(UHND) – When Charlie Weis announced on Sunday that Michael Floyd would be out for the next two games with s trained knee, Notre Dame lost one of its biggest playmakers and arguably the best freshman wide receiver in Notre Dame history. There may not be anyone capable of completely replacing Floyd’s production on the Irish right now, but there is a cast of talented players who are capable of stepping of their game and helping fill the void created by Floyd’s injury.
Notre Dame won’t be able to simply plug in another receiver and not miss a beat, but they will likely use a combination of players to replace his production. Here’s a look at who will be looked at to step up in Floyd’s absence.
The official depth chart for this weekend’s Syracuse game lists Grimes as the starter opposite Golden Tate, but Grimes alone won’t be able to fill in for Floyd because he has a completely different skill set. Grimes doesn’t have the ability to run under a deep ball and win the battle in the air for the ball the way Floyd is capable of doing.
Still, Grimes is a reliable and dependable receiver and should be very effective in the short passing game and on the quick flare out passes Notre Dame ran with much more frequency last week. Grimes only has 24 catches for 204 yards (8.5 yards/catch) so it should be pretty clear that he will not be able to replace Floyd’s deep threat, but he should catch what is thrown his way and do the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
The freshman tight end won’t be filling in for Floyd at wide receiver obviously, but with Floyd out for ht next two games, Notre Dame is going to have to get more of a contribution out of Rudolph this weekend. Just when it looked like Rudolph was about to explode at the midway point of this season, Notre Dame stopped going his way as frequently. With Floyd out, look for the tight end to become a more integral part of the Notre Dame offense.
If there is one wide receiver who can step up and fill in for Floyd’s big play potential it might by sophomore wide receiver Duval Kamara who set the Notre Dame freshman record for catches in a season last year before Floyd came in and rewrote the Notre Dame freshman receiving record books. Kamara has had a disappointing 2008 season thus far, but he’s shown some signs of life the past couple weeks and with his size, he will be a match up nightmare for Syracuse this weekend. USC will be a different story because Kamara’s size advantage won’t be enough against USC’s secondary, but for this weekend at least Kamara could have a big day.
Kamara’s stats are less impressive than Grimes with only 15 catches for 164 yards, but with his size advantage, maybe we’ll see Weis call a couple deep passes to him this weekend if they can get him in man to man coverage.
Parris has barely seen the field this year, but with Floyd out, he should see more time and could provide a few plays over the next two games. Last year it looked like Parris was going to become a pretty solid receiver for the Irish, but he got lost in the mix at receiver some this year and now has just 9 catches for 50 yards this season.
Allen is Notre Dame’s third leading receiver this year and has gotten much better in the screen game over the past few weeks. Allen’s 42 catches are just one fewer than Golden Tate’s 43 and four fewer than Floyd’s 46. Notre Dame is going to need someone to replace Floyd’s gamebreaking potential and Allen has shown some flashes of being a potential big play threat in the passing game as the season has progressed. His season long reception is still just 21 yards, but there have been a number of screen passes which Allen has some close to breaking. Will he be able break one or two of those big plays which he’s been unable to do so far this season over the next two games?
Unfortunately for the Irish, there isn’t anyone on the roster right now who is capable of completely filling in for Floyd right now. Notre Dame simply doesn’t have another receiver who possesses Floyd’s skill set. Floyd has shown that he is the total package at wide receiver already this year. He can make plays downfield as well as on underneath and intermediate routes. He is also a matchup problem for defensive backs because of his size.
David Grimes brings plenty of starting experience to the table, but he doesn’t possess Floyd’s size or speed. Kamara has better size than Floyd, but lacks Floyd’s route running skills and is not the same downfield threat. Parris hasn’t play much this year. Rudolph and Allen both can be playmakers, but neither plays the wide receiver position.
Against Syracuse, the loss of Floyd probably won’t mean a whole lot since the Irish should be able to get past the Orange without him. The problem comes in two weeks when Notre Dame travels to Southern California in a game in which they can’t afford to lay an egg in again this year. Floyd was one of the few playmakers the Irish had on offense which could give USC’s athletic defense some problems. Without Floyd or a reliable running game, it is going to take a heck of a gameplan from Weis and Haywood for the Irish offense to be able to put up many points.
Look for Weis to work in a few of these players into the passing game. Kyle Rudolph is going to have to be used over the middle in order to open things up for the other receivers and Armando Allen will likely be used in the short passing game and on screens more the next couple weeks – especially is USC comes out aggressive and blitzes early. The next two weeks will also be a chance for Duval Kamara to make an impression on the Irish coaching staff before this year’s freshman begin pushing or playing time in the Spring.