Consider this: There are 10 quarterbacks and five wide receivers who have attempted passes for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Brian Kelly era. On the receiving end were 60 different Irish receivers, tight ends, running backs and, well, they’ve thrown it to an offensive lineman once too.
Here are the five most prolific pairings.
HONORABLE MENTION: DESHONE KIZER TO TORII HUNTER JR.
Total targets: 97 (30 in 2015, 67 in 2016)
Percentage of Kizer’s career attempts: 14 percent
Percentage of Hunter’s career targets: 86.6 percent
Success rate (definition): 57.9 percent
Explosive plays (passes over 20+ yards): 12 of 63 (19 percent)
First downs: 42
Third downs converted: 11 of 26 (42.3 percent)
Big play: With Notre Dame trailing Clemson, 24-16, DeShone Kizer found Torii Hunter Jr. on a one-yard back corner fade to bring the game within two points. Clemson corner Ryan Carter hesitated when he saw Will Fuller come his way, which gave Hunter the time he needed to create separation.
Hunter Jr. also ran the ball five times in his career, of which Kizer was under center for three of them. The Prosper, Texas product attempted four passes, including one where he barely missed a wide open Kizer for a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns. (One play later, Hunter would be concussed on a play that was inexplicably not called targeting.)
#5: EVERETT GOLSON TO WILL FULLER
Total targets: 103 (all in 2014)
Percentage of Golson’s career attempts: 13.8 percent
Percentage of Fuller’s career targets: 45.7 percent
Success rate (definition): 50.5 percent
Explosive plays: 18 of 80 (22.5 percent)
First downs: 43
Third downs converted: 13 of 28 (46.4 percent)
Big play: There’s three minutes left in the 2014 Music City Bowl between Notre Dame and the LSU Tigers and the teams are tied at 28. Everett Golson is coming back off the bench for the first time in three drives, facing a 2nd-and-15 from his own 25. Fuller beats junior defensive back Jalen Collins on the inside slant, and corrals a bit high Golson throw for a 14 yard gain. The Irish convert the first down on the next play and march down the field to kick the game winning field goal.
The game can’t be embedded, but here’s the play.
#4: TOMMY REES TO DAVARIS DANIELS
Total targets: 116 (7 in 2012, 109 in 2013)
Percentage of Rees’ career attempts: 11.1 percent
Percentage of Daniels’ career targets: 73.9 percent
Success rate (definition): 37.9 percent
Explosive plays: 13 of 54 (24 percent)
First downs: 37
Third downs converted: 15 of 40 (37.5 percent)
Big play: The Irish (1-1) are knotted at 17 with the Purdue Boilermakers (1-1) with about 13 minutes remaining in West Lafayette. Tommy Rees hits DaVaris Daniels in stride 28 yards downfield — and the redshirt sophmore fights off a dogged attempt from cornerback Ricardo Allen to tackle him for the next 54 yards.
The Irish take the lead, win the game and Purdue finishes the season 1-11. There’s only one sensible conclusion: Toot Daddy Fresh murdered the Boilermakers’ season.
#3: TOMMY REES TO TYLER EIFERT
Total targets: 126 (33 in 2010, 80 in 2011, 13 in 2012)
Percentage of Rees’ career attempts: 12 percent
Percentage of Eifert’s career targets: 57.3 percent
Success rate (definition): 54.8 percent
Explosive plays: 16 of 81 (19.8 percent)
First downs: 56
Third downs converted: 27 of 51 (52.9 percent)
Big play: The Irish (1-2) are once again limping against an inferior opponent, down 12-7 to the Pittsburgh Panthers. The final drive includes four Rees passes to tight end Tyler Eifert, including two first downs. On second and goal, Eifert wrestles the ball away from two Pitt defenders.
Irish win, 15-12.
#2: TOMMY REES TO MICHAEL FLOYD
Total targets: 181 (54 in 2010, 127 in 2011)
Percentage of Rees’ career attempts: 17.1 percent
Percentage of Floyd’s Kelly-era targets: 66.3 percent
Success rate (definition): 56.9 percent
Explosive plays: 19 of 127 (15 percent)
First downs: 78
Third downs converted: 23 of 42 (54.8 percent)
Big play: The Irish had not beaten the USC Trojans since 2001, and hadn’t vanquished their longtime rival in Los Angeles since the year prior.
The Irish trail, 16-13, with about six minutes remaining in the 2010 game. Facing a first and ten from their own 23 yard line, Rees finds Michael Floyd for a gain of 11 and a first down. It’s the start of a seven play drive which culminates in a Robert Hughes five-yard touchdown run.
The Irish win, 20-16. The play is here.
#1: TOMMY REES TO T.J. JONES
Total targets: 187 (10 in 2010, 54 in 2011, 15 in 2012 and 108 in 2013)
Percentage of Rees’ career attempts: 17.7 percent
Percentage of Jones’ targets: 64.5 percent
Success rate (definition): 57.8 percent
Explosive plays: 24 of 119 (20.2 percent)
First downs: 70
Third downs converted: 21 of 40 (52.5 percent)
Big play: T.J. Jones’ only four-quarter-or-later touchdown catch from Rees was undoubtedly the biggest play of their combined effort. The Irish were unbeaten, tied at 13 with Stanford and without their starting quarterback. Jones made an extraordinary effort to rein in an errant Rees’ throw and give the Irish the lead, 20-13.
OTHER FUN FACTS
Most targets by season, Brian Kelly era:
- Michael Floyd: 144 in 2011
- Floyd: 129 in 2010
- Will Fuller: 115 in 2014
- DaVaris Daniels: 111 in 2013
- T.J. Jones: 110 in 2013
Largest percentage of targets by season, Brian Kelly era:
- Floyd: 30.4 percent in 2011
- Floyd: 26.8 percent in 2010
- Daniels: 25.7 percent in 2013
- Jones: 25.5 percent in 2013
- Fuller: 24.8 percent in 2014
Largest career percentage of total targets, Brian Kelly era:
- Floyd: 28.6 percent of passes attempted in 2010 & 2011 were thrown his way
- Daniels: 19.2 percent of 2012 & 2013 balls
- Fuller: 17.6 percent of 2013-2015 balls
- Eifert: 16.4 percent of 2010-2012 balls
- Jones: 16.3 percent of 2010-2013 balls
- Equanimeous St. Brown: 14.5 percent of 2015-2017 balls
- Theo Riddick: 12.9 percent of 2010-2012 balls
- Kevin Stepherson: 11.8 percent of 2016-2017 balls
- Chris Brown: 11.2 percent of 2012-2015 balls
- Chase Claypool: 11.2 percent of 2016-2018 balls