IBG – Life After Michael Floyd Edition

UHND is hosting this week’s Irish Blog Gathering as we prepare for the life after Michael Floyd.  This week we take a look at this weekend’s game against Purdue and reflect on the first quarter of the season.

Side note: the Irish Blog Gathering was originally created by SubwayDomer.  He just relaunched his blog on a new platform and it looks great.  Give him a visit if you have a minute.

1. The obvious question for the week, how does Notre Dame deal with the loss of Michael Floyd? What wide receiver steps up? How, if at all, does the offense change?
I wrote an article on Saturday night after the game about replacing Floyd, but now that Charlie Weis had his Tuesday presser and shed a little light on the subject I’ll add a little more. Weis said that he is considering moving Golden Tate around to prevent teams from keying on him which makes sense. After Floyd went down last year, the offense didn’t move the ball nearly as well culminating in the embarrassing offensive performance against USC. I would hope Weis learned from this and will do what he can to create favorable matchups for Golden.

Armando Allen had his breakout performance against Purdue last year. Could Shaquelle Evans have his breakout game against the Boilermakers this year? (Photo - Icon SMI)

I also think we’ll see some three wide receiver sets with Duval Kamara and Shaquelle Evans joining Tate. Evans might be the only wide receiver on the team who has the chance to be a dangerous deep threat to compliment Tate because of his speed.

As much as Weis says the offense won’t change, it almost has to at least a little. I would expect Notre Dame to attack the middle of the field more with Kyle Rudolph. Armando Allen is going to have to become a bigger weapon in the passing game on more than just screens too. Notre Dame has the weapons to make this offense go without Floyd, but Weis definitely has some work to do between now and October 17 to get this offense in a place where it can do some damage against USC.

2. After seeing three games from Notre Dame in 2009 have your expectations increased, decreased, or remained the same?
I would have to say my expectations are probably about the same as they were in the pre-season. I figured on a 9-3 regular season in the pre-season IBG and that is probably where the team is right about now – especially with Floyd out for the season. The defense is easily the biggest disappointment though and that could be what keeps this team from a BCS bowl right now.

The offensive line has exceeded my expectations more than any other unit on the team. Frank Verducci has done a truly awesome job with the offensive line so far. If you would have told me the offensive line would play as well as it has through games in August, I’d probably have had much higher expectations for this team.

3. The last two years against Purdue a Notre Dame player has had their breakout game. In 2007 it was Golden Tate and in 2008 it was Armando Allen. Who do you think could have their breakout game against the Boilermakers this year?
I think the obvious choice would have to be Shaquelle Evans. Like Tate in 2007, Evans hasn’t done a whole lot coming into the Purdue game, but we’ve heard a lot about his speed. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a couple of deep bombs thrown to Evans early to keep the defense honest without Floyd.

If Purdue is smart, they will key on Tate and put an extra man in the box to take away the running game until Notre Dame shows them that it has the wide receivers to run the same offense.

Prior to the 2007 Purdue game, Golden Tate had 0 catches and played in just one game. Against the Boilermakers Tate caught three passes for 104 yards and his first career touchdown. So far this season Evans has just 2 catches for 15 yards. We could see a similar breakout performance this weekend.

Wildcard here is Theo Riddick. Purdue has given up a lot of yards on the ground this year. If Notre Dame can soften up Purdue with the pass and open the run, Riddick could see some more action this week.

4. How would you grade the three new coaches on this year’s staff based on the first three games?
I don’t think you can give Frank Verducci anything but an A for the work he’s done with the Notre Dame offensive line. It’s almost like night and day. Last year Michigan State just beat up Notre Dame in the trenches and shut down the running game. They also got to Jimmy Clausen often. That didn’t happen last weekend. We’ve not only seen a better performance from the linemen but we’ve seen nasty streaks out players like Sam Young that we never saw before. Now Verducci just needs to get Young to cut down on the penalties.

Tony Alford has done a great job as well. Armando Allen might be the most improved player on the team. Outside of Allen though, the backs – especially Jonas Gray – have some suspect blocking skills so he still has plenty of work left to do as well. Still, the Alford hire has to be seen as at worst a solid B at this point.

As for Randy Hart, I would have to grade him an incomplete at this point. Everything I’ve heard about Randy Hart points to him being a very good coach, but the young Irish defense line is still learning on the job and experiencing growing pains. We did see Ethan Johnson start to grow as an interior defensive lineman last week though. Ian Williams had his best game of the season against the Spartans as well. The defensive ends, however, have been a disappointment this far.

5. Your thoughts on Golden Tate’s stage dive into the Michigan State band? Was he trying to avoid running into the band? Was the whole thing intentional? Little of column A, little of column B?
I think it was a little of column A and a little of column B. I don’t think that Tate could have completely stopped considering how close the Michigan State band was (who’s idea was that?), but I also don’t think he had to do a stage dive either. That said, I don’t have a problem with it at all. Notre Dame needs a little bit of swagger and since it didn’t draw a penalty I say no harm no foul.

Apparently Tate had made at least one fan on YouTube from the leap if nothing else.


6. How has your opinion of the Notre Dame schedule changed from how you felt about it in the pre-season?
It definitely looks a little tougher, but it’s still too early to tell. The new coach aura at Washington won’t last all season and at some point the lack of talent left by Willingham for Steve Sarkisian will catch up to them (hopefully before they visit South Bend next weekend). Michigan is clearly much better than I expected as well. Ditto for Pitt and UConn. At the same time, Stanford looks weaker than most thought they would be. As does Michigan State, Nevada, and Boston College. Surprisingly, USC looks weaker too as they could very easily be 1-2 at this point.

By the end of the season I think it’ll end up being tougher than most expected, and that will hurt the perception of Notre Dame’s season.

7. Should Jimmy Clausen be getting more hype for the Heisman?
It’s tough to say if he should be getting more hype for the Heisman. He certainly could be considering his stats are excellent and he’s shown a lot of leadership so far this season. The bottom line though is that Notre Dame is 2-1 and lost to a team they should have beat and Clausen will pay the price for that even though he played well in the loss.

If Clausen can put up some more gaudy numbers this weekend playing with turf toe and without All World wide receiver Michael Floyd than I will say that he deserves more hype than he’s currently getting.

That said, the October 17th game with USC will provide Clausen with all of the opportunity he needs to really put his name in the mix. If he continues at his current pace and can lead Notre Dame to a win then, he’ll be at the heart of the discussion.

Irish Blogger Gathering Responses:

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  1. What’s with the Irish defense? Weis promised a much improved defensive unit. I agree with chris vegas, the Irish defense is egregious. Without the game saving plays of Mccarthy, the Irish could easily be 1 and 4, in my opinion. I’d also like to hear other’s comments, vis-a-vis, the Irish offense in the Red zone. At times, it seems they effortlessly advance the ball to the red zone, and then without explanation are stone-walled.

  2. Why is no one commenting on the AWFUL defense? Weis can clearly coach offense. Moving Golden tate around was very effective. But every time that sieve D comes on the field I cringe. The defense looks small and slow, and tackles poorly. I cant remember the last time i felt we didn’t have to score at least 30 to win a game against a quality oppoment.Looks like another mediocre year to me.

  3. Good discussion all the way around.

    With the injury to AA it will be interesting to see who gets the majority of the carries:
    Gray – He is shown some ability, however has been a liablity picking up the blitz, and it was mentioned above a good back has to pick up the blitz!
    Hughes – Move RH back to the TB postion.? I think this is the best option, big strong smart and experienced. So that would put Burger as the FB…hmmmm….
    Riddick – I think this is an opportunity to give TR 1/3 of the carries. No real data to support this however he is out 3rd string TB.


  4. I agree that when a player is ready he will play. With that in mind, we will see Wood and Riddick as the situation dictates. I also want to see them on the field, but I would question using a year of eligibility unless the game calls for their abilities. What Holtz would have done is not relevant now. Why do we keep bringing his coaching into the mix?


    Like you, I would love to see some of these players get playing time but only when they can produce on the field. We hear the great things about them early on in practice but I think much of that is the coaches being positive about their potential. Once the season begins many of those players seem to fade from news. Let’s face it, you have to be an exceptional and physically ready player to play as a freshman or sophomore. For me, the red flag goes up if a freshman or sophomore is playing/ starting on the lines or is a starting backer. Chances are we have not recruited well or certain players have not developed. Even Teo’s time is limited primarily due to his knowledge, and physically, I do not believe he is ready to take the pounding. Love talking Irish Football!

  6. MMA83d, let me ask you this then, why hasn’t Charlie allowed more players like McDonald and Posluszny, etc. play during crucial times during games?

    1. As a player, you have months to outperform the guys ahead of you on the depth chart. If you’re not good enough to be on top of the depth chart, then you probably aren’t the best player in that position. If you aren’t the best player at a position, you shouldn’t be in during “crucial times” in games.

      Also, offenses are much more complex nowadays than they were in the Holtz Era. Young players now, particularly running backs, have A LOT to learn before they can see significant time in the backfield. See Jonas Gray, our second string running back, who still can’t seem to pick up the blitz. If the younger guys were better than Jonas at picking up the blitz, I imagine they’d be in on passing situations.

  7. You shouldn’t care about someones eligibility if you are recruiting well and letting the best players walk-on.

  8. Wood hasn’t really played because it hasn’t been needed, most likely. Allen has had a terrific season and even Jonas Gray has been alright while Riddick has looked good on returns. There’s not been much of a need to put Wood in and then he’d lose his redshirt status.

  9. Love Lou but he doesn’t coach anymore. If Cierre Wood was ready to play he would be playing. AA played as a freshman…was he ready? No. Lou may have rotated players, but like Weis, he is not going to waste a year of eligibility of an underdeveloped freshman. I only recall one freshman tailback making a huge impact for Holtz…the Rocket. I only recall one offensive lineman playing as a freshman for Holtz…Tim Rosenthall. The side of the ball that’s not working is the defense, that’s where your criticism should be directed, not the offense.

  10. I also loved the dive. His momentum was carrying him into the band. If this is truly such a problem for people, then the band shouldn’t be standing so close to the field. It’s really a stupid place to put them.

    I really don’t see it as that big of a deal though. Just an excuse for people to get mad.

  11. When the dive happened it took me a second to realize, that’s not the ND band. That created a x4 Hilarious multiplier in my book.

    I couldn’t stop laughing when it happened. Also, that video is Epic. I think it might not have been the most ‘correct’ thing to do, but I do think this team needs to get back into the swing from game one.

    Game one, those kids looked like they were having fun, and it showed in the outcome. Game two, that was a dogfight. Game three started off with some fun, but the pressure showed and it quickly became a depressing fight for our season. I think this type of move was just what the team needed to allow them to relax just a little.

    I think this team’s biggest problem is the pressure we’re putting on them for no reason. They just need to go out there and play the game. They have the talent, they have the knowledge and prep-work. The just need to lose some of the tension.

    On an unrelated note: If you told me that we’d have an offensive line that can protect the QB AND open up running lanes AND run screens well. And you told me we’d have a Heisman quality QB (3 games 9 TD’s 950+ Yds ZERO ints). And you told me we’d have a RB with 326 Yds in 3 games (averaging 5.5 YPC). And you told me we’d have a WR with 301 Yds with 3 TDs. And you told me we’d have a TE who can block with 13 receptions for 162 Yds (12.5 YPR). I would tell you we’d have an AWESOME offense. I’d also ask you if you got stuck in a delorean and thought it was 2005 or 2006.

    We still have ALL of those things. Make no mistake, we will be missing Floyd, but I sincerely believe our offense is too multi-faceted to let this cripple our season. I really think our depth at WR is too deep, and our QB is too skilled to let this stop him.

    This season, I have a feeling that I haven’t had since 2006. It’s the feeling of complete faith in our quarterback. It’s an amazing feeling. When we were down by 11 in the 4th against scUM I KNEW we’d get the lead back. when we were down by 4 with 7 minutes to go against MSU, I KNEW we’d get the lead back. We will be fine.

  12. Does anyone know what is up with Cierre Wood? He had more hype then Riddick coming in and also had a good camp.

    I did not like the dive- because we are lucky we– got away with one there…if he would of been flagged it would of been the same scenerio as AA last week…I love tate and his ablity however he has made some key drops in some big games…

    I’m excited about seening how goodie, shaq and walker are going to do…they all have ability now its time to show their skill.

    1. Cliff, Charlie Weis does not know how to use his players correctly and effectively. You see, Charlie Weis believes that you have practice perfect in order to play. On the other hand, Lou Holtz reconized that there are practice players and there are game players. Lou Holtz didn’t care if you were a walk-on or a player on scholarship. According to Lou Holtz, if you were good enough to make the team, you were good enough to play! Lou Holtz would have players like Cierre Wood playing from game one. People just don’t seem to realize that about Lou Holtz. I mean, the man was a genius! He used to play five different running backs in a single game because he reconized that all players play differently and the more players you use, the more time opposing teams have to spend on preparing for your team!!!

      1. Also, Charlie Weis still treats the college game like the pro game in that he really only likes to use starters. We should be using Lou Holtz’s philosophy on using players so, we can keep players fresh and give opposing teams more to think about!

    2. I agree with you cliff, i made the comment before about Golden talking alot of smack. How about you catch the football. I’m not doubting his abilities. but whatever happined to just playing the game. If your good enough, your play will do all the jaw jacking for you. Lou never allowed a player take his helmet off on the field in celebration, and always handed the football to ref after the score. He was about team and not about the me thing. I have lived in Florida for 5 years now, grew up in Mish. And outside of South Bend we are still considered a joke and overated. They celebrated after the Kyle interception like they won the dang National Championship. Just go play football will you, and let the actions do the talking. It’s not about these kids, or the coach, its about the University of Notre Dame and what it represents.

  13. i have no problem with it either, i just dont understand why AA got one for MUCH less in ann arbor??? …oh well.

    Frank i like your “wild card” pick for breakout game, i think ridick is gonna go off! hope to see him in the endzone on Saturday night!

  14. Didn’t like the dive…maybe because (in addition to playing football) I was in my HS marching band. If Michigan had done that to our band, I would have been out of my seat calling for a penalty or sanctions on Dick-Rod for next year.

    1. It’s a football game, and the band is sitting right on top of the field, by the end zone no less, where there’s obviously going to be some action. The dive may or may not have been necessary, but he was going to end up in the band one way or another. He had a fraction of a second to decide what he was going to do when he looked up.

      Stupid place to put the band, IMO

    2. How about when Michigan St. planted their big ass flag at OUR 50 yard line? If you don’t recall that, you’re not a true fan. That pissed me off and I couldn’t have LOVED Tate’s dive any more. Don’t mess with the Irish, we’ll get ya back one way or another.

  15. I personally loved Tate diving into the band – since he didn’t get hurt and didn’t get a penalty. Would have been a whole different story if either of those had occurred. But as it stands…hilarious.

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