Money Matchups: Floyd and Eifert

If Florida State is going to beat Notre Dame in the bowl, then Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert must be neutralized. Here is what the 'Noles need to do in coverage against these talented pass catchers.

Michael Floyd

A 6-3, 224-pound wide receiver, Floyd caught 95 passes for 1,106 yards and eight touchdowns for Notre Dame this season.

The St. Paul, Minnesota, native recorded double-digit receptions on four occasions in 2011, and he also registered four 100-yard receiving games. His premier performance was Sept. 10 at Michigan, when he reeled in 13 balls for 159 yards, plus he was never credited with fewer than four receptions in any game this year.

Florida State came into the campaign with a lot of talent at the cornerback position, as senior Mike Harris, junior Greg Reid and sophomore Xavier Rhodes all projected to play in the NFL one day. However, the trio had managed to intercept just one pass, courtesy of Rhodes on Oct. 29 vs. North Carolina State, through the first 11 games -- Harris got one and Reid two in the finale at Florida, though. Harris is a better player working out of the slot in the nickel package, Reid seems to have been dealing with a confidence problem and Rhodes, while physically gifted at 6-2 and 215 pounds, has suffered through minor bumps and bruises week after week.

The Seminoles don't play nearly as much man-to-man coverage now as they once did during the glory days of the Mickey Andrews-coordinated defense in the '80s and '90s, relying on a much more intricate zone-based scheme implemented by Mark Stoops. But if FSU does find itself in a one-on-one situation with Floyd on the outside, Rhodes is the only corner in the rotation capable of handling the Golden Domer's combination of size and strength.

Because the Fighting Irish run an offense designed to get the ball out of an immobile quarterback's (Tommy Rees) hand as quickly as possible with shorter passes, the 'Noles would be wise to bump Floyd at the line of scrimmage with Rhodes and try to shake up the timing of his routes.

Tyler Eifert

A 6-6, 249-pound tight end, Eifert put up 57 catches for 713 yards and five TDs for Notre Dame this year.

The Fort Wayne, Indiana, product recorded a 2011-high eight receptions on three occasions: Sept. 24 at Pittsburgh, Oct. 8 vs. Air Force and Nov. 12 vs. Maryland, although his top game in terms of receiving yards (93) came Sept. 3 vs. South Florida on six grabs. The Fighting Irish have had tight ends selected in the first two rounds of the 2006 (Anthony Fasano), 2008 (John Carlson) and 2011 (Kyle Rudolph) NFL Drafts, all of whom have had success in the pros, yet none of them ever reeled in as many passes in one campaign as Eifert did this season in South Bend.

Florida State is a lot better at stopping the run than it is defending the pass, so if the Seminoles want to take Eifert away from Rees in the passing game, they're going to have to be more effective covering at the linebacker and safety spots. At linebacker, while senior Nigel Bradham and sophomore Christian Jones have the athletic ability to run with Eifert on the weak and strong sides, respectively, junior Vince Williams -- he's the starter in the middle but rotates liberally with sophomore Telvin Smith -- is a bit stiff in the hips. As far as the safeties are concerned, All-ACC sophomore standout Lamarcus Joyner is more responsible for taking away any downfield shots, meaning it will be up to senior Terrance Parks and junior Nick Moody to deal with Eifert.

As mentioned above, Rees is not very mobile in the pocket and isn't going to buy extra time outside the tackle box with his feet, so look for Stoops to send a blitzer or two early and often in an effort to speed up the QB's decision-making process. Rees has only been sacked nine times all season long, meaning he gets good protection and doesn't hold on to the ball.

Not only will a fair amount of blitzing potentially put more pressure on Rees, but FSU's linebackers and safeties won't have to cover Eifert nearly as long, which can make all the difference in single coverage against talented targets.


John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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