#7 Wide ReceiversBanged up throughout the season, no receiver appeared in every game and only Michael Floyd held down his starting spot for each of the (11) games in which he appeared. The group caught 19 of the team's 26 touchdown passes – 10 by Floyd.
IrishEyes' pre-season rank: No. 2 (of 12)
Quote to note: "We just need time at that position. That's one area that's a work in progress." – head coach Brian Kelly's observation of his WR group before, and after, spring practice.
By the numbers: Floyd led the unit in all categories as predicted though his 73-catch, 916 yards and 10 TD all fell slightly short of IE's pre-season prediction (82, 1,050, and 12). The junior started 11 games – a career and position best – missing only the Navy contest due to a hamstring injury. Eight times Floyd caught at least five passes; in four more he exceeded eight grabs and the potential early NFL enrollee is one of only four players in program history with multiple games in excess of 10 receptions – including two 11-catch contests this season.
Riddick's four game run from Week Three (MSU) through Week Six (Pittsburgh) was as impressive a stretch enjoyed by any Irish pass-catcher this season. After recording just four catches for 52 yards in the season's two opening contests, Riddick exploded for a career-best 10 and 128 yards with a touchdown at MSU. He followed with 7, 9, and 7 receptions in the three ensuing contests, totaling 33 catches for 343 yards and three scores over that four-game stretch before injuring his ankle vs. Western Michigan early in Game Seven.
Jones started six of the first nine games as a true freshman before struggling through a hamstring injury for the remainder of the season. The Gainesville, GA product caught a touchdown pass in both of his first two career games – a program first – and became the first freshman wide receiver to start the season opener since Milt Jackson in 1982.
Jones, who started at the X receiver spot before moving to the Z (slot) to replace the injured Riddick in Week Eight, posted 14 catches for 210 yards and two TD in five contests played at Notre Dame Stadium while securing nine for 77 yards and one score in four contests outside South Bend.
Robby Toma replaced Riddick and Jones as the team's slot threat, enjoying a two-game run of six catches for 93 yards including a career-best 4-catch/67-yard effort vs. Tulsa. He finished sixth on the squad with 187 yards on 14 receptions.
Senior Duval Kamara caught a pass in the first quarter of the opening contest, then floundered for the following six weeks. He reemerged with six receptions in Floyd's stead vs. Navy but posted his best effort of the season – and since his freshman year of 2007 – with two touchdown receptions in the upset win over Utah on Senior Day.
Goodman started once (X) and caught 10 balls in a three-game stretch (Stanford, BC, Pittsburgh) but finished with just 14 catches for 106 yards. A former part-time high school QB, his season highlight was a 31-yard touchdown pass to Floyd vs. Western Michigan.
Best momentsThere's a plethora to choose from: Theo Riddick's leaping, one-handed grab at MSU; Michael Floyd's 80-yard catch-and-run on the game's first play vs. WMU; T.J. Jones' vicious comeback block to lay out a Michigan would-be-tackler on Dayne Crist's (called back) touchdown run…but the best moment, both in terms of game impact and as a human interest story belonged to senior Duval Kamara in his final home game.
Kamara, who had just one touchdown reception over his last 34 contests, corralled consecutive scores courtesy flag and corner route throws from freshman QB Tommy Rees, both of which broke the game open, giving ND a 21-3 lead over then No. 14-Utah; the second put the game on ice, burying the hapless Utes at 28-3 midway through the third period.
Kamara set records as a freshman in 2007, was passed as a sophomore and junior by the all-star tandem of Floyd and Golden Tate, and then again as a senior by a host of underclassmen including T.J. Jones. But true to the team's ‘Next Man In' mantra, Kamara made the most of his late season's opportunity; re-earning his spot with solid blocking (and injuries in front of him) before capitalizing in the team's first upset in three seasons and win over a ranked team in nearly 60 games.
Moment to forget: Aside from what offensive coordinator Charley Molnar graded as a "C-plus" effort by the team's targets minus Floyd and Riddick in the embarrassing offensive performance vs. Navy, the season's worst moment among the unit likely was the fault of its best player.
With the Irish leading 7-0 at Michigan State, Notre Dame rode a 12-play 58-yard drive to the Spartans 22-yard line. After catching a swing pass to the left side from Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd was stripped of the football after breaking an initial tackle attempt. The ball remained in bounds and was recovered by Michigan State's Marcus Hyde at the 11-yard line. It was Floyd's second fumble in as many weeks and what appeared to be a 14-0 (or 10-0) early edge under the lights in East Lansing devolved (two series later) into a 7-7 tie, a 14-7 MSU lead, and a nip-and-tuck battle for the remainder of the evening.
Though not Floyd's fault, the offense's next three possessions produced five snaps for negative two yards and an interception to end the half.
Class status: Duval Kamara will play his final game on December 31 in the Sun Bowl. Junior Michael Floyd can return for his final season in 2011 but is expected to declare for the NFL draft though that's based on our own sources and supposition, nothing that Floyd has indicated. His classmates John Goodman and Deion Walker can both apply for a 5th-year of eligibility following the 2011 season. Walker did not appear from scrimmage this season.
Neither of the team's sophomore targets – Robby Toma and Theo Riddick – have a redshirt season available to date. Both will conclude their careers following the 2012 season barring an early-season injury.
Final Analysis: The unit's depth was tested as six wide receivers started multiple contests; eight if you include the use of tight ends Mike Ragone and Tyler Eifert in the position's stead in late September games. The sextet of wideouts accounted for 173 receptions while the team's tight ends and running backs chipped in with 86.
As part of the nation's 29th ranked passing offense, coach Tony Alford's group improved greatly as downfield blockers (where Floyd and Kamara particularly excelled) while rarely dropping crucial, catchable balls outside the team-wide Navy debacle.
The group was not as explosive as forecasted, but battled through nine games lost to injury from its initial starting trio (Floyd, Riddick, Jones) to rank as our second best offensive unit (behind the smaller tight end group) of 2010.
Losing only Kamara, the wide receivers will enter the spring as the team's best, or at least most promising, position unit should its best player – Michael Floyd – return for his senior season.