2011 in 100 words… Michael Floyd


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.

Player Overview:

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.

2010 Season:

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.

2011 in 100 words… Zack Martin

The eleventh of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. For more, check the previews of Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Robert Blanton, Theo Riddick, Steve Filer, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tyler Eifert and Ben Turk.

Player Overview:

How off the radar was Zack Martin heading into the 2010 season? Consider that everybody — Notre Dame included — was spelling his name wrong, subbing in an ‘h’ when Martin spelled his first name with a ‘k.’

Any misconception of Martin as a player was cleared up quickly, when in the opening days of Brian Kelly’s first spring practice he was slotted as the starting left tackle, and never left the starting lineup, one of only 11 players to start all 13 games for the Irish.

Martin’s pedigree always seemed good enough; he had offers from Michigan, Stanford and UCLA, and a four-star ranking by Rivals, but the fact that Martin would turn out to be the Irish’s best NFL offensive line prospect since Ryan Harris seemed to surprise everybody but the new Irish coaching staff.

Even better for Notre Dame, Martin was allowed to develop during his freshman year, and he’ll have three years of eligibility left when he enters the fall as a part of an offensive line that only needs to replace Chris Stewart.

2010 Season:

Martin’s opening assignment was a doozy, matched with All-Big Ten defensive end Ryan Kerrigan in the first start of his career. But Martin held his own, and in his first year on the job graded out as the top offensive lineman along the Irish front, a shock when you consider both Trevor Robinson and Chris Stewart were named to preseason watch lists.

With Taylor Dever out for a few weeks with an injury, Martin made the shift from left tackle to the right side, allowing senior Matt Romine to slide into the left tackle position. Martin didn’t miss a beat, and shifted back to left tackle after the Western Michigan game, helping pace the Irish offensive line as they came into their own after Dayne Crist was injured and the Irish relied on a power running game to help close the season on a winning streak.

Martin’s postseason kudos weren’t of the national ilk, but were certainly impressive. He was named the Most Valuable Linemen of the Sun Bowl following the Irish victory over Miami and was also named the 2010 Guardian of the Year as the top Notre Dame offensive lineman.

100 word preview for Zack Martin in 2011:

If Zack Martin’s first season starting at left tackle was about exceeding expectations, year two should be about imposing his will. After a strong debut, Martin will be the anchor of a veteran offensive line and expectations should be raised for Ed Warinner’s group. With the size and athleticism necessary to play well in both the run and pass game, Martin should support whoever ends up winning Chris Stewart’s vacated left guard position. Even more importantly, if the Irish are going to reach the goals they set for themselves, they’ll need Martin leading the way for ND in the trenches.

Importance in 2011:

Uber. No offense to Sam Young and Paul Duncan, but Martin is the first top-shelf athlete the Irish have had at offensive tackle since Harris played in the early days of Charlie Weis. With Christian Lombard coming on strong this spring, Notre Dame will have a trio of tackles able to play, with fifth-year senior Taylor Dever manning the right side.

2011 in 100 words… Ben Turk

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The ninth of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. For more, check the previews of Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Theo Riddick, Steve Filer, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Tyler Eifert.

Player Overview:

Turk was brought into South Bend as the blue-chip answer to Notre Dame’s punting woes. When he wasn’t out bench-pressing everybody in his recruiting class, he was launching punts into orbit. Midway through his freshman season he took over the starting punting job and since then… Well, he’s been okay.

Turk’s career average in 19 games is a shade over 38 yards a kick. We could say he’s done a good job of holding returns to a minimum or pinning offenses inside their own twenty yard line, but when you’re kicking the ball that short you usually limit your opponents chance to return punts.

With rocket-legged Kyle Brindza coming to campus and competing at both kicker and punter, Turk’s officially been put on notice that the results special teams coach Mike Elston sees during practice need to translate to the games.

2010 Season:

Turk started every game last season for the Irish, but only had four games where he averaged over 40 yards a kick. He got off the occasional rocket, but also had his fair share of low rolling kicks, putting the Irish defense in some tough places and struggling to flip the field.

The high-water mark for Turk’s 2010 season was his outing against Pittsburgh, where he averaged 46.6 yards on five punts, with three of them being downed inside the Panthers’ twenty.

“We flipped the field position today,” Kelly said after the 23-17 victory. “Ben Turk was outstanding punting the football. They’re dangerous, one of the best ST teams we’ll see this year was Pittsburgh.”

Turk had a season-long 56 yard kick against Tulsa and six punts that went over 50 yards.

100 word preview for Ben Turk in 2011:

One way to help the Irish be a better football team is to get a good season out of punter Ben Turk, something the Irish haven’t gotten in Turk’s two years in South Bend. Practice field exploits haven’t translated into game day results, and Turk’s 2010 was up-and-down, with the strong-legged punter struggling to get hang time and distance on his kicks. Turk has the leg and the ability needed, but with newcomer Kyle Brindza on campus, he’ll need to get in the swing of things quickly, or his grasp on the starting job will quickly come to an end.

Importance in 2011:

The Irish were 101st in punting last season, and they’ll need to get a better year out of someone — Turk or not — to be an efficient football team.

2011 in 100 words… Tyler Eifert


The eighth of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. For more, check the previews of Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Theo Riddick, Steve Filer, and Kapron Lewis-Moore.

Player Overview:

Entering last season, Tyler Eifert wasn’t on anybody’s radar. Eifert only suited up against Nevada as a freshman before suffering a major back injury that had many curious if he would ever recover. But when All-American candidate Kyle Rudolph went down with an injury it was Eifert that stepped quickly into his place, becoming an immediate threat in the passing game with his route-running ability, speed, and hands.

Eifert’s 27 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns nearly replicated Rudolph’s stats from six games, with Tyler averaging 1.3 yards more per catch than Kyle, something just about nobody saw coming when they looked at the tight end depth chart heading into the season.

2010 Season:

If you’re looking for someone that embodied Brian Kelly’s “Next Man In” mantra, look no farther than the Fort Wayne product.

In the six games that Rudolph played in, Eifert had only one catch for 17 yards. With Rudolph out, Eifert stepped in almost seamlessly, putting up an impressive stat line that included:

Western Michigan: 4 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD
Navy: 4 catches, 42 yards
Tulsa: 5 catches, 61 yards
Army: 4 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD
USC: 3 catches, 36 yards
Miami: 4 catches, 31 yards

Only once did Eifert not make three or more catches, and that was in the Irish’s 28-3 thrashing of Utah. While Rudolph’s loss obviously was a large setback for the offense, Eifert and Rees quickly clicked, opening up a great vertical game that was at its best in Yankee Stadium, where Eifert caught a touchdown and was ruled just short of a second on his way to 78 yards on four catches.

100 word preview for Tyler Eifert in 2011:

Elite tight-ends keep flowing out of South Bend and it looks like Tyler Eifert will continue a wonderful trend for the Irish. If 2010 had many fans wondering who No. 80 was, 2011 will see coaching staffs doing their best to keep Eifert in check. With Kyle Rudolph deciding to head for the NFL, Rudolph now takes over as the weapon of the position, with Mike Ragone providing the muscle inside and Alex Welch and Jake Golic fighting off incoming freshman Ben Koyack. There’s every reason to expect Eifert to be just as heralded as Rudolph, and probably much more dangerous.

Importance in 2011:

Putting Eifert and Ragone on the field allows the Irish to get physical at the point of attack in the running game as well as put two quick-footed tight ends into the passing game, creating plenty of mismatches in the creases of the defense.There’s every reason to believe that Eifert’s poised to have a monster statistical season, at a position group that’s probably one of the roster’s deepest.

2011 in 100 words… Kapron Lewis-Moore


The seventh of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. For more, check the previews of Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Theo Riddick and Steve Filer.

Player Overview:

It was two seasons ago when a young sophomore who sat out the entire 2008 season seized a starting defensive end job. While Kapron Lewis Moore was undoubtedly raw, he led all Irish defensive linemen with 46 tackles, finishing sixth on the team, including seven tackles for loss.

KLM followed up his debut season with his 2010 effort, starting 13 games, finishing fourth on the team with 62 tackles. His two sacks weren’t enough to call him a disruptive force in the passing game, but his ability to be around the football continued to shine.

2010 Season:

In many ways, Lewis-Moore encapsulated the progression of the Irish defense. While he certainly grew as a football player, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Midway through last season, head coach Brian Kelly talked about that development process.

“He’s clearly a young man that has had to develop physically,” Kelly said. “He came on campus at 215-220 pounds in that range, and he’s up there upwards of 280 pounds. He’s getting used to his body, he really is. He’s carrying a lot of cargo if you will and he’s really becoming a lot more comfortable with that. So that growth and development is really changing a physique from what it was to where it is today, because he possess a lot of athletic ability and we are seeing that each and every week.”

Starting with the Navy game, Lewis-Moore picked up his productivity, having games of seven and eight tackles, while only having less than four tackles against Tulsa. His consistent ability to anchor a position that absolutely needed productive performances out of he and Ethan Johnson was a huge break for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

100 word preview for Kapron Lewis-Moore in 2011:

Steady but not spectacular certainly was acceptable in 2010, but the bar for the 2011 Irish defense has been raised. After two seasons of starting at defensive end, it’s time for Lewis-Moore to excel, getting more pressure on the quarterback and wreaking havoc in the run game. KLM’s athletic ability and impressive size give him all the tools needed for success, and as Bob Diaco’s system continues to evolve, Lewis-Moore will be asked to grow with it. Thanks to an infusion of talent at the position, KLM should benefit from depth that’ll allow him to stay fresh and more productive.

Importance in 2011:

The Irish have the opportunity to have one of the strongest defensive lines in the post-Holtz era, with Ethan Johnson also poised to have a monster season. With the emergence of Kona Schwenke and the ability for Aaron Lynch to provide a pass-rushing spark, the Irish front could be a dominating unit.