With Floyd back, competition with Tate resumes
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame receivers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd are friendly rivals again.
“We both want to be the No. 1 receiver, so we compete every day,” Tate said.
Tate took over the role as 19th-ranked Notre Dame’s top receiver when Floyd went down with a broken left collarbone against Michigan State six weeks ago. With Floyd returning Saturday against Navy (6-3), the receivers say the competition to be the No. 1 receiver is on again.
“We just have high expectations for each other.” Floyd said. “How well he does, just makes me want to work harder. When I have a good game, it makes him work a little harder. It doesn’t really matter as long as we win.”
Heading into the season, most observers probably would have agreed that Floyd was the more polished receiver while the speedy Tate was more of a work in progress, since he came out of high school as a tailback and spent the past two seasons learning the position.
But after carrying much of the load for Notre Dame (6-2) the past five games, Tate has developed into a more complete receiver. He’s developed so much that some are talking about Tate having an outside chance of winning the Heisman Trophy.
In the five games Floyd was out, Tate averaged 7.4 catches and 125.2 receiving yards a game and three carries and 29.6 yards a game rushing. The 5-11, 195-pound junior from Hendersonville, Tenn., said the key to his development is he understands the game better.
“I know that I can run, I know that I can catch. But at some time I knew that you have to have a little football IQ,” Tate said. “You have to understand why this play goes this way. I think once I understood that, my game elevated a lot more.”
Even coach Charlie Weis, who usually says he’s not surprised by much, concedes he didn’t see Tate being as productive as he has been because he knew teams would be focusing on him with Floyd out.
Last season when Floyd missed two games with an injury, Tate’s production went down. Not this year.
“The advantage has been to Golden,” Weis said. “I give a lot of the credit to Golden for mentally being able to handle all of the nuances that we’ve asked him to do while Michael’s gone.”
Weis said with Floyd out the Irish coaches had to “draw ’em up in the dirt” to find ways to get Tate the ball, having him play every receiver position, tailback, fullback and quarterback in the wildcat.
The question now is: What happens with Floyd back?
The Irish plan to ease Floyd back into the game plan while still drawing up plays in the dirt for Tate. Having Floyd back, Weis said, balances the offense and takes pressure off of Tate.
Floyd, a sophomore from St. Paul, Minn., was averaging 27.5 yards a catch when he was injured. His 320 yards receiving in the first two games of the season marks the second best start to a season by an Irish receiver.
Receivers coach Rob Ianello said it was easy to see how excited Floyd is to be back at practice.
“He’s a big-time competitor and he’s getting another chance to compete when he thought he wasn’t going to be able to help the team,” Ianello said. “I think he’s excited to get that chance to do that. Not that many people get another chance after you think maybe your season was done.”
Floyd, who has been taking part on a limited basis in practice since Oct. 13, said being on the sideline gave him more time to study film so he could work more on technique.
Tate is eager to see what opponents do now that Floyd is back.
“I’m curious to see how the defense is going to react, what coverages they’re going to throw at us to try to beat us,” he said.