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Breaking down 4-0: The receiving corps

Sep 28, 2012, 10:42 AM EDT

John Goodman, Tyler Eifert

Part three in our bye week feature on Notre Dame’s 4-0 start. For more, check out our introduction, the secondary and the running backs.

OFF-SEASON PERSPECTIVE

All-American Tyler Eifert was a proven commodity. Everybody else? Well… After a run of highly productive receivers started almost a decade ago, the Irish said goodbye to Michael Floyd and hoped to possibly replacement him with a tight end. That’s no knock on Eifert’s ability, but a realistic appraisal of the options Notre Dame had with the cupboard filled with mostly unproven talent or journeymen headed into the season.

With the team’s leading returning wide receiver now playing running back, it was up to unheralded veterans like TJ Jones, Robby Toma, and John Goodman to team with talented youngsters like Chris Brown, Davonte Neal, and Justin Ferguson to replace Floyd and support an undecided quarterback if the Irish were going to get their offense on track.

PERSONNEL CHANGES

The pass catchers lost Theo Riddick to the offensive backfield, but welcomed linebacker Troy Niklas to the tight ends collection. That unit in particular held some promise, with sophomore Ben Koyack expected to do big things after a solid freshman season and Alex Welch looking more than capable as well. Those hopes would be muted when Welch went down for the season with a knee injury, as the Irish lost some versatility at the position.

Notre Dame would welcome Davaris Daniels to action after sitting out his freshman season. They’d lose another young receiver with Matthias Farley moving into the secondary and have Luke Massa slow to return after a knee injury in the spring.

John Goodman, Sr.
Robby Toma, Sr.
Daniel Smith, Jr.
Luke Massa, Jr. (A knee injury this spring likely limits Massa this fall.)
TJ Jones, Jr.
Davaris Daniels, Soph.
Matthias Farley, Soph. (Now starting at safety.)
Chris Brown, Fr.
Davonte Neal, Fr.
Justin Ferguson, Fr.

Tyler Eifert, Sr.
Jake Golic, Sr.
Alex Welch, Jr. (An ACL injury erases Welch’s 2012.)
Ben Koyack, Soph.
Troy Niklas, Soph.

There isn’t anybody in this group that can replace Michael Floyd’s production, but heading into the season the plan was to replace the Irish’s all-time leader with different players in different roles. With speedster Chris Brown looking like a deep threat, Davaris Daniels with great athleticism and ball skills, and Tyler Eifert looking pretty solid on the fade and screen game, the plan hasn’t necessarily come into fruition, but the pieces look to be there.

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

You probably wouldn’t have expected it, but through four games the Irish are actually averaging more yards per catch than they did last season. You can credit that to some big plays by Davaris Daniels, who is averaging 17.7 yards a catch and healthy early numbers put up by Eifert, Niklas, Goodman and Cam McDaniel.

With sophomore quarterback Everett Golson learning on the fly and Tommy Rees coming in to spell him in relief, offensive coordinator Chuck Martin has been candid about the need to jump start the passing game. Here’s what the Irish aerial attack looks like through four games, compared to last season’s stats.

Yards Per Game:
2011: 252.6 (40th)
2012: 211.o (86th)

Yards Per Catch:
2011: 10.9
2012: 13.0

Receptions Per Game:
2011: 23.2
2012: 16.25

OVERALL

It’s clearly been a step back in the passing game, which has been expected. With a bye week to get some things straightened out, and the nation’s No. 100 defense waiting for them in Soldier Field, the Irish hope to get on track with some better execution at the quarterback position.

Even with Eifert being held mostly in check this season, the unproven Irish receivers are playing better than expected, with solid contributions from veterans while the youngsters get accustomed to life in college football.

  1. nudeman - Sep 28, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    Keith or anyone who knows,
    This week what have they done in the way of practice?

    Not sure if mid terms are going on and they’re giving them extra time off for that; or just letting them heal their bodies; or just get a mental break from the game.

    However I keep reading stuff about “we’re working very hard on a, b, c this week”

    Anyone know?

    • rico75 - Sep 28, 2012 at 6:55 PM

      I read their schedule somewhere earlier this week…maybe a Hansen article in the SB Trib. I think they practiced 3 days this week, have the weekend off and will have a normal practice schedule next week.

  2. dudeacow - Sep 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    a) get the ball in Eifert’s hands
    b) get the ball in Daniels’s hands
    c) get the ball in Brown’s hands

    bingo.

    I just solved the passing game problem.

    I have been impressed with Daniels this far as I thought he had all the talent in the world but not the work ethic to do anything with it. Thankfully, though, he has proven me wrong. On a sad note, it seems that Goodman is not having a breakout season. 2 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD. I was worried this would happen. But on a good note, Irish WR commit Torii Hunter Jr.’s father was interviewed (http://notredame.scout.com/2/1225767.html) and said that academics were #1, as in he is not entering the pro baseball draft without an education.

    • ndtoronto - Sep 28, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      But his 2 catches came at very crucial moments…one for a touchdown and one on a key 3rd down conversion. For some reason he hasn’t been targeted a whole lot, perhaps he’s just not seeing the field much?

    • North of Denver - Sep 28, 2012 at 3:08 PM

      That’s true about Goodman, but his one-hander in the endzone made up for all of the fair catches last year.

      • joeschu - Sep 28, 2012 at 6:10 PM

        How many did he drop?

        If they don’t block, you can’t blame the return man.

        Give it a rest, it is tired and old.

      • nudeman - Sep 28, 2012 at 9:37 PM

        Agree on Goodman
        They have admitted that they don’t set up for returns
        After Riddick spit the bit in the first game last year, the instructions were “play it safe”

        HOWEVER …

        It’s time for that to end.

        Neal is a very explosive guy and they need to give him a chance to break one.

    • jimbasil - Oct 1, 2012 at 4:07 PM

      Well, if Goodman is not on the field or if you don’t throw to him when he’s on the field, it’s a tiny bit difficult to have a break-out season. That goes for Toma and Jones as well.

      Goodman 2 receptions. one a one handed grab in the endzone and the other a twisting catch on a ball thrown over his head and behind him. But seeing the guys is game on the two balls thrown to him, if you’re BK, make sure you don’t throw to him again and definitely if you’re a ND fan talk smack about how he’s not cutting it.

      Kelly appears to have amnesia (along with you cowdude) when it comes to calling plays for guys he didn’t recruit. (yeah give me the Rees line)

  3. mtflsmitty - Sep 28, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    So pumped for tomorrow night’s game. Soldier Field is going to be insane, and the new unis are going to look great under the lights. Catchin’ my flight first thing in the AM!

    I hate the convicts. Go Irish!

    • seadomer - Sep 28, 2012 at 8:00 PM

      The stadium will be kinda empty 2moro

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 28, 2012 at 10:50 PM

        won’t be completely empty…i heard Chicago PD is putting bars on locker room windows for “The U” and the Chicago area pharmaceutical street vendors are already standing in line by the locker room as well.

        Any word on if Kellen Winslow Jr. is eligible to play? He’s looking for a team i heard.

    • ndgoldandblue - Sep 28, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      You’re kidding, right? I hope you had already made plans to spend a week in Chicago because the game isn’t until next Saturday. And when I say next Saturday, I don’t mean tomorrow.

  4. mentoneirish - Sep 28, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    That is going to be a long tailgate considering they don’t play the game until next Saturday.

  5. glowplugv - Sep 28, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    I thought I recall Coach Kelly saying that Niklas or Koyack were competing for the blocking tight end position. Most recently he has said they have needed to use Eifert as a blocking TE. Even though, Coach Kelly reminded the press that Eifert is a TE and they block, like Keith has pointed out, Niklas and Koyack haven’t been able to consistently control the edge like Eifert can. That plus the fact they are not throwing as much adds up to Eifert having less opportunities. If one of those other TEs can get up to speed and Golson settles in, there is enough talent in the WRs to take the pressure off Eifert. Until the offense is fixed, Eifert is going get less touches.

  6. mtflsmitty - Sep 28, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    RATFARTS!!!
    :)

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 28, 2012 at 10:45 PM

      “RATFARTS?”

      Kinda cheesy

      • ndgoldandblue - Sep 28, 2012 at 10:51 PM

        Uhh…you think it’s cheesy? Ok, great. At least, you figured it out. How do you know that RATFARTS is cheesy because I have no friggin’ clue what it means.

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 28, 2012 at 11:32 PM

        Fine….i’ll spell it out….rats are rodents, rodents are notorious for eating cheese, hence the rat’s fart would smell like cheese

        Ratfarts = Kinda Cheesy

      • seadomer - Sep 29, 2012 at 1:08 AM

        Haha … ok guys, we are all off our game in the bye week.
        BYU looked decent tonight. Not really worried abt the high scoring, but they shutout someone.

      • massivedick - Sep 29, 2012 at 12:25 PM

        idratherbeinsouthbend … good comedy
        ndgoldandblue …. you need more fiber in your diet

  7. yaketyyacc - Sep 29, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    keith, thanks for pointing out all the good receivers ND has. The Japanese had 90 warships against our twenty at Midway. Their coach only used four aircraft carriers; they lost. what good are all those fine receiving weapons, if you do not use them? Imagine leaving the battlefield with 80 ships, a loss and limping home. hope we will not be limping home with a stable of good receivers who were nothing more then spectators.

  8. bernhtp - Sep 29, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    I hope and certainly expect the Irish receivers to have a big game against Miami. I am watching them play NC State and neither team has a defense, especially pass defense. There are wide open receivers deep in the secondary on both sides of the field.

    • bernhtp - Sep 29, 2012 at 3:56 PM

      http://espn.go.com/ncf/boxscore?gameId=322732390

      Miami had 566 yards passing. Both teams combined for almost 1000 yards passing. Crazy.

  9. mtflsmitty - Sep 29, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    “RATFARTS” is a reference from Caddyshack. But given you thought I was serious about heading to Chitown on the wrong weekend, I’m not surprised you didn’t get it.

  10. smurphdoggy29 - Sep 30, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    What has God Wrought ? I show up to Caddyshack musings ?
    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ?

    Okay so this is the installment I have been waiting for because I (along with some others) laid it out bold and beautiful that the pass catchers were going to blow it up all of 2012. Now they haven’t laid an egg so to speak, yet they haven’t quite gotten to the production point I had anticipated. Now of course it could be the QB position is still working itself out and the new pass catchers are still working out some of the kinks. But (there is always a but isn’t there) I submit a new proposition, perhaps the problem lies somewhere within, someplace inside the machine….

    The playmaker’s cannot quite flourish (my opinion of course) and get rolling because the offensive line has not gelled quite how the Coaches had planned. The line has not played overtly poorly I think, they have just not reached the level of execution enjoyed as late as last season. I believe the loss of 2 key ingredients on the line has lessened the effectiveness to such a degree internally that the playmaker’s ability to make a quick and direct progression to consistency has been blunted.

    Just a thought. Nude and Dickasman your thoughts ?

    Discuss…

    GO Irish !
    Beat the Wind and Rain makers !
    Hope Manti has had a chance to begin healing ! God Bless !

  11. ndfaithful - Sep 30, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    OK, I know this is off-topic – so skip it if you’re offended. But here’s a look at our friend Michael Floyd’s first NFL reception. An absolute gem for a TD. Take a look:

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