Notre Dame Wide Receiver Michael Floyd's statistics speak for themselves. The big bodied receiver is half way through his senior season and owns every major receiving record at Notre Dame. His career statistics to date include 224 receptions for 3,178 yards and 32 touchdown. With every additional reception Floyd further distances himself from all that have gone before him.
Watching Michael Floyd play this season often feels like I am watching a grown man play against little kids. Simply stated, Floyd is typically the best player on the field by a large margin. His blend of raw talent, physicality and competitiveness separate him from the rest of his peers.
Michael has battled through a few injuries and some off field transgressions during his tenure at Notre Dame but he has consistently exhibited an ability to persevere and get back on track. I personally believe that his recent off season suspension ultimately provided the Irish receiver with an even greater resolve.
Let's take a look at what makes Michael such a special player.
Let's start with pure physicality. At 6'3" and 224lbs Floyd is a big bodied receiver that creates serious matchup problems for smaller defensive backs. His size and strength make him almost impossible to jam at the line of scrimmage and difficult to bring down once he has the ball. Floyd runs hard with the football and can often be found dragging smaller defenders for extra yards after the catch.
Competitiveness. This ties in with his physicality but Floyd brings a visible intensity to every play of every game. According to the staff he also sets the tone at every practice.
Work Ethic. Floyd is a noted perfectionist and workaholic which is evident when you watch him play. Floyd is a polished route runner with great timing. He is always where he is supposed to be on the field and ready to make a play. Michael gets off the line of scrimmage quickly and utilizes outstanding body control to consistently put himself in a position where he can make the play on the football and his defenders cannot.
Hands. Floyd has unbelievable hands and catches everything that he touches. His drops are so few and far between that the last one that I can remember was in the 2010 Sun Bowl against Miami. Despite that drop Floyd had 6 catches for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Blocking. It is an often understated element of a receiver's game, but Floyd revels in his ability to run block. I find this especially refreshing due to Floyd's overall talent level as a receiver. Top flight college receivers are often terrible run blockers and end up learning the hard way at the next level that it isn't all about them catching passes. Floyd needs no such tutelage and he is very effective at it.
Situational Awareness. Michael has what aviators refer to as "SA." This is something that is very difficult to teach and football coaches tend to refer to it as "a nose for the football." Whether you call it a nose for the football or SA, what you are really trying to describe is a player that just always seems to have a complete grasp of everything that is happening around him on a given play. In Floyd's case this parlays into that positioning and body control that I mentioned above. He consistently creates and makes positive plays. This is an instinctive and intangible quality that makes Floyd a different level of great.
Teamwork. Floyd's insistence on taking over as the punt returner is a perfect example of being a team player. Many players in Floyd's position would be more worried about potential injuries and their draft stock than a few extra yards of field position. Not Michael Floyd. He just wants Notre Dame to be in the best position to win the football game.
It is difficult to point out any weaknesses with Floyd. I have heard some say that Floyd appears to be "slow" but my best detective work says that while Floyd doesn't have elite sub 4.4 speed he is in the 4.5 range. This is plenty fast enough to be a 1st round NFL pick. In my opinion the literal height on Floyd makes him appear to be moving slower than he is in actuality which leads to the "slow" observations. He isn't the first long and lean player with good speed to be accused of being "deceptively fast."
It is slightly preposterous to label what is really "toughness" as a weakness but there is one element to Floyd's game that I find to be equal parts awesome and maddening. I mentioned Floyd's strength and ability to drag defenders above but there are times when I feel like he just needs to go down without exposing himself to further abuse. That said I don't see the competitor in him allowing that to happen.
Key Matchup vs. USC
It would appear that the Trojans will most likely line up Sophomore corner Nickell Roby across from Floyd on Saturday night. Roby is all of 5'8 and 164lbs. Remember that bit up top about Floyd looking like a grown man playing against little kids....
How will Notre Dame use Floyd?
With Roby lined up across from Floyd the Trojans are most definitely going to need some safety help over the top. I heard some speculation earlier this week that Coach Kelly might use Floyd as a decoy in some situations. I don't think so. I think Kelly is going to throw at Floyd until the Trojans get enough guys on him to stop it.
Then the next thing you know Tyler Eifert will be abusing the seam while Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray start ripping off gains in big chunks. USC's best chance of defending Floyd will be with an outstanding pass rush. I think that the Notre Dame offensive line will successfully keep that in check.
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly said it best as Floyd came off the field following a circus catch touchdown against Air Force. "That's why you are the best receiver in the country." He is.