#1 – Team MVP Michael FloydHe entered the season with but one knock on his well-rounded game – at least among his fan base: Michael Floyd was injury prone.
Yet at the conclusion of the team's 12-game slate, Michael Floyd was the only skill position starter left standing from the season-opener vs. Purdue, with QB Dayne Crist, RB Armando Allen, and TE Kyle Rudolph each undergoing season-ending surgery, and slot receiver Theo Riddick (missed all or most of the final six games) as well as X receiver T.J. Jones (spent the final four either hobbled or out) spending extended time on the sidelines.
That supposedly fragile superstar is now known as the team's top perimeter blocker; its go-to receiver, its most gifted player, and – for anyone paying attention – the team's unquestioned MVP through a disjointed but ultimately satisfying 8-5 campaign.
Dissenting views on subjective points are welcomed…just don't search for validation of your argument from the team's head coach.
"Our offense starts with Michael and the ability to get him the football," said Brian Kelly. "He just allows us to do so many things. When we can get him the football and make sure he gets touches, it opens up so many other things within our offense."
Kelly's post Sun Bowl comments reflected the offensive approach of the new look Irish – the 4-1 version with Tommy Rees running the show. Floyd was the focal point of the late-season passing game, corralling 35 receptions for 401 yards and six touchdowns in the final five games.
A closer look shows that Floyd accounted for 24 first downs (including six touchdowns) and ranked as the go-to player inside the 10-yard line, securing five of his six TD grabs from Rees inside the 10-yard line, four of which occurred inside the opponent's 5.
He of course starred for the Dayne Crist-led Irish as well, grabbing 44 passes for 624 yards as well as 28 first downs (including six touchdowns) in seven starts.
Finally, in his lone game out of the lineup (at Navy), the Irish passing game managed just 5.7 yards per attempt (completing 19 of 31) resulting in a paltry 178 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT prior to the offense's cosmetic touchdown drive to end the contest.
Over the course of the season, Floyd converted 18 third down passes into Irish first downs. He drew four interference/holding calls, three of which resulted in an Irish touchdown on the ensuing snap. 13 different receptions resulted in gains of 20 more yards – seven of those totaled gains of between 32 and 80.
So much for two early lost red zone fumbles (Purdue and MSU) indicating a lack of focus – a purported carryover from the mistakes of recent past.
Our Top 10 column series (linked below) has recognized the start-to-finish effort of cornerback Gary Gray; the inspired, sometimes dominant play of linebacker Manti Te'o; the near perfect, unlikely season put forth by kicker David Ruffer; and the incredible improvement of defensive backs Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton as well as the undervalued toil up front endured by Zack Martin, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson, and Darius Fleming.
Each earned a spot in our post-season top 10. Welcomed news from Notre Dame today indicated that Floyd will join the other nine in a return to South Bend next season.
The left-for-dead Irish finished 8-5 and on the rise…Michael Floyd was the chief on-field reason why, and our runaway choice as the 2010 MVP.
Part III features a pair of players that surprised everyone by finishing #6 and #7, respectively.