Channeling Jeff Samardzija… Replacing Michael Floyd

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.

Can Duval Kamara rekindle of the magic he had as a freshman in 2007 and fill in for injured star wide receiver Michael Floyd? (Photo - Icon SMI)

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.

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  1. Shaz,

    Can’t disagree with your comments about wanting that power-running game in bad weather…it’s just not there. I agree on the talent; and yet, the strength of this team is not the power running game. We can wish it so, but it’s not there.

  2. ND’s lines made a lot of good backs look great. I am not sure Marc Edwards would thrive in this offense, nor would he be expected too. The running game keeps teams honest. ND’s offense, for now, is based on a potent passing attack with a very accurate quarterback. I want JC throwing the football to the wideouts and TE’s. Amazing we can still find fault with this offense. Hughes is not a threat period. We very rarely see the I anymore and one back, Hughes, in the backfield is no threat whatsover. With this line AA or Gray have the speed to quickly get through the holes or around the corners; Hughes does not. I like Hughes and Aldridge but neither has shown consistency or the quickness to run Weis’ offense where speed is needed. I am not sure you can have a bruising ‘smash mouth’ running attack and an explosive passing game together. That’s why balance is stressed. This group of offensive linemen have shown great progress in protecting JC. The one area that they still cannot dominate is the power running game. Unpredictability is this offense’s main weapon.

    1. MMA83D,

      When your team has the ball, and the lead, with 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
      You should be able to run out the clock with your running backs. Hughes included.
      Your are correct when you say he’s no threat whatsoever. That’s because he has zero carries. We don’t even know what we have in the guy.They have no power running game because they choose not to. Is that wise coaching?Unfortunetly, that should be apart of every good offence.
      A season is filled with 3rd and short, 4th and short, and goal-line situations. Why recruit these guys if you arn’t going to utilize there skills?
      I hope by not using them early in the year, it doesn’t come back to bit us. Like when it’s cold, slippery, and windy in Mid November in South Bend.
      When your QB looses acuracy because of windy conditions, your reciever’s have a hard time catching because it’s cold, our cutting because it’s slippery, an ugilly ass, old fashion, streight ahead power running game can be a coaches best friend.
      It’s just another case of having talent, and utilizing it when the situation calls.

  3. Shazamrock,
    Both your posts on Hughes are right on the mark. Why aren’t we seeing him more? No fullback sets. Too many empty backfield sets. Allen looks great, but truly rotating them in and out would be better. Another NFL versus college problem. Older guys can do the whole game thing. Younger guys need a rest once in a while. ND does a really poor job with substitutions.
    I hate to say it again and again, but Holtz was able to cycle guys in and out. Subs were ready and oftern made the big play coming in fresh. Weis doesn’t seem to have confidence that the sub is anything but a filler. And so the act that way.
    Also, with more running, you’d see the offense on the field longer. sustained running drives do two things. More exposure to more running backs and the balance of getting the top guys in a rhythm with getting them some rest. It also keeps the defense off the field. The Defense then has confidence that they can hammer away and not expect to tire late in the game. You heard this week how a little more defensive substituion may have made the difference at the end.
    More running backs with meaningful carries. More sustained clock burning drives. More active and planned substitution strategy.

    1. Hughes can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
      Speaking of Lou Holtz, he used to throw to the fullback a couple of times a game and it wasn’t always on a screen.
      He would clear out the underneath then if there was no blitz, slip him out and get the ball to him in a hurry. Some poor corner or saftey had to try to tackle a guy like Marc Edwards running full steam.(Remember him? Crew cut hair and a neck like a tree trunk) It always seemed to be a good play for his teams, and as a fan, it was damn fun to watch. I’d love to see that play agian.
      Charlie talks about playing nasty. Well, there’s nothing nastier that a 240lb fullback rambling full speed in the open field.

  4. RE: Hughes. Dude is a tank with no wheels. You blast a hole wide open and push him through it, and then he’d still get tackled by the linebackers. No thank you, give me Armando Allen until his knees buckle. And then put Jonas Gray in there with some crazy glue on his hands so he doesn’t fumble the dang pigskinny.

    1. Hughes has shown some “flashes” in the past.
      Why do you get the feeling that if he played for SoCal he would be matched up with Joe McKnight(Like Bush and LenDale White a few years back)and be having a great year?
      We are entering the fourth game of the year and haven’t even seen him yet. Is he having trouble in the classroom? Is he hurt or over weight? Are they saving him for a rainy day?
      That big running back for Michigan, Minor, gashed us pretty good. You would think that we could do the same with hughes.
      Does anyone know what the deal is with this guy?

  5. Great headline for the post – Some serious depth at WR and given the other offensive weapons the new WR just has to hold his own and not carry an offense. I’m hoping at WR that blocks the best.

  6. I like this weeks match up with Purdue. Purdue has turned the ball over 9 times already this year(5 fumbles & 4 int’s)(ND is a +2) They are allowing an average of 181 yards per game rushing and 253 thru the air. That’s agianst Oregon, Toledo,& NIU.
    As much as I like Armando Allen, I think Robert Hughes deserves some carries. Doesn’t anyone remember the job he did agianst Wawaii in last years bowl game? The guy was a beast. After playing 3 games, most teams are a little banged up and sore. A great time to turn Robert Hughes loose.
    If you are a wide reciever on ND not named Golden Tate, you should be excited. Very excited. We all know that Purdue will double up on Tate and force ND to find a nother reciever. Kamara, Evans, Parris, Walker, Goodman, One of these guys should be a household name after this game.
    Lets get back to basics. Protect the football, play smart,limit penalties, run the ball with speed AND power. Use play action. Execute. Be solid on special teams. Find your defensive identity.
    If you are ever going to put it all together this is the game. After this Saturday night’s game agianst Purdue, we face Washington, USC, & Boston College. So you better be ready. You know they will be.

  7. IrishFan EXCELLENT point…i was thinkig that as well…he is waiting for the ball instead of meeting the ball at the highest point–

    1. not sure what you guys are talking about. the way clausen throws his deep balls, there is no need to “go up and get it”. he places it perfectly so the wr does not have to break stride. when he does have the red zone fade route thrown his way, he has shown on many occasions to “go up and get it”. he does it when neccessary and called for, not when he is running 50 mph down the field to get under the pass.

      1. As a receiver they are not taught to wait for the ball…especially when the DB is in your grill it is necessary to go up and get the ball at the highest point you can reach. Floyd does this the best…watch this clip of the TD (although the refs said no TD…BS!) notice what he does…he does not wait for the ball if he does the DB knocks the ball down.

      2. like i said before, tate has done the same on that same type of route over and over again. i think i called it a red zone fade pattern.

        i know crappy footage, but he went up when he needed to.

        him and floyd both run under the ball on go routes, and both go up for it in the endzone on that route.

        how should he have “gone up” for this one?

        just watch his highlights and tell me the same. jimmy’s accuracy is so good that he hits both of them in stride on go routes and puts the ball in the air in the endzone where they can go up and get it.

        golden tate

        michael floyd

        notice how both go up for it when needed and run under when needed.

    2. Cliff thanks buddy. He lets the db almost catch up to him. You are taught to cut off the angle the db has to the ball. Moss does it best, especailly when the db is on his hip.

  8. I really don’t understand why Golden doesn’t go up for the ball? He’s always just runnin underneath it. Go up and get it Golden.

  9. The Times is VERY wrong…when Floyd got hurt he clearly was in control of the ball and got 2 feet in not just one…it was a miscall on the field and the challenge! Also there was a call again Sam Young that was weak…the Refs are out of control…

    1. Charlie can’t get sanctioned by our “conference” for his officiating comments so I believe the officials took it upon themselves to send him a message. Especially on the Floyd “touchdown”.
      Hayden, $c, even commented on some of those calls being a little suspect.

      1. So, let’s see. Big Ten refs, take a touchdown away from Notre Dame in one game. A call that could have been the difference maker. The coach complains about the very irregular reasoning, and so get’s another blatantly bad call and points taken away? That sounds like organized crime. “You accuse us of cheating and we’ll cheat just to blackmail you.” Are you kidding?

    2. The Times IS wrong indeed~~~
      ND caught something –but it was not the breaks!!!
      ND was robbed of a TD – he had the ball–albeit a little shakey-but he HAD the ball
      AND both feet were in.
      We have seen footage quite a bit and it WAS a TD!
      That in and of itself
      makes the exciting end of the game quite different!
      It would have been 37-30 provided the PAT was good.
      ND -breaks?? You have GOT to be kidding!

  10. PS the Chicago Scum-times headlines ND won “catching all the breaks.” I had to listen to the game on the radio but it didnt sound to me like ND caught any breaks at all, especially with the officiating. Is the Times wrong?

  11. Is there any chance at all of a red shirt for Floyd since the injury came early in the season? Whats the rule with that? I think Texas WR Jordan Shipley is in his 6th year but i dont know when he was inured time of season wise.

    1. Floyd can apply for a medical redshirt, but many people think he won’t because he will already be an NFL prospect when the time comes to apply for the 5th year. I would have to agree. He would be the first Irish player in a long time to be worthy of leaving early. Sorry, but Darius Walker doesn’t count. He was good, but had no reason to leave early. I would be thrilled if Floyd stayed for all his eligible years, but I don’t see it.

  12. Kamara is one of our best options, but he needs to play with more determination and drive. He is the biggest wide receiver we have (6’5″) and would be a nice complement to Tate. Shaq Evans is just 6’1″ – Tate is undersized already – so he better be a burner when he’s on the field. I just think you need some size out of that second option because of how accurate Jimmy is with the fade pattern and jump ball. We score a lot of TDs with that play. The truth is, ND runs a lot of plays with 3 or 4 WRs on the field, so Kamara is going to be out there same time as Tate, Kyle and maybe Evans. Up to Jimmy to find the best option, and he can do it. He’s getting better every week.

  13. Ragone is fast…im really excited for his future. Teams will focus on Rudolph and Ragone will have a big day.

    As far as WR…I would prefer to see Shaq, or Walker or Goodie over Parris and Kumar simply because of the speed factor.

  14. I think Tate will get the double coverage. Rudolph should start to get more ball time. Is it me or does Rudolph look a little like Smarj especially with the stiff arm. I also think one of the above needs to be chosen and developed. WR by committee will like work as well as it did with running back.

  15. I agree with Drew–I have a fever, and the only prescription is more Rudolph.

    MMA83d–it was Ragone who dropped the pass early on. Romine is an O-lineman.

    JC–I agree that more two tight end sets sound like a good thing. Despite his drop, I think Ragone is an offensive weapon that we haven’t used–and really haven’t had to use–this season. The guy is fast and strong, though, and he’s supposed to be an offensive weapon. That said, even if we run a lot more two TE sets, we still need a no. 2 receiver to emerge.


  16. It was Ragone( our second tight end) who dropped the pass, not Romine..Looks like he is still trying to get past his injuies from the past 2 years..

    He needs to step it up, because we could some production out of our 2 Tight end sets..

  17. Agree with Rudolph comment…his speed really does make a difference because he can line up as an extra wideout. Was it Romine who dropped a pass inthe second quarter? He also looks very similar to Rudolph only lighter.

  18. I’m hoping to see some more of Evans and Walker at WR – but obviously getting the ball to Rudolph will be key. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like the offense has a real fluidity to it when Rudolph gets involved.

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