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Kelly says overhyped Floyd starting to improve

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly took the job at Notre Dame knowing he was inheriting a receiver in Michael Floyd who has NFL size and ability accompanied by a self-assuredness that he will catch nearly any pass thrown his way.

But when Kelly popped in some game tapes from last season, he didn’t necessarily see one of the top receivers in college football. He spotted an undisciplined route runner not playing up to his capabilities.

Asked Tuesday at the Irish’s media day about the old Floyd, the new Notre Dame coach was fairly blunt.

“I thought Michael Floyd was overhyped. I thought he was at times average,” Kelly said.

Elaborate, please.

“Ran down the field and threw it up. He wasn’t a precision route runner. He wasn’t asked to be. He was a matchup guy. Bodied people, caught the ball, sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t,” Kelly said of Floyd’s role in coach Charlie Weis’ offense.

“You watched him, were evaluating him, you go, ‘OK, he’s got a big body, he runs down the field, if they throw it up there, there’s a good chance he’s going to get it.’ You never saw him in positions to run the dig or drive, be one-on-one, beat coverage on a quick slant on fourth down and snap his hands. All those things that go to winning football games, I didn’t see that.”

And what else?

“I think what I was alluding to is he wasn’t asked to do a lot of the precision things that I think he’s very capable of doing. And I don’t know, I wasn’t there in any of the staff meetings,” Kelly continued.

“You had Golden Tate, he was pretty good. They asked him to do a lot of that. Michael Floyd can do more. He’s capable of doing a lot more. He’s shown to me that he can be that guy that is a complete wide receiver.”

After all that, Kelly said Floyd’s game has been enhanced and he’s become a true team leader, adding the junior has worked harder than any player he’s coached in 20 years.

“I’m not easily impressed,” Kelly said. “He’s been outstanding.”

Perhaps Kelly’s initial appraisal was a bit of psychology to let Floyd know he needed to get better. The whole team does after losing 21 times over the last three seasons.

Floyd is now the Irish’s go-to receiver. At 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, he has 92 career receptions. And he didn’t seem the least bit fazed by Kelly’s comment.

“No, it didn’t bother me at all. It’s just last year there were a lot of routes that didn’t really show too much of our ability to do stuff,” Floyd said of an offense that featured Jimmy Clausen and Tate.

“Now in this kind of offense, you know, I’m running all kinds of different routes.”

Floyd said he’s enjoyed his time with Kelly, whom he characterized as demanding. That’s why the coach’s critique of his play last season was just part of the deal.

“I just took it as positive criticism. That makes me want to work harder,” he added.

NOTES: Kelly said the Irish could use some form of the wildcat, with RB Armando Allen, WR Theo Riddick and TE Kyle Rudolph all candidates to take a direct snap. … Rudolph (hamstring), TE Mike Ragone (heat illess), C Dan Wenger (concussion symptoms) and OT Matt Romine (concussion symptoms) dressed for practice Monday but were limited in their activities, Kelly reported. … Kelly said right now there are nine freshmen who could be called upon to play. One of those freshmen is quarterback Tommy Rees, who is strongly challenging Nate Montana to be the backup behind starter Dayne Crist. Another could be WR Austin Collinsworth, son of former NFL star Cris Collinsworth. Kelly said Collinsworth is not yet on the two-deep as a pass catcher but is playing on special teams.