In Brian Kelly’s first season at Notre Dame he announced captains on a week by week basis. In year two, Notre Dame will have the same two captains each week all season long – Michael Floyd and Harrison Smith.
After calling all of the seniors on the stage to a standing ovation, Kelly announced that Floyd and Smith would serve as captains for next season. Based on how the season ended for Notre Dame Kelly’s announcement should come as no surprise to Notre Dame fans. In a way, it is, however, surprising that careers of both Floyd and Smith have led them to being captains in 2011.
For Floyd, it’s only surprising because he is still on campus and returning for his senior season. Most felt that Floyd would leave for the NFL after his junior season almost from the moment he stepped foot on campus and scored a touchdown with his first career catch in his first career game. As everyone knows by now, however, Floyd decided to return for his senior season to finish his degree and prove that he’s the best receiver in the country.
Floyd might be one of the most unassuming captains Notre Dame has ever had. Despite playing a position prone to producing divas, Floyd doesn’t seek the limelight. In fact, he does the opposite. When Floyd decided he would be returning for his senior season, Notre Dame wanted to have a press conference. Floyd didn’t so there wasn’t one.
Floyd even had to be forced to give a speech after receiving his team MVP Award earlier in the tonight. Once he got to the podium, Notre Dame’s star receiver giggled before thanking everyone he could.
Smith on the other hand has had a much more tumultuous career. After redshirting in 2007, Smith stepped into a starting role in 2008 before bouncing around between safety and outside linebacker. By the end of the 2009 season, Smith was known more for boneheaded penalties than he was game changing plays.
Part of Smith’s inconsistency was the result of not being able to settle in at one position. The previous coaching regime moved Smith back and forth between outside linebacker and safety a few times. When Kelly took over last year, however, he said that if Smith couldn’t play safety, he couldn’t play in this defense.
It turns out Smith can play safety in this defense pretty well. It was Smith’s interception in the final minute that sealed Notre Dame’s first win over USC since 2001 and it was Smith’s three interceptions in the first half of the Sun Bowl that helped the Irish build an insurmountable lead over the Hurricanes. Now Smith will be tasked with being the leader of Notre Dame’s resurgent defense next season.
With Smith as a captain for 2011, we now know of at least two 5th year seniors coming back next season. David Ruffer, who was awarded a scholarship yesterday for next season, being the other. That unofficially leaves Notre Dame with 5 more remaining scholarships for more 5th year seniors and recruits.