The Notre Dame passing attack has struggled the past few games and now the Irish will have to play the rest of the regular season without its leading receiver.
Freshman Michael Floyd leads Notre Dame in receptions (46), touchdowns (7) and is second in receiving yards (702), but will be out until mid-December after straining his knee against Navy. Opposing defenses have made adjustments to take away deep balls from Floyd and Golden Tate and if the Irish are unable to find a player or players to make up for the loss of the freshman than the passing game could struggle even more.
"Mike's a great athlete, a great receiver, he helps the team out a lot in a lot of ways," quarterback Jimmy Clausen said. "It's tough when a guy like that goes down, but the guys that are behind him, they've got to step up and make plays."
Despite being hampered by back spasms in the middle of the season, Grimes is third among wide receivers with 24 catches for 204 yards and a pair of scores. Kamara has 15 grabs for 164 yards and a touchdown while Parris has nine catches for 50 yards.
"You are dealing with some guys, Duval, Robby, and David who have been here," receivers coach Rob Ianello said. "Duval is second year; Robby is third; and David is fourth and they can play multiple positions. And Golden is growing every week."
Head coach Charlie Weis is expecting a lot out of Grimes, especially since the senior is now feeling better and heading into the final stages of his collegiate career.
"We really didn't have a very healthy David Grimes around this year for a while, too. Remember when Michael really started playing was at the expense of David Grimes early in the year," Weis said. "So now that we have a healthy David Grimes back, David and Michael are not the same body type and not the same player but certainly lessens the loss."
Ianello also sees the value of having a healthy captain back out there.
"David provides great leadership. You just watch that one play in the first quarter where he caught that ball in the flat; ran 17 over. He didn't show any signs of any injuries. He just went and got it and got the first down," he said. "Those are tangible things when a guy has been nicked up. That gives you some momentum, that gives you some juice and those are some very positive things. We are counting on David and he's excited about playing his last home game and being a member of this football team and football program. Our plan as receivers is to play our best game and send him out in the right way."
Parris suffered a hamstring injury in training camp, allowing Floyd to rise up the depth chart so quickly, but the coaches have been encouraged by the way that he has handled his role.
"I'm really proud of Robby. Robby was having a very good training camp until he got nicked up," said Ianello. "He has done everything we have asked him to do and here you are as you go into a game like Saturday, he has no commitment from our staff as to how many plays he will play. And from the third play of the game, he was playing just about every snap and he did a very nice job. I'm really proud of him. He's been very positive in our room. He works his butt off in practice every day."
Grimes said that the other receivers need to step up without trying to do too much.
"We're still working hard, we still realize that we have a job that has to be done," he said. "I think as a receiver corps everybody has to continue to do what they do and the guys that are asked to step up have to step up. Not to put any added pressure on any of the receivers, but guys still have to play within themselves."
Clausen has already seen the wideouts stepping up in practice.
"Guys are definitely going out there, working hard and making plays," he said. "Whatever they've got to do to help the team win and making plays is what they've got to do."
Clausen understands that none of the receivers will draw the kind of attention that Floyd does, but expects the others to be up to the task.
"Obviously he's a playmaker and whenever you lose a playmaker, you lose someone, a main guy in the offense," he said. "But like I said the guys are stepping up and making plays in practice and they'll be ready to go on Saturday."
Grimes is confident that he will do his job without trying to force anything.
"No pressure at all. I'm still going to go out there and do what I do," he said. "Not having Michael out is a big loss for this team, but we still have to go out there and play."