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August 18, 2010
Michael Floyd caught 48 passes and scored seven touchdowns as a freshman, and then added another 44 receptions and nine touchdowns in 2009 when he missed five games and half of a sixth with a broken collarbone.
Impressive to most, but not new Irish head coach Brian Kelly.
"I thought Michael Floyd was over-hyped," said Kelly Tuesday from the fifth floor of the Notre Dame press box. "I thought he was, at times, average.
"He ran down the field and they threw it up (to him). He wasn't a precision route-runner. He wasn't asked to be. He was a match-up guy. You never saw him in position to run the dig or the drive or one-on-one where he had to beat press coverage on a slant on 4th-and-1. All those things that go to winning football games, I didn't see all that."
Now that's honesty.
So, says Kelly, is this.
"In 20 years, I have not had a player who has worked as hard as Michael Floyd has worked, and I mean that," Kelly said. "He has out-worked everybody on the offensive side of the ball to the point where he has single-handedly set the bar for everybody else.
"The last couple days in situational/live (action), he's been dominant, and believe me, I'm not easily impressed. I've been very impressed with his work. He's been outstanding, and he's set a bar for the way all our other players need to compete on a day-to-day basis. That's the Mike Floyd story."
Well, maybe part of the story as the 6-foot-3, 227-pound junior enters his third season in an Irish uniform. The old Michael Floyd might not have taken such a public critique so well.
"He never said that (over-hyped) to me, but I kind of figured that in my mind," Floyd said. "So I really focused on (route running) because you can be put in different sets and formations and routes, and you have to know everything with Coach Kelly's offense.
"You've got to be willing to critique yourself and know your landmarks in your route running. Dealing with this kind of offense, and being taught by Coach Kelly, Coach (Charley) Molnar and Coach (Tony) Alford, they really emphasize good route running."
Floyd is pleased to know his head coach has changed his tune.
"It is an amazing compliment," Floyd said. "I've always been a competitor, but being critiqued by Coach Kelly just makes me want to be the best even more. I also want to try to develop my teammates that are younger than me, and build up their competitiveness."
Floyd insists he doesn't take Kelly's early recollections of him negatively.
"I just wanted to keep working hard," Floyd said. "The coaches push you to the limit. When you want to quit, they don't let you quit. So I've just tried to push myself even more, which will help me become a better player."
The very nature of the spread offense forces receivers to pay strict attention to detail.
"There are a lot of different routes," Floyd said. "Last year, there were a couple of routes that were kind of the same. In the spread, you can be inside, you can be outside, so there are a lot of different concepts that you've got to know."
Floyd believes his relationship with quarterback Dayne Crist off the field will benefit the pass-catch combination on the field.
"We've been friends since we've been here, and there's good chemistry between me and Dayne," Floyd said. "It's even better now with him as the starting quarterback."
Floyd says the coaching staff has cultivated an environment that allows the players to look beyond the 21 losses in the last three seasons.
"With the new coaching staff coming in, people were still down, but (Kelly) uplifted our spirits and showed us that winning should be a part of this whole tradition at Notre Dame," Floyd said. "Having a head coach and assistant coaches that can say that around us builds our confidence even more."
Kelly isn't making negative suppositions about Floyd anymore.
"Maybe it was because they had Golden Tate and he did all (precision route running) for them," Kelly said. "We put him in a position (to improve) and he's done all that. That's why my opinion has changed based on what I've seen with my own two eyes."
For Kelly, seeing is believing.