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College Comps: Fuller, Adams & Kizer

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Finding comparisons for how Will Fuller, Josh Adams, and DeShone Kizer may perform in the rest of the Notre Dame careers and beyond.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame had a trio of players - DeShone Kizer, Will Fuller, and Josh Adams - put up strong statistics in 2015. Who do those numbers compare closely with that might give us a hint how their careers will end up?

Will Fuller

Player

Team

Year

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

Will Fuller

Notre Dame

2015

56

1145

20.5

13

Elite company: With this junior season, Fuller became only the 7th player since 2000 to average 20 yards per catch and collect over 1100 yards and 12 TDs. The other big names on this list include:

  • The Atlanta Falcons all-time leading receiver (Roddy White)
  • The sophomore season from Charles Rogers, who was a consensus All-American as a junior and #2 overall pick in the 2003 overall draft before the Lions and off-field issues derailed his career
  • Mike Evans, the #7 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft

Rk

Player

Year

School

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

1

Brandon Middleton

2003

Houston

55

1250

22.7

14

2

Charles Rogers

2001

Michigan State

57

1200

21.1

12

3

Roddy White

2004

Alabama-Birmingham

71

1452

20.5

14

4

William Fuller

2015

Notre Dame

56

1145

20.4

13

5

Ashley Lelie

2001

Hawaii

84

1713

20.4

19

6

Mike Evans

2013

Texas A&M

69

1394

20.2

12

7

Aldrick Robinson

2010

Southern Methodist

65

1301

20.0

14

Looking at this list though, there isn't one clear comparison for Will Fuller. Charles Rogers' 2001 season is close, but many of the other receivers played in higher-volume passing offenses or don't match the eye-test in terms of style of play. Digging a little deeper (and relaxing the search criteria, a few intriguing options came up:

Player

Team

Year

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

Will Fuller

Notre Dame

2015

56

1145

20.5

13

Golden Tate

Notre Dame

2008

58

1080

18.6

10

Lee Evans

Wisconsin

2003

64

1213

19.0

13

Golden Tate's sophomore year statistics do include the benefit of a 13th game in the form of the 2008 Hawaii Bowl, where he went off for 177 yards and three scores. I mean, while we're on the subject and approaching bowl season...

Charlie Weis coaching from the booth! David Grimes presumably making coaches happy! Mentions of a bowl losing streak! Reminiscing on that game is a combination of fun and weird, and makes you appreciate where this program is today.

The ideal situation for 2016 would be Will Fuller returning and making a similar leap to the one Tate made in the next year, when he won the Biletnikoff Award with 93 receptions/1496 yards (16.1 average)/15 touchdowns. Comparing the two though, I think they have some slight differences in their strengths, although both are electric with the ball in their hands and gigantic threats downfield. The clearest difference is Golden Tate's hands and reliability over the middle of the field, which really improved over the course of his Notre Dame career. Fuller I believe is even better in getting behind the defense, which I would have thought was impossible, but to reach Tate's level needs to show more consistency doing things like catching slants on 3rd and 7. Their situations are far from identical - different offensive schemes, Golden benefitting from an incredibly accurate Jimmy Clausen in 2009 (and playing opposite Michael Floyd when he was healthy) - but I think the final comparison may be the most accurate.

Lee Evans I think is the closest comparison to Will Fuller, and the numbers from his senior season in Madison are very similar. Both play in offenses that, while different in style, place a strong emphasis on the run and as a result allow chances for explosive receivers to capitalize on play action or a secondary playing up to stop the ground game. Evans' pre-combine measurables are also extremely close to what I'd expect from Fuller - 5'10, 197 lbs, and running a 4.39 in the 40. Not sold? Check out these highlights (but PSA, you probably want to mute your speakers).

Evans went on to a long and successful NFL career, still averaging 15.8 yards per catch in the pros and providing many long touchdowns, mostly with the Bills. I can easily imagine Fuller with a similar career or better if he continues to refine his hands, route-running, and add strength.

Josh Adams

Player

Team

Year

Carries

Yds

YPC

TD

Josh Adams

Notre Dame

2015

102

760

7.5

5

While we could easily look at CJ Prosise in this comparison as well, what makes Josh Adams stand out is that he put up these numbers in limited opportunities as a true freshman. While ND recruiting insiders predicted that Adams was underrated coming from a low-level of competition in Pennsylvania and recovering from an ACL tear, I don't think anyone anticipated just how good Adams would be so soon.

Elite Company: While 76 players have rushed for over 7 yards a carry on a minimum of 100 attempts, here's the list of P5 conference running backs that have pulled it off as true freshman since 2000:

Player

Year

School

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Nick Chubb

2014

Georgia

219

1547

7.1

14

C.J. Spiller

2006

Clemson

129

938

7.3

10

Jamaal Charles

2005

Texas

119

878

7.4

11


So two NFL-caliber running backs, and one who if healthy is a likely first round pick? I feel pretty good about seeing Josh Adams on this list. Just missing the cut are some absurd freshman seasons, like LaMichael James in 2009 (1,546 yards on 6.7 YPC) and Steve Slaton in 2005 at West Virginia (1,128 yards on 5.5 YPC) because averaging over seven yards a carry is really, really hard.

Would Adams have been able to maintain his high average if he was the primary back for the entire season? Hard to say, but with a limited number of carries the true freshman was extremely explosive - he had touchdown runs of over 60 yards in each of his two starts, 70-yard score against UMass, and even without an extremely long run against Pitt averaged 7.4 yards per carry on 20 attempts after CJ Prosise went out with an injury early. 20 of his 102 carries were explosive (10 yards or more) - that's just absurd.

Looking further for a comparison that blends both production and style, there's a few more names that I think are a slightly better fit - I like Nick Chubb as a comparison, but wanted to look for someone that's not in the middle of their NCAA career, and while Adams has shown breakaway speed he's not a track star like Spiller or Charles.

Player

Team

Year

Carries

Yds

YPC

TD

Josh Adams

Notre Dame

2015

102

760

7.5

5

Jonas Gray

Notre Dame

2011

114

791

6.9

12

Isaiah Pead

Cincinnati

2009

121

806

6.7

9

Tevin Coleman

Indiana

2013

131

958

7.3

12

Opening up the criteria away from just true freshman and lowering the YPC requirement of 7, these names caught my eye. Jonas Gray is a bigger back than I'm guessing Adams will be even with more time with Paul Longo, but had a similar combination of speed/power and split time with Cierre Wood. Could Adams put up similar numbers if sharing the ball with Prosise and Folston next year? There's only going to be so many carries to go around, but that's assuming Prosise returns and everyone stays healthy, knock on wood.

Pead is interesting since he put up those numbers in a Brian Kelly offense, but I think Tevin Coleman is the top choice for the closest comparison. That stat line is from Coleman's sophomore season when he broke onto the scene in the Big Ten (without the quality of blocking or passing threat Adams enjoyed). At 6'1 Coleman is also a taller back that possesses a similar combination of great footwork and strength with speed to hit home-runs (but not quite a sprinter). Adams may not be quite to Coleman's level yet, but could he improve to a similar level as a sophomore and upperclassman? Absolutely.

DeShone Kizer

Like Adams, no one saw Kizer's debut coming - it's fun to look back at the depression after the Virginia game when his ability to both run and pass were unknown quantities. These stats could be even more eye-popping, but only include 10 full games:

Player

Team

Year

Passer Rating

Pass Yds

Completion %

Rush Yds

Total TD

DeShone Kizer

Notre Dame

2015

151.8

2596

63.3

504

28

Elite Company: Other freshman (redshirt or true freshman) with passer rating over 145, over 2400 passing yards and 500 rushing yards since 2000:

Player

Yr

Team

Comp

Att

%

Pass Yds

TD

INT

Rtg

Rushes

Rush Yds

Avg

TD

9

J.T. Barrett

2014

Ohio State

203

314

64.6

2834

34

10

169.8

171

938

5.5

11

16

Marcus Mariota

2012

Oregon

230

336

68.5

2677

32

6

163.2

106

752

7.1

5

27

Johnny Manziel

2012

Texas A&M

295

434

68.0

3706

26

9

155.3

201

1410

7.0

21

47

Dan Lefevour

2006

Central Michigan

247

388

63.7

3031

26

10

146.2

132

521

3.9

7

Again, an exclusive club featuring two Heisman winners and a player who probably has a decent shot at it next year, plus another former Brian Kelly player. While Barrett, Mariota, Johnny Football, and Lefevour all have bigger overall numbers, again it's important to remember that they had the benefit of 2-3 extra games to add to their stats. Who does DeShone Kizer remind me of in this group? More than anyone, Dan Lefevour.

Kizer doesn't possess the other-worldly agility of Manziel or the speed of Barrett or Mariota, but is an effective runner with long strides like the bigger Lefevour (6'3, 230 lbs). Their numbers in their first year as starters are extremely similar, and if Kizer keeps the starting job I think he may mirror a similar trajectory. Lefevour increased his completion % every year, from 63.6% his freshman season to 69.7% as a senior. The Feve was only a 1,000 yard rusher his sophomore season, and I don't know that Brian Kelly wants Kizer to run much more than he did as a freshman - 8-12 times a game to keep the defense honest unless it's a critical contest?

I do think Kizer has a higher ceiling than Lefevour - while their stats are similar, Kizer's came against much better competition, and while Lefevour became more accurate his passer rating didn't improve dramatically over his four years (146.2, 133.5, 144.2, 150.3). Kizer's decision making and TD-to-INT ratio should continue improving with experience and coaching, and he has the luxury of stacked recruiting classes at both offensive line and skill positions.

Any other players that come to mind for Fuller, Adams, Kizer or any other players on the current roster?