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Group effort needed to replace Floyd

Bill Brink | Thursday, September 24, 2009


Michael Floyd broke his collarbone. He’s done for the season. What now?

Jimmy Clausen and the Irish offense still have big-time playmaker Golden Tate. And tight end Kyle Rudolph continues to show just how much of a freak he is. But how do you replace Floyd, both his athleticism and the effect he has on opposing defenses?

You don’t. Instead, according to receivers coach Rob Ianello, you create a Michael Floyd-by-committee.

“We replace Michael with multiple guys,” he said. “Through the use of multiple players we can get the same production that we had from Michael.”

Those multiple players, senior Robby Parris, junior Duval Kamara, sophomores John Goodman and Deion Walker and freshman Shaquelle Evans, will combine to fill Floyd’s spot across the field from Tate. Clausen said he thinks they can.

“We expect all those guys to be as good of a playmaker as Mike, and whenever the ball is thrown their way, for them to go up and get the ball,” he said.

In two-plus games before breaking his collarbone against Michigan State, Floyd had 13 catches for 358 yards and five touchdowns and averaged 119 yards per game.

As younger players, Parris and Kamara contributed, but with the breakout of Tate and Floyd last season, their contributions fell off. Parris caught 29 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown in 2007, and Kamara held the freshman receiving touchdown record with four that year before Floyd broke it in 2008. But last year, Parris caught nine passes for 50 yards. Kamara caught 20 for 206 yards and one score. Coach Charlie Weis said that experience, combined with their work in practice, will benefit the offense.

“Both those guys in particular have worked really, really hard in practice, but now they have an opportunity to have increased roles with hopefully increased production at the same time to put us in position to make sure that they can’t roll everything into Golden,” Weis said.

So what will keep defenses from keying on Tate?

“Somebody on the other side’s going to have to step up and make them pay if they decide to roll up to Golden,” Ianello said. “If we can get somebody or somebodies that can do that, that will make it tough on them.”

Ianello said he had more trust in his players who had played in the past but then seeing limited action.

“When you have some guys that have worked through some difficult times and now they are going to a chance to get into the game, I think you as a coach feel like they’ve kind of been through it a little bit,” he said. “And you have a little more confidence in them because they’ve kind of toughed it out.”

Parris said he and the other receivers understood their roles had changed as soon as Floyd was injured, but that adjusting to game speed would not be immediate.

“There’s nothing like seeing the speed of the game once we’re on the field,” Parris said.

To stay sharp, Parris said, required more mental effort than physical.

“It hasn’t been easy,” he said. “It becomes more of a mental game than physical. You just gotta be ready for whatever, that’s what the past couple of years has taught me.”

Parris said he told the younger receivers to be ready, that it was their time. He knows.

“I’m a senior, I’ve seen everything and maybe I can help the younger guys,” he said.

No worries about the depth of the receiving corps from Parris.

“Our receiving crew is probably as deep as it has ever been,” he said. “Anyone at any time, I think, is ready to play on the field.”

Even in non-receiving roles. Inaello said Kamara has great value as a blocker.

“Duval has a mean streak. He’s got a meanness, a toughness to him, and he’s big and physical,” he said. “Some receivers, college, pro, whatever, they do it because it’s a necessary evil. He takes great pride.”

Kamara switched sides of the field due to Floyd’s injury, but Ianello said that wouldn’t cause problems.

“Duval has some reps in that position,” he said. “Duval from the first day he’s gotten here has been a very good mental player for us.”

Kamara’s blocking has helped a Notre Dame rushing attack average 155 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry.

Rudolph said he relishes the opportunity for a larger role in Notre Dame’s passing offense.

“That’s what you play the game for,” Rudolph said. “You want the ball in your hands. It doesn’t matter how you get it.”