Fighting Irish Will Miss Michael Floyd, but Others Could Shine

Ed LeiserCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - SETPEMBER 19: Golden Tate #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches the game- winning touchdown pass over Marcus Hyde #11 of the Michigan State Spartans on September 19, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 33-30. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It didn't take long for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to lose a key member of their team.  Charlie Weis, in what many consider a make-or-break year, has lost arguably his best overall player. 

Though just a sophomore, Michael Floyd has shown he is the most dangerous offensive player Notre Dame has to offer. 

In three games this season, Floyd caught 13 passes for 358 yards, a mind-boggling 27.5 yards per catch.  He also found the end zone five times, among the nation's best in that regard.

His rare combination of size and speed provided matchup problems for every opponent Notre Dame has faced thus far.

But injuries are an all-too-common occurance in football, and the injury bug has bitten a little too soon for the Irish.

There's no need to worry, Irish fans, provided the rest of the deep and talented receiving corps can step up. 

Several Irish receivers will need to step up their games and if they do, they'll grab more than just passes from Jimmy Clausen.  They'll also be grabbing the headlines.

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Here are the guys that will be counted on to help fill the Floyd void.

Golden Tate

By far, the most obvious guy needed to step up.  Tate is a star in his own right and nothing will change for him in terms of teams game-planning for him. 

Tate will likely draw more double teams now that Floyd is gone, but he has the big-play ability to handle the added coverage. 

This year, Tate has 19 grabs, tops on the Irish, but also has dropped several key balls, including a couple of possible touchdowns.

Tate likes to run his mouth and show his swagger, but he'll have to back it up now in the absence of Floyd. 

Any dropped balls, whether they are five yards or 50, could be a disaster for this team.

Kyle Rudolph

One of the top tight ends in the nation, Rudolph has 13 grabs this year and has provided Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen with a nice security blanket over the middle. 

Teams are well aware of Rudolph now, however, and the sophomore will have linebackers and safeties' eyes on him at all times. 

Without Floyd, teams will likely designate their best safety to cover Rudolph, at least in passing downs.  Kyle will need to use his 6'6" frame to "post-up" for Clausen and give him a nice target.

Duval Kamara

Duval burst on the scene two years ago for the Irish but has been rather quiet since.  His freshman season of 2007 was about as good as anyone could have hoped for.

Kamara set two Notre Dame freshman receiving records, recording 32 receptions (which broke Tim Brown's previous freshman record of 28 grabs) and hauling in four touchdown passes.  He started five games for the Irish that year, so he is no stranger to playing in the spotlight.

Kamara's sophomore campaign was a disappointment, and his previous freshman records were broken by, who else, Michael Floyd.

Kamara only caught 20 passes for 206 yards.  Over his final five games last season, Duval only managed seven receptions.

His lack of production can be attributed to the arrival of Michael Floyd, and now Kamara has a real chance to step up his game and make himself a household name for Irish fans.

Robby Paris

Another former starting receiver for the Irish, Paris will likely fill the role of No. 3 receiver for Jimmy Clausen and the Notre Dame offense.

Paris is a solid all-around receiver who can make key catches if given an opportunity.  He won't blow by anyone and won't make any highlight reel grabs, but that is Golden Tate's department anyways.

His 43 career receptions suggest Paris can be trusted and should be used frequently by Jimmy Clausen.

Shaquelle Evans

The true freshman from California will now have a chance to jump into the Fighting Irish spotlight. 

Evans was a highly-recruited receiver coming out of high school and it is obvious Irish coaches and Clausen already like him, as we saw when he was the targeted receiver for a key third-and-long play two weeks ago at Michigan.

Evans didn't make the grab, but the mere fact that Clausen gave him a chance proves he trusts the rookie.

The Fighting Irish will miss Floyd; he's the type of player that can not be replaced.

But if the above players can play at a high enough level, the Irish offense should be fine.

The improvement in the running game (Armando Allen is averaging 108 rushing yards per game) should help even more. 

This offense was not built around Michael Floyd, though at times it seems it was.

It is still Jimmy Clausen's team, and the junior signal-caller has nearly 1,000 passing yards in just three games, with no interceptions thrown.

Clausen will have a challenge ahead of him, but nothing at Notre Dame comes easy anymore. 

Losing Floyd is another example of that.


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