Final Impressions: Wide Receivers

Our second look at the conclusion of summer camp examines the team's nine-man wide receiver unit.

Click here for final impressions of the offensive backfield.

Wide Receivers: 5-man rotation

Notre Dame has only employed a handful of top-notch blockers at wide receiver over the last decade; Michael Floyd moved onto that short list with his cumulative efforts last season, and though his pass-catching prowess is a given, its this undervalued skill set at which he must again excel and even improve in 2011…

Floyd's reinstatement takes this offense from a five-loss unit to a 1-2-3 loss group (separate from the defenses performance, etc.)…One-on-one matchup I'm excited for: Floyd vs. Purdue's undersized but overly athletic and confident sophomore, Ricardo Allen; Allen played well in the season-opener vs. the Irish star last September, but will have trouble with Floyd one year later in West Lafayette…

Floyd is a markedly better player today than he was at the end of the Charlie Weis era and the beginning of 2010; I do wonder, however, had he avoided injury (broken collarbone) as a sophomore in 2009 if he wouldn't be even more advanced – ranking as the unquestioned top offensive player in college as did Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald at the position in 2004….

Theo Riddick is everyone's pick as a breakout star for 2011 (mine included), but are we jumping the gun for a junior with 0 rushing touchdowns, 3 receiving scores, and an average history – albeit as a freshman – in the return game? Riddick's position coach Tony Alford has noted that Riddick is light years ahead of where he was last year and Brian Kelly, and offensive coordinator Charley Molnar, as well as Riddick, himself, all expect huge dividends over the next three months…

Riddick will prove to be at worst dangerous and at best, special, in open space – Notre Dame's season will follow suit…

T.J. Jones might not be the best of the unit at any particular skill set entering his second season, but I don't believe he was ever truly challenged for his starting position…Jones can block relative to his stature, has reliable hands, can run under deep balls, is tough over the middle, and gained strength in the off-season – five touchdowns seems likely; more would signify a breakout for the undersized target…

Jones' ability to play both the slot and X receiver spot (Floyd is the W) will increase his snap total this fall…

Head coach Brian Kelly noted that John Goodman played well in training camp's final days, Alford echoed the sentiment; Goodman is the player among the position group who's season could change with a quick start – he needs a jolt of confidence…Goodman's straight line speed is better than that of Jones and Robby Toma, but he's not as quick in a short space – something that's hurt his ability to consistently separate on short and intermediate routes heading into his senior season…

Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting class currently holds firm with 13 incoming freshman: No. 20, should the number climb that high, puts Goodman's bid for a 5th-season in jeopardy – yet another reason he needs to emerge as a weekly contributor…We've been told often that Goodman's simply inconsistent catching the football; that's a concentration issue more than a lack of talent or toughness… If Goodman is a solid BCS conference starter this season, the Irish offense will be extremely difficult to contain…Kelly noted Goodman is the "swing guy" right now: it's not a bad role for an offense that will fire off 400-plus passes...

Robby Toma's quickness and ability to make one man miss is his greatest strength entering his junior season – his hands, durability, and ability to shake press coverage must follow…Toma can riddle a zone defense and the Irish shouldn't face too much press coverage with Floyd and Riddick in the mix this fall…

There'll be at least one game this season after which Irish fans muse: "Toma should play more!" In fact, I'd wager there'll be two; if there's three, then he obviously should…When you're under 5'9" and weigh 100-whatever pounds and your position coach mentions your name as a solid blocker, the word "tough" belongs in your paragraph…Riddick, Toma, and the cross-trained Jones: the Irish are stacked in the slot through 2012.

Wide Receivers: In the mix

Seven wide receivers receive varsity reps in practice while six targets are prepared for each game plan, at present, I have no idea who No. 6 will be for South Florida…If DaVaris Daniels "has to play" as Brian Kelly noted, that speaks poorly of the health and development of Daniel Smith and the latter for spring 2011 curiosity, Deion Walker

My guess: slot receiver Matthias Farley will redshirt and is being groomed to take over for Theo Riddick in that role in 2013, as both Riddick and Toma will graduate following 2012…Farley can go get the football in the air, he's 100 percent athlete…Speaking of athlete, Daniels is just that plus he's a fluid wide receiver, which is why he has a leg up on playing time – that and a wide open backup battle behind Michael Floyd…Notre Dame's signing day misses at the position in 2008 and 2009 put a bit of pressure on the current staff to prepare Daniels for full-time duty in 2012...

Luke Massa will likely spend the season on the demo team, but Molnar noted the converted quarterback made huge strides by the end of the spring; at 6'4" 220, will he outgrow the position? Daniel Smith can't let a missed spring opportunity bleed into October…Can Deion Walker earn a varsity role with Smith down? It'd be invaluable as the Irish could keep Daniels out of the mix, though if the freshman is part of the team's specialty units, his potential extra season of eligibility isn't part of the equation…

Who would you rather see score on a first-half post-route in the opener, Walker or Daniels? I'm not sure which be a better indicator of 2011 success...If Walker, Smith, or Daniels can catch 15 total passes with a touchdown or near-score this season, the No. 6 wide receiver role must be considered a success.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories