It’s been said that the first step towards recovery is acceptance. So Notre Dame fans everywhere have been trying to tell themselves that the team will be fine without Michael Floyd. He can’t be the whole offense, right? What happened last year after he went out vs. Navy was a fluke. It had to be. This team is better, more mature, and more dynamic, pick your adjective.
To be perfectly honest, as soon as I saw Floyd hit the ground and get up awkwardly favoring his left shoulder, I knew he broke his collar bone. I suffered the same injury as a 3rd grader.
So I have to admit it, the Irish are going to miss this guy the rest of the season. How do you replace a guy who was on track to be a probable All American and Biletnikoff finalist? In simple terms, you can't.
That being said, it’s not time to panic either. Why?
I am going to go out on a limb here and say this—you don't need to replace his production with a single player. How, you ask?
Here is the way I see it.
Starting opposite Golden Tate, you have the following options:
Robby Parris, Sr, 6'3", 205 lbs
Duval Kamara, Jr, 6'5", 219 lbs
Deion Walker, So, 6'2", 193 lbs
Shaquelle Evans, Fr, 6'1", 203 lbs
John Goodman, So, 6’3”, 203 lbs
This group combined has two fewer catches than Michael Floyd (13 to 11), and he didn’t even play the second half vs. Michigan State or the final 6+ minutes vs. Michigan. But worry not, Irish faithful.
I think that Duval Kamara will get the first crack at earning the starting spot. What about Robby Parris, you ask? I think he is probably the most reliable out of the group, running crisp routes and has sure hands. For that, I think he earns most of his time playing in the slot. Kamara has more experience (and size) than the rest of the group and has been slowed by knee scope in mid August. Deion Walker was, at one point, a higher recruiting commodity than one Michael Floyd and would probably have to be considered the dark horse in this race. Shaq Evans has the size and speed to be yet another in the recent list of talented Irish receivers, and John Goodman seems to come from a similar mold as Jeff Samardzija.
So how can Charlie Weis use each of these guys to help fill the void created by a broken collar bone?
First, he can use multiple packages. I expect to see a lot of this against Purdue. Three and four wide sets will be the standard, not the exception. From there, you can split Rudolph out and even empty the backfield by motioning Armando Allen. Weis will dictate to the defense how they have to play, and by occupying the secondary with match-ups, it will force more single coverage on Tate than the Boilermakers would like to play.
Second, he can use multiple looks. If you want size, you run Parris, Kamara and Goodman out there with Rudolph. If you want speed, the choice is Tate, Evans and Walker. You can even mix and match a bit to help stretch the field and open up the 10-15 yd routes in the middle.
Third, and probably most importantly, there is actually a running game this year. Weis can try to play more of a ball control type game with calculated shots downfield on deep routes to Tate or Evans. He can utilize the size of the TE’s and WR’s to run slants and other underneath patterns.
What I don’t expect to see a lot of are the deeper timing routes (specifically outs) that the Clausen-Floyd connection seemed to perfect last year. I just don’t think that the reps are there for this group to have the non-verbal communication and understanding that it takes to make it work well.
Every one of these guys will get plenty of playing time this week in West Lafayette. Hopefully one will rise above the rest and EARN the lion’s share of the reps for the rest of the season.
While I would like to see Kamara step up in a Stovall-esque fashion, he was presented with a similar opportunity last year and didn’t make much of the opportunity. My money is on Deion Walker to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight, along with a healthy dose of Parris and Evans.