Wide Open

IrishEyes continues its pre-spring rundown of the Notre Dame roster with a two-part preview of the team's wide receivers.

With the start of spring practice exactly one month away, IrishEyes offers its third of 11 previews covering each returning player and key position group. Today's edition: the wide receivers.

Running Backs Spring Preview

Tight Ends Spring Preview

Class System – Wide Receivers

The Irish return seven contributors and four *monogram winners at the position: expected 5th-year senior Barry Gallup, Jr., senior *Duval Kamara; juniors *Michael Floyd, *John Goodman, and Deion Walker; and sophomores *Shaquelle Evans and Roby Toma. The squad will add four freshmen to the mix for the 2010 season, one of which, Tai-ler Jones, is already enrolled at the University and will take part in the spring practice sessions.

2009 Playing Time: :

  • Kamara: 191:56 with no special teams appearances
  • Floyd: 171:30 with one special teams appearance
  • Goodman: 53:45 with nine special teams appearances
  • Evans: 33:15 with one special teams appearance
  • Walker: 10:19 with one special teams appearance
  • Toma: 5:12 with one special teams appearance
  • Gallup: 1:06 with 54 special teams appearances

Return of the Man – Michael Floyd

What might have been had the sophomore avoided injury? Floyd kicked off the 2009 season in style with a record-setting four-catch/189-yard/3 TD outing vs. Nevada, and followed with seven receptions for 131 yards and another score – and a game-changing gash in his knee – at Michigan, before ending the good health portion of his '09 campaign with another TD catch and broken clavicle in the first half of a Week Three clash with Michigan State.

He was un-guardable pre-injury. He was productive (31 receptions for 437 yards and four touchdowns in four games is actually a bit more than "productive" I suppose) but also decidedly mortal when he returned in early November. Rust was obvious and detrimental in the loss to Navy and remained in a trip to Pittsburgh. By the time Floyd approached his pre-injury form, the downward spiral of the 2009 season was in full force.

A fully-recovered Floyd ranks as the team's best football player entering 2010.

We Have Questions: Will Floyd's Christmas Break disciplinary issue have any on-field impact, now or in the future? How did the Irish finish with a 2-5 record in games with Floyd, and a 4-1 mark without him last season? Can the prototype receiver remain upright and on the field for 13 games next season? A superior technical receiver by most measures, can Floyd replace the innate, collegiate playmaking skills lost due to the NFL defection of Golden Tate?

Hope Springs Eternal: Floyd, by all accounts, is a model teammate – both amiable and competitive with those around him. He was easily the most impressive practice player among the Irish receivers during the media viewing sessions last season and the junior will likely step into a team leadership role this fall.

Spring Prediction: Absolute dominance. Floyd is one of the best football players in the nation and he'll destroy Irish defensive backs this spring as the entire team competes to earn a role under the new regime.

I'd be surprised if Floyd is not one of Notre Dame's team captains next fall.

Final Act – Duval Kamara

Not many would have used "stagnation" as the word to best described Kamara's likely career course following his 2007 freshman season. The physical target from Hoboken set program records (since shattered by Floyd) for receptions and touchdowns by a freshman receiver.

Since, he's famously gained weight; fallen out of favor with the staff and fan base; been replaced by a pair of dynamic targets; transformed his body; had arthroscopic surgery on his knee; established a niche as the team's best blocking receiver …and ultimately regressed, limited to the role of an outside receiver that runs short hook routes. Why? From an outsider's perspective, he became eminently coverable due to inconsistency, lack of confidence, and a lack of explosion/quickness off the ball and out of his breaks.

We Have Questions: How will Kamara respond to new Strength & Conditioning coach Paul Longo's tutelage? Can Kamara become more than a stationary target again? Can Kamara fend off the challenge of three younger receivers in the spring? Can he add explosion and short-distance quickness to augment his power and presence on the outside? If not, will his superior blocking acumen be enough to keep him gainfully employed as a senior receiver?

Hope Springs Eternal: When focused, Kamara is a vicious downfield blocker and difficult target to tackle in one-on-one situations. He also looked much better with the ball in the air during our media practice viewings than he did on Saturdays. If Kamara's senior season ultimately ranks as his best, the Irish offense will be tough to handle in 2010.

Kamara had his moments last season, but inconsistency in the passing game trumped his contributions off the ball. With Tate gone and a new quarterback at the helm, Kamara has a final shot to become the receiver fans and analysts expected following the 2007 season.

Spring Prediction: Kamara's playing weight has reportedly been in the 218-225 range over the last two seasons. Expect the towering target to report much leaner for spring ball.

The X-Factor – John Goodman

Goodman holds the current title of Irish fan favorite thanks to A.) well-publicized athleticism that manifested in a 24-yard punt return the first time he touched the ball, B.) A sprint-draw run for 14 yards as the shotgun quarterback vs. rival USC, and C.) The raw speed he displayed on a 64-yard post touchdown in the late-October blowout win over Washington State.

The date of the victory over WSU is relevant as that was the last time Goodman caught a pass in '09.

We Have Questions: Will Goodman participate at the depleted quarterback position in the spring? Would that help or hinder his development in a new offense? Can Coach Kelly and Co. harness his athletic skill and help Goodman establish himself as a consistent third option behind NFL talent in Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph? Will Goodman continue to return punts? Will the confident junior be used at multiple positions/in multiple situations as the new staff integrates Charlie Weis' pieces into Brian Kelly's vision of a football team.

Hope Springs Eternal: Brian Kelly wants athletes and football players that he can mold and guide to victory. Goodman's versatile skill set ranks near the top of that list among returning skill position players.

Spring Prediction: A "starting" role in 3-4 WR sets; the leading man for punt return duties entering the fall; a developing role in special situations from the offensive backfield; a member of the hands team vs. onside kick attempts, and a chance to be the holder on field goals and PAT.

Goodman will be a busy man in April.

Diminishing Returns – Shaquelle Evans

Followed a career-best four reception effort vs. Washington on October 3 with six "DNP-Coach's Decision" in the final seven contests. If it looks like a doghouse, and sounds like a doghouse…

We Have Questions: Will any player benefit more from the regime change than Evans? For a player lauded as "really fast" by his former head coach, why were each of his seven receptions on short hooks outside? Will Evans compete (initially) for a role in the slot in the new offense? Evans wouldn't be the first promising Irish underclassmen move back to the West Coast due to reported homesickness. Is this an issue that will lessen with a greater role and consistent playing time/maturity?

Hope Springs Eternal: Though Evans didn't excel in space during limited playing time last season, he did show the ability to make a college defensive back miss during his final meaningful appearance (vs. the Huskies).

Spring Prediction: Will finish in a dead heat with a surging Deion Walker (featured in Part II) for the final consistent spot in the WR rotation entering the summer.

Note: Click here for Part II of our Wide Receivers' Spring Preview.

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