Receivers spreading wealth in Irish offense

University of Notre DameEducationJimmy ClausenBrian Kelly

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Almost daily, Michael Floyd hears from two friends who departed early for the professional ranks. But the Notre Dame receiver, Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate collectively dwell more on Floyd's present rather than reliving their dynamic past.

It is not about golden — or, as it were, Golden — days behind Floyd. Perhaps this is because the junior's production in the Irish offense isn't in the crisis everyone presumes they are.

"When things are going right," Floyd said, "there's no reason to be frustrated."

The ascension of Theo Riddick to the top of the Notre Dame receiving charts has wrought much hand-wringing about defenses having siphoned off the Irish's presumed top threats, Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph, before Pittsburgh visits Saturday.

But the numbers don't justify the anxiety as much as portray an offense truly spreading things around. Despite defenses aiming to stifle them, the share of receptions for Rudolph and Floyd has not dropped much from 2009 — and in Rudolph's case, it's actually larger.

"All week I'm sure they're figuring out ways to try and limit their touches," Irish quarterback Dayne Crist said. "But it's just great seeing that we really can spread the ball around and remain efficient on offense. When the time comes to get those guys the ball, you have to take advantage of that."

Floyd's 28 receptions thus far account for 23 percent of the Irish's 122 pass completions overall. Last year? He had 44 catches accounting for 24 percent of total completions in games in which he played.

Floyd's involvement is effectively the same. His current numbers — 5.6 catches, 81.6 yards per game — essentially match his career averages. Rudolph is even more involved, accounting for 18.9 percent of the total completions this year as opposed to 13.5 percent in 2009.

"We're competitors — we want every play to go to us," Rudolph said. "That's how Michael and I are. Anybody who's a competitor is going to be — I don't want to say upset, but they want the ball in their hands. When our offense is clicking and guys are making plays, that definitely (lessens) that feeling."

The player surprisingly at the top of the charts — Riddick, five games into his receiving career — is the key to uncaging Floyd and Rudolph anyway. A threat in the middle of the field puts defenses in a quandary as to which receiver gets extra attention.

One could argue Floyd's numbers, in this offense, should have made a leap rather than stayed static.

"As we continue to develop at quarterback, and all phases, the best players will stand out," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "The great players will break out. It's hard until everybody is on the same page, really, for that to occur."

Which is why conversations with former comrades may not qualify as emergency calls for Floyd, seeking an out-route of a different kind. Patience is catching, it seems.

"As Theo and TJ (Jones) and (John) Goodman get better, defenses have to change," Floyd said. "Whenever I get the chance or when Kyle gets the chance to make a play, we just have to make it."

bchamilton@tribune.com

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