The third wide receiver position for Notre Dame has been unsettled through three games. With the likelihood of having to play at a minimum of the next few games without star wide receiver Michael Floyd, the Irish are going to need to figure out who their best wide receiver is behind Floyd and Golden Tate in a hurry.
Notre Dame has been in this situation under Charlie Weis’s guidance before. In week two of the 2005 season, Notre Dame lost its top wide receiver, Rhema McKnight, with a nasty injury. The Irish replaced McKnight with a seldom used junior wide receiver by the name of Jeff Samardzija. That ended up working out pretty well for Notre Dame. If whoever fills in for Floyd can have even remotely as mcuch of an impact as Samardzija did in 2005, this offense will be alright.
Here’s a quick look at who Notre Dame will look to fill the void left by Floyd’s absence until the super sophomore is ready to return.
Duval Kamara. Before Michael Floyd rewrote the Irish freshman receiving record book last year, Duval Kamara set a few freshman records of his own. As a sophomore though, Kamara was passed on the depth chart by Floyd and had a less than stellar sophomore season. So far this year Kamara has only caught 4 passes for 29 yards. Kamara would seem the most likely to get the first look from the Irish coaching staff considering his physical tools and past production. Can Kamara rekindle a little of the magic he had as a freshman and become a reliable second option for Clausen?
Shaquelle Evans. The freshman training camp sensation saw his first real action last week against Michigan, but was hardly used this week against Michigan State even after Floyd left with the injury. He doesn’t have the understanding of the offense that Kamara has, but he has better top end speed and if he can get up to speed quickly, he has the most potential to replace Floyd’s downfield threat. Charlie Weis would probably have liked to ease Evans into the offense with Floyd and Tate the clear cut top receivers, but Floyd’s injury could force Weis’s hand here. Evans has the most play making potential of the group, but as a true freshman he could be a liability with his blocking – an area where Floyd excels.
Robby Parris. Parris is a steady option for Notre Dame, but doesn’t have the ability to create a lot of separation downfield. He lacks the speed of a Golden Tate or the size of a Michael Floyd. I think Parris will settle in as the third wide receiver with Floyd out. Parris is a sure handed receiver who can be effective out of the slot if he gets lined up against a safety or linebacker. Parris saw some more action against Michigan State and caught his first touchdown of the season from Armando Allen out of the wildcat. Parris doesn’t have the big play potential that defensive coordinators would have to scheme around though. Parris has 4 catches for 26 yards this season.
John Goodman. Goodman got his first taste of crunch time on Saturday and was the target of a key third down pass from Jimmy Clausen towards the end of the game. Goodman has very good speed and was complimented on it by Robert Blanton in training camp – something Blanton doesn’t do a lot of where receivers are concerned.
Deion Walker. Walker only has one career catch, but was one of the first wide receivers worked into the rotation against Nevada. We haven’t seen a whole lot of him, however, since that game. Walker might be the least likely candidate at this point to step in for Floyd since he hasn’t played much at all the past two weeks.
Aside from physically replacing Floyd with another wide receiver, Weis is going to have to figure out a way to replace Floyd’s production – or at least come close to it with some schematic changes.
Run the ball more. Armando Allen is becoming a very good running back and the offensive line is starting to create a lot of room for Allen to run. This is a combination that Notre Dame hasn’t had a lot of over the past two seasons. Allen’s starting to make some really tough inside runs and get a couple extra yards on his carries. He’s due for that break out game everyone’s been waiting for. He recorded his first career 100 yard game against Purdue so next weekend might be that game. Behind Allen, Notre Dame has some work to do with its running backs. Jonas Gray looks very talented, but his pass blocking was very suspect against Michigan State. Freshman Theo Riddick looks like the third back right now and could see more carries in the near future if Notre Dame tries to run the ball more.
Throw to Armando Allen more. Allen is a dangerous threat out of the backfield, but was only really utilized in the passing game against Michigan. Notre Dame showed that it can be a very good screen team, but only ran one screen to a running back against Michigan State. Allen’s got the speed to make a big play in the passing game and will probably be utilized more as a receiver while Floyd is out.
Use more Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph is one of the best receiving tight ends in the country. He set a career high for receiving yards against Michigan State with 95 and he will see his production increase quite a bit with Floyd out. Notre Dame has tried to get Rudolph the ball down the middle of the field a couple of times this season to no avail. Rudolph will see some extra attention with Floyd out, but he’s got the size and speed to be a matchup nightmare for most linebackers.
Throw more crossing patterns. Notre Dame used the crossing pattern very effectively in 2005 and 2006, but hasn’t used it much this year. These patterns are a little slower developing but the offensive line has shown the ability to give Clausen time in the pocket. Without having Floyd’s downfield threat look for Notre Dame to run more of these starting this weekend.
Floyd is a superstar – that can’t be debated – so losing him for any extended stretch is going to hurt this offense. Notre Dame has enough talent on the roster and a star quarterback that should be able to offset the loss and move forward with a still very potent offensive attack.