NCF Nation: Shaquelle Evans

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
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No. 17 UCLA (9-3) and Virginia Tech (8-4) meet on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Here are a few keys:

Who to watch: Start with UCLA’s dynamic duo at linebacker, senior Anthony Barr and freshman Myles Jack. Barr benefited from turning down a chance at the NFL a year ago, developing into one of the nation’s best at his position. Jack needed no such time. He also played running back for the final four games of the year, rushing for four touchdowns as he earned the Pac-12’s offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors. For Virginia Tech, the best chance to move the football comes through the air, but talented quarterback Logan Thomas must avoid interceptions. He threw 13 this season in 12 games.

What to watch: Virginia Tech is shorthanded without its leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, who suffered a broken leg in the season finale, a 16-6 win over Virginia. The Hokies struggled to run the ball with Edmunds, so what happens without him? On defense, top cornerback Kyle Fuller is likely out with a groin injury for Tech. Fellow corner Antone Exum will sit with an ankle injury. Against a pair of freshmen in coverage, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley could have a big day throwing to Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller.

Why to watch: It’s two name-brand programs in El Paso, but in what direction are these programs headed? The Bruins, under second-year coach Jim Mora, are trending up regardless of the outcome on Tuesday as they seek a 10-win season for the first time since 2005. The Hokies lost three of their final five games this season after struggling to a 7-6 finish a year ago under 27th-year coach Frank Beamer.

Prediction: UCLA 28, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies don’t have enough firepower to get into a scoring duel with UCLA, so look for the bowl-savvy Beamer to search for a few nontraditional ways to even this matchup. But expect the Bruins and Hundley to shake free in the second half.

Pac-12's 1,000-yard receivers

May, 30, 2013
5/30/13
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Gabe Marks, Marcus PetersWilliam Mancebo/Getty ImagesIn Mike Leach's offense, WSU's Gabe Marks, left, looks like a good bet to have a 1,000-yard season.
We've looked at the Pac-12's 2,500-yard passers and its 1,000-yard rushers. Now we turn to the third wheel of the skill position tricycle: 1,000-yard receivers.

The conference featured four 1,000-yard receivers last year. One is off to the NFL: Oregon State's Markus Wheaton. One is out for the season -- or at least a significant part of it -- with a knee injury: Arizona's Austin Hill. Two others are back:
That's a good start. Lee was a unanimous All-American and Cooks could push for such recognition this fall.

There's plenty of talent after them. This is hardly a down position in the conference. In fact, several teams feel pretty good about their chances to produce a 1,000-yard pass-catcher.

Arizona: The Wildcats not only lost Hill, they also are replacing quarterback Matt Scott. Moreover, their No. 2 receiver in 2012, Dan Buckner, is gone, and the No. 3 guy was running back Ka'Deem Carey. There's solid experience returning at the position, but no one player looks like the go-to guy. The Wildcats are more likely to have three guys with over 600 yards receiving than to have one with 1,000.

Arizona State: Receiver is the Sun Devils' most questionable position. At this point, the most likely guy to go over 1,000 yards is tight end Chris Coyle. But if you were to imagine who will be the Sun Devils' top wideout in 2013, a good bet is touted juco transfer Jaelen Strong.

California: Keenan Allen is gone, but the Bears have plenty of young talent at receiver, a list topped by Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs. With new coach Sonny Dykes' new high-flying spread passing offense, it's difficult to imagine the Bears don't produce a 1,000-yard receiver.

Colorado: The Buffaloes' only legitimate A-list player is receiver Paul Richardson. He'd start for just about any Pac-12 team. And, considering how much new coach Mike MacIntyre likes to throw, Richardson seems likely to hit the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy.

Oregon: The Ducks are expected to throw more this season for a number of reasons -- new coach, questions at running back, etc. -- but the chief reason is because quarterback Marcus Mariota is a highly capable passer. Last year, we saw flashes of what he could do. We'll see plenty more in 2013. With De'Anthony Thomas slated to be primarily a running back, expect Josh Huff to become Mariota's favorite target.

Stanford: Stanford isn't the sort of team that produces a 1,000-yard receiver, and its most likely candidates in recent years were tight ends. But if things fell a certain way, Ty Montgomery might make a run at it.

UCLA: If you were to make a list of most likely new members of the 1,000-yard club in 2013, Bruins wide receiver Shaquelle Evans would be on it. He caught 60 passes for 877 yards last year in quarterback Brett Hundley's first year as a starter. With no Johnathan Franklin at running back, the Bruins should be throwing plenty.

Utah: The Utes should be much better throwing the ball this season. For one, quarterback Travis Wilson can only be more mature after starting as a true freshman. Second, new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson likes to spread defenses out and throw the ball. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott are a good tandem, and one or the other could make a run at 1,000 yards.

Washington: The Huskies have two legit candidates -- wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. But Jenkins is working through a DUI arrest that has him presently suspended. Williams, who caught 77 passes for 878 yards a year ago, is a strong bet to be Keith Price's go-to guy.

Washington State: That list with likely new 1,000-yard receivers? Colorado's Richardson, UCLA's Evans and Washington's Williams would be on it. But atop the list would be Washington State's Gabe Marks. If he stays healthy, he's almost a sure thing, considering how much coach Mike Leach likes to throw the ball.

Maynard shines, Bears stump Bruins

October, 7, 2012
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UCLA went to Memorial Stadium looking for its first win in Berkeley since 1998. All the No. 25 Bruins found was a fierce Cal pass rush and an inspired Bears offense that quarterback Zach Maynard ran with relative efficiency to a 43-17 victory over the Bruins.

Maynard accounted for five Cal touchdowns -- four in the air and one on the ground -- and the much-maligned Bears defense kept the Bruins to 378 total yards, sacked quarterback Brett Hundley four times and forced six UCLA turnovers.

For as well as Cal played, UCLA also didn't help their cause with miscommunications and penalties. For example, a mix-up between Hundley and Shaquelle Evans led to an interception at the end of the first half that could have been a huge momentum swing.

And the Bears capitalized on the Bruins' mistakes, turning those five turnovers into 20 points.

UCLA jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Hundley connected with defensive lineman-turned-eligible-receiver Cassius Marsh on a 4-yard score.

But the Bears then scored 23 straight on three Maynard touchdowns -- a 5-yarder to C.J. Anderson, an 8-yarder to Keenan Allen and a 32-yarder to Brendan Bigelow. He was a very crisp 25 of 30 for 295 yards.

"[Maynard] played within himself and we did a nice job as a team," Cal head coach Jeff Tedford told the Pac-12 Network after the game. "It was a total team effort. It was solid. All three phases played well. Now we regroup and get ready for another game next week. This is just one game."

Hundley, who finished 31-of-47 for 253 yards, connected with Joseph Fauria for a 3-yard strike to cut the score to 23-14 early in the third quarter. But Maynard answered by finding Allen again -- this time for 34 yards -- to put Cal ahead 29-14 after the blocked PAT.

Things got ugly in the fourth when Cal fumbled in the UCLA red zone, then Hundley was intercepted for the second time, and then Cal fumbled again on the very next offensive play. And then Hundley was picked again on the next UCLA drive by Michael Lowe. The teams combined for 22 penalties for 199 yards.

Maynard put the game out of reach midway through the fourth when, following the Lowe interception, he marched the Bears to the UCLA 1-yard line and put his head down for the score.

Anderson iced it in the final minutes with a 68-yard touchdown with 1:32 left in the game.

Consistency elusive for Cal

October, 26, 2011
10/26/11
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Zach MaynardDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesZach Maynard, like the rest of the Cal team, has been inconsistent this season.
A coach walks into his pregame locker room. He looks at his team. And he really has no idea how it will play.

That's a reality that more than few coaches have owned up to, if reluctantly. A good week of practice more often than not leads to at least a solid performance. But sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes a poor-to-middling week of practice yields a team on fire.

California turned in its most complete performance of the year while dominating Utah 34-10 last weekend. The Bears, coach Jeff Tedford said, had a good week of practice. They seemed to hold onto their confidence, despite losing 30-9 to USC in their previous game -- a second-consecutive Thursday night blowout on ESPN.

Still, he didn't know that the Bears would come together in all three phases as they did against the Utes.

"I have no idea before the game if they are ready or not," Tedford said. "I've given up on that because sometimes you think they are really ready and they're not. And other times they're quiet and you think, 'These guys got to get ready!' And they play great."

The next step, of course, is doing it again, starting against UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. Or perhaps doing it even better.

Yet, as Cal fans are more than aware, consistency has been a big bugaboo for the Bears during recent seasons.

In 2009, a 3-0 start was followed by consecutive defeats to Oregon and USC by a combined count of 72-6. Then the Bears won three in a row again. Then they got drubbed 31-14 in Berkeley by Oregon State. They upset Arizona and Stanford. Then they lost to underdogs, Washington and then Utah in a bowl game.

Last season, it was the same. Whip UCLA 35-7, lose to USC 48-14. Blow out Arizona State 50-17. Fold at Oregon State 35-7. Nearly upset Oregon, then lose the last two games to finish 5-7, Tedford's first losing team.

Up and down. Hope and despair. Corners turned. Corners turned into oncoming traffic.

At 4-3, which isn't so bad, and 1-3 in Pac-12 play, which sorta is, Cal's season still could go either way. But there are reasons for hope, if you are in the mood for positive spin.

The Bears likely will be favored in their next three games. A potential four-game winning streak would get theme to seven wins -- and bowl eligibility -- before rugged road trips to Stanford and Arizona State to conclude the season.

Perhaps a confident team riding a winning streak might steal one of those, and suddenly it's a nice season with a bowl game ahead and great promise for 2012.

Ah, yes, but that scenario requires consistency, as in the Bears showing up like they did against the Utes in all three phases every weekend.

The foundation for hope that can happen was a strong, bounce-back effort from quarterback Zach Maynard against the Utes. After putting together progressively worse performances during the 0-3 start to conference play, Maynard showed mental toughness by shaking that off and playing well against the Utes. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 255 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions and he rushed for 36 yards and a score.

Long touted as a dual-threat, Maynard did much of his damage out of the pocket on roll-outs -- finally -- and forced a good Utes defense to account for him as a runner. It might be premature to play the "something clicked" card, but it's not far-fetched to entertain the notion.

"I think the game slowed down for him a little bit," Tedford said. "I think the week before he was trying a little too hard and forced a couple of things."

Tedford said that Maynard, who transferred from Buffalo last year, played with more composure, perhaps feeling more comfortable with the routines of preparation as well as the speed of the game in the Pac-12.

On the other sideline, UCLA looks like a team in disarray. Not only is coach Rick Neuheisel on the hottest seat in the conference, not only are the Bruins coming off an embarrassing 48-12 blowout loss at Arizona, but they also will have six players suspended from the game due to a brawl with the Wildcats: defensive tackle Cassius Marsh, offensive guard Albert Cid (first-half suspension) and wide receivers Taylor Embree, Randall Carroll, Ricky Marvray and Shaquelle Evans.

But Cal is not in position to take anything for granted. Tedford noted it will take a mature team to "not get complacent with one win."

Many Bears fans are taking the measure of their program this year. And that means taking the measure of Tedford.

Cal should win its next three games. If it does, things will cool down. If not, the grumbling around the program will only increase.
Charley Molnar was the wide receivers coach under Brian Kelly at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati, where he helped develop some of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation. Now he's the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, where he's helping Kelly transform the Irish into a spread offense.

I caught up with Molnar earlier this week to see how the installation of that system is going:

Molnar
Molnar
How are the players adjusting to the new offense?

Charley Molnar: The first six days were spotty. We could see that if they were concentrating on the fundamentals we taught them, they were forgetting the plays. And if they were concentrating on the plays and trying to execute them perfectly, their fundamentals weren't very good. But the last two practices, they've really started to do what we've asked of them from a fundamentals standpoint and also getting a command of the offense.

Is this a normal timetable for getting this stuff down? Was it similar at Cincinnati?

CM: At Cincinnati we had the advantage of having the bowl game [Kelly's staff took over before the 2007 International Bowl], so that gave us 10 extra practices before we started spring ball to really learn our offensive system and fundamentals. Here, the first day we came out to spring ball, they were a total blank slate from the standpoint of really knowing what our expectations were. But these guys try so hard, and we have so many guys who are real pleasers on the football team and guys who will do anything you ask. So we're really on course to have our offense in by the time summer camp ends.

How much different is it from going to a pro style offense to your spread system?

CM: The biggest difference right now is just learning a whole new set of terminology and whole new mindset in the way we attack a defense. And also fundamentally we do things quite differently than the previous staff did. So these guys really have a lot of learning to do. Nevertheless, it's not that we're so drastically different that they can't get it. I would say for the most part, especially the last couple of practices, they're really settling into the offense and into the speed we work in practice. That may have been the biggest adjustment for them -- how fast we work in practice.

This offense had quite a bit of success under the previous coaching staff. Have you kept any of the old plays that worked well or is it just all totally your stuff?

CM: We didn't keep anything. We didn't even ask what the previous staff did. We're putting in our system. And of course with coach Kelly, we're always looking to evolve the offense based on our personnel and based on things that occurred to us the previous season, and we're always adjusting. The 2010 Notre Dame offense will not look like the 2009 Cincinnati offense. There will be some evolving going on here.

How is Dayne Crist coming along?

CM: He's got a strong arm, and he seems to be poised in the pocket. He really is a very diligent student of the game. He spends a lot of time watching video, asking good questions. We can't see Dayne run around because of the knee, but we've also not allowed Dayne to use his knee as a crutch or an excuse not to run the offense.

So can you fully evaluate him yet?

CM: I don't think we can get a full evaluation of him until summer camp, until he can run around a little bit. As far as reading coverages and making the right checks, he shows he can do that. Now, it's a lot easier when you know you're not going to get hit and you can just sit in the pocket and go through your reads. It's totally different when you're live. On the other hand, we probably wouldn't want our quarterbacks to get hit too much in the spring anyway.

You worked with some excellent receivers at Cincinnati. How do the ones at Notre Dame compare? And how is Theo Riddick's transition to receiver going?

CM: Michael Floyd is a special player and very, very similar to Armon Binns, who we had at Cincinnati. Both are big, physical players who can go up over a DB to get the football. So he's a lot of fun to work with. Theo is going to be an outstanding talent. Right now, I'm coming off a shoulder injury so he's a little bit limited in what he can do. But every once in a while you get a glimpse of how good he could be. He's got speed and he really possesses good hands for a guy who spent most of his life playing running back.

We have probably eight or nine guys still fighting for a seat on bus. Shaq Evans has been highly competitive, along with John Goodman, Roby Toma, Barry Gallup -- they're all fighting to win a spot, either as a starter or a key backup. I think the competition will go all the way through to the summer, I really do.

How about running back? Is Armando Allen the No. 1 guy there?


CM: Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and he's been in that spot. He's been a tried and true performer for Notre Dame, so he's doing a very good job. But so is Robert Hughes, and Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood. Any of those guys could potentially be our starting running back and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. I think have good depth and a highly competitive group.

Just for you personally, what's it like to be the offensive coordinator now at Notre Dame?

CM: I really feel like I've got the best assistant's job in the country.
The decision by quarterback Jimmy Clausen and receiver Golden Tate to leave Notre Dame and enter the NFL draft was no surprise to anyone. But it illustrates that the next coach in South Bend -- whether that's Brian Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, Randy Edsall or whoever else -- has some challenges awaiting beyond fixing the defense.

[+] EnlargeDayne Crist
John Albright / Icon SMIDayne Crist is the only scholarship quarterback on Notre Dame's roster, but he may not be ready to participate fully in spring practice.
Replacing Clausen is going to be the taller order. Clausen not only was a three-year starter with an intricate grasp of the offense, but there's no healthy successor ready behind him. Freshman Dayne Crist got some valuable playing time earlier in the year when Clausen was struggling with a turf toe injury, but Crist tore his ACL in midseason and may not be ready to participate fully in spring practice. Notre Dame has no other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

Clausen said he texted Crist on Monday morning before he made the announcement.

"Dayne's ready," Clausen said. "I told him it's his team now. He's got to take the bull by the horns, and he'll do a great job. I just told him to get healthy as fast as he can."

Getting Crist back for some work in the spring will be crucial, especially if the next coach implements a new offensive system.

Tate was the Irish's top playmaker this year and was so valuable in so many ways. He had 18 total touchdowns and always put the defense on its heels.

But losing Tate, while costly, won't be as damaging as it may seem. That's because Notre Dame still has junior-to-be Michael Floyd, who's a No. 1 receiver in his own right. In fact, he was more productive than Tate before his collarbone injury against Michigan State. Floyd just has to stay healthy for the whole season, something he hasn't done in his first two years.

The Irish also have Kyle Rudolph, one of the best pass-catching tight ends in America. And youngsters John Goodman and Shaq Evans showed promise in short stints this season. If you give a coach like Kelly weapons such as Floyd, Rudolph and some promising youngsters, that's plenty to make a passing game go. And Notre Dame returns its top three running backs.

The key will be getting Crist ready as soon as possible. The next coach will have some work to do.

Weis set an easy standard to clear

November, 30, 2009
11/30/09
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What's most amazing about how spectacular Charlie Weis failed in 2009 is how much the season was set up for him to succeed.

The Notre Dame schedule wasn't the cream-puff lineup as some people described it, but by Irish standards it was very manageable. Only three teams on the entire slate -- Pitt, USC, and Stanford -- are ranked in the Top 25, and none of them are among the nation's top 14. Stanford wouldn't be ranked if Notre Dame had won Saturday's game, while USC came to South Bend with its most vulnerable team in several years.

All Weis really had to do to keep his job was to beat Navy and Connecticut at home and a Michigan team that finished 5-7. That would have made the Irish 9-3 and given the coach a strong argument to return for a sixth year. Yet he couldn't do that or avoid a disastrous four-game losing streak to end the season despite having one of the best quarterbacks in school history (Jimmy Clausen) and the finest receiving season ever by a Domer (Golden Tate).

Notre Dame's best wins this season were against 8-4 Boston College, 6-6 Michigan State and 4-7 Washington. Not exactly the kind of victories you include in a great moments in history section of the media guide.

Because of all that, as athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Monday night, "you couldn't know with significant certainty that next year's results would be better."

Here's what I think is certain: if Swarbrick hires the right caliber of coach, he'll produce much better results than Weis.

Notre Dame is not the super power it once was, but it's hard to go 3-9, 6-6 and 6-6 in three straight regular seasons in South Bend, as Weis did. Sure, the Irish will lose Clausen and probably Tate, much of their offensive line and several defensive starters. But the cupboard is far from bare.

Dayne Crist, who should return from an ACL injury by the spring, was a highly-rated quarterback recruit who got some valuable experience this year. Star receiver Michael Floyd returns, along with promising youngsters John Goodman and Shaq Evans. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is back, as well as running backs Armando Allen, Robert Hughes and Theo Riddick.

Defensively, the Irish can build around guys like Darius Fleming, Steve Filer, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and future superstar Manti Te'o, assuming Te'o does not go on his Mormon mission after this season. Yes, the defense needs serious improvement, especially in its tackling, but that's what good coaches do.

Weis got this team close this year but couldn't get over the hump. Ten of Notre Dame's games were decided by a touchdown or less.

Next year, the Irish have Army, Tulsa, Navy and Western Michigan on the schedule and get Purdue and Michigan at home. Those are six winnable games right there.

Weis's failure was in not winning the games he should have won and never winning the games he wasn't expected to win. That's not a very high standard for the next guy to achieve.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


Michael Floyd returned to practice in pads on Tuesday. To Jimmy Clausen's chagrin, he didn't go through any pass-catching drills.

"He wasn't ready for it," Clausen said. "But he'll be back soon enough."

Actually, having the star wide receiver make a miracle return this week against USC would qualify as soon enough for Notre Dame. But Floyd's broken collarbone won't be healed sufficiently for him to play until November at the earliest.

Floyd was playing as well as any wideout in the country before he got hurt in the second quarter of the Michigan State game, compiling 13 catches for 358 yards and five touchdowns in just over two games. His size and explosiveness would give the Irish one its few clear mismatches to exploit against the powerful Trojans.

Since Floyd's injury, though, the Notre Dame passing game hasn't seen a noticeable dip. That's because the Irish have found other ways and other players to make up for his production.

"We knew there wasn't going to be just one person to step up and fill his role, because I don't know if there are many players in the country who could do that," receiver Robby Parris said. "We knew we just had to do what we did best as individuals, and go out there rally collectively as a team."

Without Floyd, Golden Tate has become the unquestioned go-to receiver. He has had some huge games despite defenses knowing that status, including his nine-catch, 244-yard outburst against Washington. Head coach Charlie Weis has moved Tate all over the field to keep the double teams at bay. He's lined up in the backfield and motioned out, as well as running routes out of the slot.

"We've asked a lot from him since Michael got hurt," Weis said. "Because if you just line him up at 'X' where he normally plays, I think that you'd just be asking for a long day for Golden. Whether they'd roll him into zone or whether they'd double him in man, he'd have a tough day at the office. So we've had to put a lot of him mentally so we could put him in different positions to give him an opportunity to have the ball in his hands and he's handled that very well."

"He is like a running back at receiver," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We just have to keep track of him and know the tendencies when he moves. There are so many things you can do, it's very difficult."

Tight end Kyle Rudolph has also seen his role grow exponentially since Floyd's injury. In the first two games, Rudolph had 7 catches for 67 yards. In the last three, he has hauled in 14 balls for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

Rudolph was a star basketball player in high school, and he uses that athleticism at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds to pose nightmares for opposing linebackers and corners. Weis isn't afraid to split Rudolph out wide, especially in the red zone, where he's run many of Floyd's plays.

"I feel pretty comfortable being split out," Rudolph said. "I'm just as comfortable coming out of a two-point stance as I am in a three-point stance."

Others have also had to step up and fill Floyd's role by committee. Parris, a senior who missed most of last year with injuries, had six catches for 77 yards in the last three games after not getting a reception in the first two. True freshman Shaquelle Evans has had his development accelerated and made four catches against Washington. Junior Duval Kamara could be used more as he recovers from preseason knee surgery.

"I think the offense has responded very well, and the receivers have responded well," Parris said. "We know that (Floyd) makes a great difference, but we know have other players who can come and fill in."

The real test of life without Floyd arrives Saturday. According to ESPN's Next Level Statistics, Clausen went 5-of-8 for 204 yards and three touchdowns when throwing the ball 20-plus yards downfield to Floyd. To all other receivers at that distance, he is just 4-of-17 for 150 yards and one touchdown. Tate has all four of those receptions (he has several big plays, but many of those were thrown under 20 yards until Tate turned them into something bigger).

So Notre Dame's true big-play, downfield threat will be on the sidelines instead of stretching USC's defense Saturday. It's up to his replacements to keep making up the difference.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


Two years ago, Duval Kamara set two Notre Dame freshman receiving records. Robby Parris ranked second on the team in receiving yards.

Last season, though, Kamara and Parris were eclipsed by the emergence of Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. Kamara struggled with drops early in the year while Parris spent a lot of time on the bench.

Now, with Floyd out for the season with a broken collarbone, the Fighting Irish could use a renaissance from either Kamara or Parris -- both would be nice, too

"With Michael out, that means all of the receivers have to step up," Parris said. "We have to pick up where Michael left off and make sure the team is as good as when Michael was on it."

The reality is that no one player is likely to replace Floyd's production. He was averaging more than 27 yards per catch and had five touchdowns in a little over nine quarters of play this season. Notre Dame came into this season boasting of depth at the wideout spots. Now is the time to test that depth.

"This presents the group with a great opportunity to pick up the flag, per se, for one of its teammates," receivers coach Rob Ianello said. "We hope that through the use of multiple players, we can get the same production."

Kamara and Parris share top billing atop the depth chart at the "Z" receiver position -- Floyd's old spot -- for this week's game at Purdue. Freshman Shaquelle Evans and sophomore Deion Walker are listed as the co-backups to Golden Tate at the other wideout slot. The concern, of course, is that defenses will now hound Tate if no one on the other side can force them to be honest, thus slowing down the prolific Irish passing game.

Head coach Charlie Weis said he'll do some different things to try to avoid that, including moving Tate around on the field. He also said that some of the other receivers bring different skills than Floyd.

"Duval, he's the best blocking receiver we have," Weis said. "Not that you are putting in a receiver to block. You are putting in a receiver to catch. But he's by far our best blocking wide receiver. It's not even close. One thing you do gain, whether it be run or play action, if you are running towards that side you got a guy that is a man over there when it comes blocking.

"Even though Shaq Evans might not be as good a receiver as Duval, all of a sudden you got speed opposite of speed, so what are you going to do? Are you just going to say we're just going to roll it to [Tate] and let that other corner go one-on-one? Because that guy might get run by, because this kid is really, really fast."

The offense bogged down last year when Floyd went out late in the season. Tate said he's more prepared this year to handle double coverage, and he thinks the improved running game with Armando Allen should benefit if teams roll coverage to his side.

Still, whether the Irish can continue their high-scoring ways might depend on how guys like Kamara and Parris step forward.

"I think we can do it," Tate said. "I think these guys have been waiting anxiously for their turn, and they're going to show what they've got."

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


Notre Dame's dynamic duo at wide receiver is down to a Golden one.

Sophomore Michael Floyd is likely out for the regular season after breaking his collarbone in Saturday's win over Michigan State, head coach Charlie Weis said. Floyd was playing as well as any receiver in America, with 13 catches for 358 yards and five touchdowns before the first-half injury.

"You can never really replace a Michael Floyd, a guy who's that caliber of player," Weis said.

The Fighting Irish learned that firsthand last season, when Floyd missed some time with another injury. Defenses loaded up against their other star wideout, Golden Tate, and the offense sputtered along. Weis is determined to not to let that happen this year.

"Last night before I went to sleep, I already had a pretty good idea about how to handle this," he said. "What you have to do is put other people in position to go ahead and pick up some of that responsibility, and having some veterans in there, in that mix, certainly makes it easier."

Weis said he would elaborate later in the week on the specifics of his plan. But his comments about veterans would seem to indicate a larger role for junior Duval Kamara and senior Robby Parris, each of whom saw more time Saturday after Floyd's injury.

The most talented wideout on the roster other than Tate might be true freshman Shaquelle Evans, who has two catches this season.

"You can anticipate seeing him a heck of a lot more," Weis said of Evans.

Notre Dame may also look more to tight end Kyle Rudolph, a terrific pass-catcher at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds. Rudolph has 13 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown this season. But Weis said one thing he wouldn't do is line up Rudolph out wide.

"Kyle is best with his hand on the ground," Weis said. "When you're that tall, one of the things is it's a little tougher to get off the line of scrimmage when you're in a two-point stance as opposed to a three-point stance.

"Part of Kyle's production will be based on making sure we've got receivers opposite of Golden, where the defense can't say, 'That's just a guy out there.'"

In other news, Weis said quarterback Jimmy Clausen's injury is either turf toe or an arch problem, and he'll have an MRI Sunday. Weis expects Clausen to play Saturday at Purdue even if he's hobbled, but said he has confidence in backup Dayne Crist if that's not the case.

Weis also said he didn't understand why the play in which Floyd was injured in the end zone was not ruled a touchdown catch. That was one of the plays Notre Dame sent to the Big East office for review. But he declined to complain much about it, unlike last week when he aired his beefs about the officiating in the Michigan loss.

"We're not going to get into Notre Dame being the weekly whiners of officiating," he said.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


What we learned about Notre Dame in the Fighting Irish's 33-30 win over Michigan State ...

1. The defense is in code-red crisis mode: So much for all the good vibes from the opening-week shutout of Nevada. A week after being shredded by Michigan, Notre Dame gave up 459 total yards and 7.1 yards per play to a pedestrian Michigan State offense. The team's supposed strength -- its pass defense -- allowed 302 yards to Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins. He wasn't sacked all day despite defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's constant pressure, although he did throw the game-turning interception while trying to avoid a heavy rush. This is the same Michigan State team that managed just 316 yards last week at home against Central Michigan.

2. Notre Dame needs another playmaker at wideout: Star receiver Michael Floyd could possibly miss a month or two with a broken clavicle. When he got hurt last year, opponents double-teamed Golden Tate and slowed down the Irish offense. For some reason, the Spartans didn't go that route on Saturday, and Tate caught the game-winning touchdown. Future opponents will surely not make that same mistake. Charlie Weis will have to find someone to take pressure off Tate on the other side, whether that's the heretofore underachieving Duval Kamara, freshman Shaquelle Evans or someone else. At least Notre Dame has a reliable running game to lean on, as Armando Allen went over 100 yards for the second straight game.

3. Jimmy Clausen is more than just hype: Any doubts about Clausen's toughness and leadership should have been erased Saturday. Despite hurting his toe while being sacked early in the game, the quarterback limped his way through yet another standout performance. He completed his first 10 passes, threw for 300 yards and made many perfect throws that were dropped. There's no question who this team's most important and best player is.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


NBC is reporting that Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd has a broken collarbone.

Of course, that's a devastating loss for the Irish, as Floyd could be out quite a while with that kind of injury. It's a shame for him, too, because Floyd was having a spectacular season.

Notre Dame is going to have to find another threat to go alongside Golden Tate, whether that's freshman Shaquelle Evans or Duval Kamara or maybe even more looks to tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Nothing going right for Nevada

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
6:02
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- So Nevada gets down to the Irish 10-yard line and looks ready to finally crack the scoreboard.

And what happens? Vai Taua fumbles a pitch, and the Irish's Kapron Lewis-Moore recovers it.

It's been that kind of day for both teams; everything going right for Notre Dame and everything going the opposite direction for the Wolf Pack.

The fourth quarter will likely be a chance for Notre Dame to get its promising youngsters in. Receiver Shaquelle Evans has already seen a few snaps. Might we get a dose of Cierre Wood or Theo Riddick at running back as well? Manti Te'o hasn't played a lot on defense, but he hasn't been needed because the veteran linebackers have been terrific.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Two years ago, Charlie Weis threw a bunch of true freshmen into the fire because he felt he had no other choice.

With 18 returning starters back and more depth than he's had before at Notre Dame, that's no longer the case.

"The guys who get on the field now as freshmen get on the field because they're really good, or they're playing on special teams," Weis said. "But I'm telling you, on offense and defense right now, to get on the field means you're pretty good."

The Irish brought in a well-regarded recruiting class this offseason, so there are several pretty good true freshmen who might see immediate time. The list begins, to no one's surprise, with linebacker Manti Te'o, who very well might start from Day 1.

"He's definitely in the picture," Weis said. "I expect to see him on the field in the opener. I don't think he'll be on the sidelines."

Running back Cierre Wood was one of the more highly-touted signees, and Weis said both he and classmate Theo Riddick have been impressive so far. He said one or both could play early.

"Both these guys have made it more difficult for the coaching staff to make personnel decisions because neither one has played themselves out of contention," he said. "Cierre is a bigger guy, more bruising guy who can run inside and out. Theo is one of those guys who's got a second and third gear.

"Cierre came in with the hype in the recruiting process, but he's got no leg up on Theo, because Theo has been quite impressive as well."

Weis said both guys could play on the kick return team. Whether they get carries depends on if they can climb past Armando Allen, Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray on the depth chart.

Depth is also the reason why receiver Shaquelle Evans will have to fight for time. He's physically impressive already, and Weis said he runs precise routes and has great hands. The only problem -- and it's a great problem for the Irish -- is that he's behind Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.

"So does he backup Golden, because they have similar speed," Weis said, "or do you put him opposite of Golden and now you've got speed on both sides right there?"

On defense, safety Zeke Motta should play on all four special teams and might work his way into the defensive backfield rotation, Weis said. The coaches like nose tackle Tyler Stockton a lot, but because of depth he might be "a luxury item" that the Irish can redshirt and develop, Weis said. The same goes for offensive linemen Chris Watt, Alex Bullard and Zach Martin, all of whom Weis said would probably be in the two-deep in past years.

Ben Turk (punting) and Nick Tausch (placekicking) are both battling for specialist jobs, and Weis plans to decide on those positions after Sunday's practice. If it's too close to call, like it is now, he said he'd likely go with a veteran option instead. Jordan Cowart will serve as the long-snapper.

Even receiver Roby Toma, who went to the same Hawaii high school as Te'o and was viewed as an enticement to get Te'o, has been impressive, Weis said.

"Everybody thought he was the Punahou [School] throw-in, but that's not the way it's working out," Weis said. "He's competitive and is one of our better blockers at 110 pounds or whatever he is. He's a pain in the butt."

What doesn't bother the Notre Dame staff is that it has a lot of skilled freshmen -- and no real pressing need to play them unless they want to do so.

Fresh faces: Notre Dame

July, 17, 2009
7/17/09
2:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Preseason camp begins in just a few weeks, and freshmen are already reporting to campus all over the country. Which new players could make an immediate impact at Notre Dame? Here are a look at three incoming freshmen to keep an eye on when practice begins:

Manti Te'o, LB: Pick an accolade, any accolade. Te'o was USA Today's defensive player of the year, The Sporting News 2008 high school athlete of the year, the inaugural winner of the high school Butkus Award and the No. 2 overall player on the ESPNU150. Simply put, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Hawaii is a can't-miss prospect and the crown jewel of this recruiting class. He could be the kind of dominating, athletic linebacker that the Irish have lacked. And given Notre Dame's defensive lapses, it wouldn't be a surprise at all if he works his way into a starting role immediately.

Cierre Wood, RB: One of the top prep running backs in the nation last year, Wood rushed for 1,632 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior following a 2,600-yard junior campaign. He has good size at 6-feet, 192 pounds, and scouts love his vision and balance. Notre Dame's problems in the running game have been well documented. If Armando Allen, James Aldridge or others don't step forward, perhaps Wood will get a shot.

Shaquelle Evans, WR: Ranked by ESPN's Scouts Inc. as the nation's fourth-best wide receiver last year, the California native chose the Irish over USC. He caught 51 passes for 810 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior and has speed (6-1, 203 pounds), size and explosiveness. Because receivers have a relatively easier adjustment to make to the college game than other positions, Evans has a better chance to get on the field quickly than some of the other highly-touted Irish recruits, like offensive linemen Chris Watt and Zach Martin and defensive tackle Tyler Stockton. But Evans will have to crack what looks like Notre Dame's most loaded position group, which already boasts stars Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.

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