Have you noticed the difference between Charlie Weis as just the play caller versus Charlie Weis the Offensive Coordinator? If you have yet to notice, you will Saturday night when the Fighting Irish take on the Boilermakers of Purdue.
Weis's role as Offensive Coordinator will be vital as the Irish must continue to score points without star receiver Michael Floyd.
By taking on the role of Offensive Coordinator this season, Charlie Weis is the man in charge of gameplan, installation, personnel, and of course play calling for the offense. Looking back to Weis's role as Offensive Coordinator with the New England Patriots should give the Irish faithful confidence for the continued success of the offense, even without Michael Floyd.
When Weis won his Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, their offense performed on a high level without the presence of any top tier wide receiver. With a quarterback who can make good decisions and a respectable running game, Weis can gameplan a passing attack by playing to each of his receivers' strengths.
The first key against Purdue will be taking the running game a step further. The Purdue defense currently ranks 101st in the FBS for rushing defense, by giving up an average of 181 yards per game. If healthy, expect a heavy dose of Armando Allen. Allen currently ranks 15th in the nation for rushing. Allen is only averaging 108 yards per game, but it is coming on a healthy 5.53 yards per carry.
What about the Wildcat? Expect the Wildcat to factor into the effort to maximize the run game, especially in the red zone. Notre Dame runs their version of the Wildcat with an unbalanced line to optimize their best blockers and also tempt a defense to overload to open the counter. Much like against Michigan State, don't be surprised to see a new wrinkle added to the package. Options are endless such as shovel pass to Rudolph, reverse with playside receiver, or counter with Golden Tate or Allen.
Don't be surprised to see John Goodman in the Wildcat package taking the snap or out wide where Jimmy Clausen has been. In addition to having good speed, Goodman is rumored to have the best throwing arm on the team.
In addition to the Wildcat, expect Weis to feature two tight end and three tight end packages that are traditional staples to a Charlie Weis offense. Kyle Rudolph has made great strides in pass blocking since the Nevada game, and both Mike Ragone and Bobby Burger have been stellar at the point of attack.
The final key to the run game against Purdue is the expected increase of playing time for receiver Duval Kamara. When asked how much he would change what he looks for out of the receiver position without Michael Floyd, Weis responded "Oh not much. As a matter of fact, there's some elements of it you actually gain. Like Duval, he's the best blocking receiver we have."
Due to a turf-toe in the plant foot of quarterback Jimmy Clausen, the post-Floyd passing attack may not by utilized much against Purdue. The passing attack is where Weis can rely on his Patriot days of creating personnel mismatches based on the strengths of each of his receivers. The loss of Floyd does not create an exact Patriots scenario, because the current offense still has two top tier passing threats in Golden Tate and Kyle Rudolph.
To avoid Purdue and future opponents from rolling coverage towards Golden Tate, expect to see Golden Tate moved around quite often. Tate will not remain glued to a sideline. Rather, Tate will appear in the slot, motioned across formations, and near Kyle Rudolph to make a safety pick his poison.
Kyle Rudolph will be the next key to replacing Floyd's production in the passing game. Rudolph's presence on the field will always dictate the defense leaving a linebacker on the field to protect the run. This gives Weis the luxury of putting Rudolph in "Y open" looks. Rudolph should also continue to be placed near the sideline when Notre Dame goes "empty" to block the edge on quick passes to the slot, and may split out in the red zone as the jump ball target that Floyd often was.
The final key to the post-Floyd passing attack will be utilizing the strengths of the rest of the receiving corps. The loss of Floyd does not mean one guy moves up the depth chart to play the Michael Floyd role. Each receiver will have an opportunity to take over the various roles of Michael Floyd.
Duval Kamara, as previously mentioned, should see the most time when Notre Dame is in run mode. Duval Kamara as a freshman, and in a highlight catch last year against Michigan, has proven in the past as capable to get the fade route or jump ball. Kamara should be the first option to take the Floyd role for a jump ball in the end zone, as well as the go or comeback option on 3rd-and-long.
Robby Parris is the most experienced receiver on the depth chart, and his strengths will be utilized as well. Like Floyd, Parris has a great ability to use his body to shield defenders in traffic. Parris does not have great ability to separate on the edge, so look for Parris to be used for underneath routes and slants, especially from the slot.
Deion Walker, John Goodman, and Shaq Evans make up the rest of the players looking to take on the various roles left by Floyd. These three have limited experience so the where, when, and how for their role in the gameplan is based on great speculation.
Practice reports and quotes from staff would suggest Walker and Evans would be utilized for the deep threat role Floyd possessed. Goodman has been compared to Jeff Samardzija as a receiver who is the complete package of size, speed, hands, run blocking, and a good route runner. He now has an opportunity to show it.
The final aspect to the passing attack will incorporate the backs and a tight end not named Kyle Rudolph. The screen has always been a favorite of Weis, and as comfort grows with the offensive line, running backs will be released on routes as opposed to staying in to pass protect. Robert Hughes should see some passes in the flat against Purdue in place of the injured James Aldridge at the fullback position.
Lastly, the more Mike Ragone is seen only as the blocking tight end, the more open he will be in a red zone or short yardage situation.
Charlie Weis has admitted the obvious—that you can't just replace a Michael Floyd. That is why the Irish will not look to replace Floyd, but instead replace his production.
With the amount of depth and talent Weis has recruited the last four years on offense, that should not be a problem. Purdue will field the first defense to bear witness.