May 122012

Spotlight #1: Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd

Spotlight #2: Notre Dame S Harrison Smith 

1st quarter

14:48: Smith puts a hit on a running back after a gain of 10+. Needs help to bring him down. Hit slows him, but doesn’t immediately stop him.

13:17: Smith shows good instincts to stay with the play and change directions quickly on a reverse.

12:24: Smith in on a tackle after a receiver catches one short and breaks the covering man’s tackle.

10:52: Smith is the last man to beat before a touchdown, can’t quite get the tackle, but good speed and hustle just to get there and try got a dive tackle. He wasn’t out of position or anything, he just couldn’t quite clean up someone else’s mess on the outside.

8:30: Floyd with a nice run block on the outside.

7:13: Floyd can’t come down with a jump ball in the end zone he should have had. He had a good jump, but had it go right over his hands. Had he timed his jumped better, that’s 6 points against double coverage and a very nice catch.

5:55: Smith stays with a reverse, throws off a block and gets a solo tackle after 5-6 yards.

3:55: Floyd with another nice outside run block.

2nd quarter

10:29: Floyd targeted deep along the sideline, good job to get to it against tough coverage, but can’t bring it in in bounds, which would have been tough.

9:09: Smith lined up in the box, gets in on a tackle for a short gain.

7:44: Smith blitzing, shows a good motor, but a little unbalanced and overly aggressive as he ends up getting overpowered by a bigger guy and getting knocked down.

6:12: Floyd plucks one out of the air, but because it wasn’t right on target it allowed a couple defenders to close and Floyd couldn’t get anything after and pick up the first down.

2:26: Smith in on a tackle on the outside for a gain of a few.

1:42: Smith with a nice solo wrap up in space after a bubble screen.

0:55: Smith with obvious contact with the ball in the air, but it wasn’t catchable. Still wrongly called pass interference.


3rd quarter

11:22: Floyd takes one in the flat for a few.

9:04: Floyd fights off a jam at the line and then gets open against good coverage on a corner route in the end zone. Touchdown. Good power at the line and good speed to keep some separation against a speedy cornerback and good hands to reel it in against good coverage with only a little separation against one of the best freshman cornerbacks in college football and the nation’s leader in pass deflections with 16.

6:47: Floyd targeted in the flat, thrown too high, can’t quite get it.

6:42: Floyd redeems himself with a 6 yard catch on 3rd and 5 against tight coverage.

6:02: Floyd overthrown, Notre Dame quarterback is picked off. Floyd hasn’t done the best job of getting separation tonight. Still a bad throw by the quarterback to overthrow against double coverage.

5:26: Smith with good hustle and burst to get into the backfield on a pitch and get in on a tackle for a loss of one.

4:45: Smith gets into the backfield, blocked, disengages, gets in on a tackle and a forced fumble, though he wasn’t the one who stripped him. Notre Dame recovers and Wake Forest wastes a red zone opportunity.

4:05: Floyd draws pass interference deep, pushed off trying to go up and catch a deep, high ball. Could have caught it for a big gain if not for the pass interference.

1:23: Smith on a tackle after a completion over the middle. He’s got great tackling technique.

4th quarter

13:38 Floyd catches one short of the sticks on 2nd and 8, but good effort and strength to push forward for the first.

10:47: Smith gets the tackle after the ball carrier breaks a bunch of tackles in the open field.

9:09: Smith allows a 16 yard completion over the middle, but gets a good hit afterwards. Tough by the receiver to hang onto the ball.

8:32: Smith gets into the backfield and isn’t juked out by the ball carrier. He doesn’t get in on the tackle for loss, but a teammate does.

6:12: Smith explosive to blow up a play in the backfield, tackle for loss, right after a checkdown. Great instincts. He read this one from the start.

0:00: Harrison Smith came into this game as one of the top safeties in this weak and overall fairly ambiguous safety class. Guys like Mark Barron, Smith, TJ McDonald, Ray Ray Armstrong, Markelle Martin, and South Carolina’s Antonio Allen are all among most people’s top safeties, but there’s no clear order. I like Mark Barron better than any of them, but after this game, I’m tentatively ranking Harrison Smith 2nd in this weak class, which is higher than almost everyone.

Harrison Smith is a strong safety at the next level at 6-2 220. Often times he was playing up as an 8th man in the box, essentially an extra linebacker, and for good reason. In addition to his obvious size, he’s a great fundamental tackler. He’s also good excellent instincts and a great motor. He’s not a flashy tackler who is going to make the big hit, but he’s a sure tackle. He wraps up and he plays under control. One thing I unfortunately didn’t see from him was a mean streak, but he’s a very solid fundamental and instinctive player against the run. He had 10 tackles in this game, along with a tackle for loss, to give him 68 tackles and 2 for loss in 9 games after 91 tackles last year.

Against the pass is not as much his strength as against the run, which is also part of the reason why he played up in the box so much. However, he didn’t look terrible in coverage. He allowed just 1 completion in this game for 16 yards and almost knocked it out with a good and immediate hit. Of course, he might have allowed more completions if he were playing in coverage more. Notre Dame uses him more as a box safety than anything.

However, he does have some ball skills. He didn’t display them in this game because he didn’t have much of a chance to, but in the past 2 seasons he has 16 deflections and 7 interceptions. He’s not the most athletic guy and he has stiff hips in coverage, but he has enough instincts and ball skills to get by as a strong safety in the NFL. His above average ability against the run adds to this to make him my #2 safety in this draft class. Mark Barron makes more impact plays and is better in coverage at roughly at same size, but I like safeties this good fundamentals, they are the last line of the defense so I want hustle and a sure tackle. Smith’s fundamentals are better than TJ McDonald’s or Ray Ray Armstrong’s or Markelle Martin’s.

Offensively for Notre Dame, the big weapon is Michael Floyd. The 6-3 225 pound receiver is extremely physical and having a 2nd straight extremely productive season. He’s been a 4 year starter at Notre Dame, with 48 catches for 719 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2008 and 44 catches for 795 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2009, both as the #2 receiver to eventual 2nd round pick Golden Tate. Those stats were despite missing 3 games with injury and 5 games with injury in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Since Tate left, Floyd has had even more of an impact, despite the downgrade in quarterback from eventual 2nd round pick Jimmy Clausen. In 2010, Floyd caught 79 passes for 1025 yards and 12 touchdowns and this year he has 68 catches for 826 yards and 6 touchdowns in 9 gams. Even more importantly, he seems to have beaten the injury bug and he’s missed just 1 game in the last 2 years.

Floyd has the talent to be a very high pick next year, but off the field issues could scare teams away. He was suspended indefinitely after a DUI in the offseason, but he hasn’t missed a game this season because he changed his lifestyle, started giving back to the community, and earned his way back onto the football field. He’s also changed his diet and gotten in much better football. That says a lot about this kid’s character and his passion for the game, the changes he made once the game was almost taken away from him. I think that will cancel out any off the field problems in the eyes of most scouts, and it certainly does in mine.

On the field, Floyd is a very big, physical, powerful receiver. He’s almost impossible to jam at the line of scrimmage and he’s a true vertical threat. He’s very tough to bring down in the open field. He also plays with a great motor and is a terrific run blocker. He doesn’t have top end, blow the top off the defense, blazing speed, but he has decent speed. Still, his struggles getting separation, even if they aren’t huge, are going to put him behind Justin Blackmon and Alshon Jeffery in this draft class.

In this game, Floyd caught 5 passes for 44 yards and a score, which was actually one of his worst games of the season. He was matched up with the nation’s leader in pass deflections at cornerback, but he still didn’t have a great game. He should have had a tough jump ball in the end zone. I know it was tough, but a player like Floyd is supposedly to make that catch. He also failed to get separation on a play in which the quarterback was picked off in double coverage, though that falls some on the quarterback as well.

Overall, he looked good when he got targeted. Part of his low reception total was that Wake Forest made him the focus of their defense, which allowed other guys to get open. Notre Dame’s talented tight end Tyler Eifert led the team in receiving with 3 catches for 60 yards and a score for this reason. Eifert wasn’t seeing a lot of coverage from the defense. Floyd’s 5 catches and Eifert’s 3 combined for 8 catches for 104 yards and 2 scores, which was the bulk of quarterback Tommy Rees’ stats. Rees completed 14 passes for 166 yards and 2 scores. Floyd also looked very good as a run blocker, so in general I think this game keeps his stock stable.

As for Eifert, the Eifert tower has 43 catches for 515 yards and 4 touchdowns in 9 games on the season as the defense has been focused so much on Floyd. Eifert also had 27 catches for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns in limited action last year in relief of the oft injured Kyle Rudolph. The 6-6 245 pound Eifert is one of the best receiving tight ends in the country, maybe the best depending on how much of his stats you want to or don’t want to chalk up to defenses keying in on Floyd. He needs to become a better blocker and he could stand to bulk up and get a little bit more experience, but if the junior were to declare, he’d probably be the 2nd tight end off the block behind the more well rounded Dwayne Allen from Clemson. He’d be a day 2 pick.


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