It's a young group - a still-developing group. And its inarguable that the Irish receiving corps should be better as an overall group in 2010 than this fall.
But Notre Dame Wide Receivers Coach Rob Ianello is in an enviable situation nonetheless. He has one of best starting tandems in the nation. He has a potential top tier No. 3 in junior Duval Kamara (14 starts) and an experienced senior fighting off the competition at No. 4 in Robby Parris (four career starts).
Add two talented sophomores looking for their first game action this season; two promising freshmen with natural receiving skills, and finally, a pair of role players as seniors still hoping to rejoin the rotation (one of which, George West, has started seven games in his Notre Dame career and may rank no higher than No. 7 or No. 8 in the early-season rotation).
There's certainly room for improvement, but the leader of the Irish receivers has an impressive list of options as he works his group through August.
Assistant Head Coach – Offense/Wide Receivers Coach Rob Ianello
"I don't think that's really by design. Now, Michael had a knack for running the deep ball and Jimmy throws a good deep ball, so that combination helps those vertical routes, but sometimes its dictated by coverage. That he's converting some things or he's running a stop route on the outside – coverage can dictate what he gets or what he converts to. But that's interesting analysis…I think some of that is dictated by the coverage."
On setting a game day receiver rotation. (Finding a set number each week):
"I never (look to) set an ideal number – always kind of who can be above the line (better than the rest) and if we have a certain number of guys that can be above the line then we have them as part of the rotation. And if you don't have that many, then you can't play that many. So as we work through training camp and get through the process of getting better and improving it will become clear – it certainly isn't at this time.
On finding particular attributes for a slot receiver:
"We're looking for a guy who – obviously he has to be able to hold up vs. the running game in our one-back stuff as the slot receiver. You have to be nifty; you have to be smart and you (must) have a feel for working in there against the linebackers and safeties and making plays.
"So I don't know if there's (exact requirements) because we've had (David) Grimes and Duval Kamara and (Jeff) Samardzija so we've had different guys. It's just a feel for what's going to give our offense the best chance and having a feel for being the inside receiver working with safeties and linebackers and things of that nature."
UND.com's Jack Nolan asked Coach Ianello the following (prior to my questions):
On his early camp impressions of the wide receivers' progress over the summer:
"Golden (Tate) coming back from playing baseball and not being in off-season conditioning with us … he had a really good summer, and that was evident to me with his strength level. And his conditioning was good. Michael Floyd is stronger; put on a bit of weight and that strength will help him keep it on. John Goodman's strength – both Deion (Walker) and John – are guys that are doing everything for the second time so there's going to be a natural growth that occurs.
"Robby Parris' body fat is down and his strength is up – the same is true for Duval (Kamara). His body fat is really down. He took learning how to eat and knowing his body, and understanding what we're trying to get him to do – he really took it to heart and did a good job with that.
"Barry (Gallup) and George (West) are coming back from being dinged up and they worked their (tails) off so I think everybody really did their part this summer to put themselves in position to compete to make our group better."
Trying keep a talented, deep group happy with their number of snaps:
"Right now we just have a total focus of getting better everyday – I know that's coach-speak but there's plenty of things on that video (practice film) every night that we have to do better so we're all just focused on that right now. (There's a) process of getting better; before we decide who's on the field for how many snaps, there's a process you have to go through, but we're just working that process right now. After three days we're making progress but still have work to do."
On the obvious improvement of his group's, and the team's, overall depth:
"When we first got in here (prior to 2005) and established a plan, we felt that the 2009 training camp – I remember having these discussions with Coach (Weis) – that the 2009 training camp would be our most competitive training camp. "We had some really good front line players for several years but to have enough depth – to have 15 offensive linemen on scholarship – we felt like this would be our most competitive camp at every position and so far that's proven to be true.