May 16, 2011, 12:27 PM EDT
The twelfth and final preview analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. For the complete series, check the previews of Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Robert Blanton, Theo Riddick, Steve Filer, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tyler Eifert, Ben Turk and Zack Martin.
When Michael Floyd shocked Irish fans and decided to return for his senior season at Notre Dame, his production in 2011 was all but a given. After a slow start to his junior season, where defenses and individual inconsistency tamped down Floyd’s numbers, the Irish star finished the season with a bang –big efforts in wins over USC and Miami seemed like a perfect final act.
But Floyd’s decision to return in 2011 was thrown into limbo with a drunk-driving arrest and an indefinite suspension the weekend before spring practice was set to start. The co-captain of the 2011 team was erased from the roster, missed all of spring practice, was held out of team activities and conditioning, and faces plenty of uncertainty heading into 2011.
There’s no question that the Irish offense needs Floyd at receiver to be at its best. Whether No. 3 will do what’s needed to earn the right to be back on the field likely will determine how good this Irish football team can be.
Floyd led the team in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns, but saw his per-catch average drop five yards from his sophomore campaign, a product of a new offensive system and two quarterbacks learning on the job.
It took until the third week of the season for Floyd to get into the endzone, the longest season-opening drought of his career. It took longer for head coach Brian Kelly and Dayne Crist to find Floyd on big plays, with the Irish failing to get the ball to Floyd down the field on vertical patterns.
After a break-out game against Western Michigan that started with an 80-yard touchdown reception, Michael battled hamstring injuries, missing the Navy game because of injury. After Tommy Rees took over the offense when Dayne Crist got hurt and the Irish relied more on a running attack, Floyd started to become the safety valve to the passing offense, finishing the season with 11 catches against USC, essentially driving the offense through the air, and vertically abusing Miami in the Sun Bowl, his two touchdown catches coming early in the Irish’s demolition of the Hurricanes.
100 word preview for Michael Floyd in 2011:
A season that should’ve cemented Michael Floyd’s place in Notre Dame history now might not even exist. Ever since Floyd’s drunk-driving arrest put his Irish career in limbo, headlines about the Irish’s leading receiver have been about his bad decision-making skills, not about the noble decision to return for his degree and final season in blue and gold. With Floyd on the field, the Irish have one of college football’s premiere weapons. Without him, they’ll look to Theo Riddick and a cast of characters to catch passes. Floyd’s been given the chance to make good. Now it’s up to him.
Importance in 2011:
Utmost. Kelly and company spent most of the spring talking up guys like Deion Walker and John Goodman, but neither can do what Floyd can for this offense. While one player is rarely the difference in a team game like football, you can make a pretty good argument that No. 3 is the exception to the rule.