has all the tools to be something pretty good."
Prosise was the Virginia Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and was rated as high as the 24th best defensive back in the nation coming out of high school. While his football skills are considerably, he is still raw as a receiver.
"I played a little bit just here and there," Prosise said of his high school receiving experience. "Being the best athlete on the team you just want to get the ball, so that's really all (it) was about - just trying to get the ball and make plays."
"It's always been kind of a natural thing to me," Prosise continued. "I've always thrown the ball with my brother and stuff."
Prosise was used to running when he worked on the defensive side of the ball, but he did not realize how much more daily running there would be as a receiver.
"At safety you run and you're in for about four plays - you run to your landmarks and you just run to the ball," he began. "But now it's running 20-30 yard routes and coming back and you get a play off and you run another one."
Prosise knows how to run fast. He was the Virginia state runner-up in the 100-meter dash as both a junior and senior in high school. He ran in reverse though as a defensive back, so now he has to work on refining his moves as a receiver.
"He's developing and coming along," Kelly said of his newest slot receiver. "I don't think he needs glasses to be able to catch the ball, but it's evident he's going to be a pretty good player. He just needs a lot more work."
"I definitely think I should be working on my route running," Prosise said of his summer assignment. "And really I think I need to get used to just looking the ball all the way in, because most of the time I'm trying to just catch and get up field quickly. That's something I just need to develop.
The Petersburg, VA native has bulked-up from 208 to about 220 pounds this spring. It is a weight he feels comfortable with. The extra muscle allows Prosise to be able to contend with linebackers as a blocker out of the slot as well as bounce off the first contact of defenders after making a catch.
The extra muscle will also come in handy should Prosise win another job next fall. He is one of a handful of players, along with T.J. Jones, Austin Collinsworth and Amir Carlisle, who have been auditioning this spring to take over punt returning duties (held by Neal last season) next season.
"Right now I just need to catch the ball," he said of his primary duty as a potential returner. "(Just) catch the ball and get up field - that's my goal right now and whatever happens from there happens."
It is all more cross-training - and more opportunity to get more talented Irish players on the field.