Multiple wideouts to step up for Notre Dame in Floyd’s absence
By Mark LAzerus 648-3140 or email@example.com August 6, 2012 11:16PM
Donnie Fletcher, TJ Jones
Updated: September 8, 2012 6:13AM
SOUTH BEND — Like most incoming freshman receivers in Division I football, Notre Dame’s T.J. Jones had grown accustomed to seeing the ball thrown his way early and often. And like most underclassmen, it took Jones some time to come to grips with his secondary role in the offense.
“Coming out of high school, I was stuck in that ‘If I’m open, I want every ball’ mentality, and it kind of got to me sometimes,” said Jones, who caught 23 balls as a freshman and 38 as a sophomore. “But I’ve grown out of that now. I realized that I’m going to play my part, and if the ball comes, it comes. If not, I’m going to help someone else get open, or throw an extra block.”
Well, there will be a lot more passes to go around this season for the Irish receiving corps — 100 of them, actually. That’s how many receptions Michael Floyd, Notre Dame’s all-time leading receiver, made last year. With Floyd now with the Arizona Cardinals, opportunities abound for a talented but relatively unproven group of receivers, including seniors Robby Toma and John Goodman, juniors Jones and Daniel Smith, and three touted freshmen, Davonte Neal, Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson.
“I think it falls on all of the wide receivers as a whole,” Jones said. “Everyone needs to step up their game and play a bigger role than they may have played in the past, because Floyd’s gone.”
Jones started 12 of 13 games last year as a sophomore, catching 38 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Still, he had just two catches for nine yards in Notre Dame’s final two games.
But he’s ready to make a run at being Notre Dame’s top target — along with All-American tight end Tyler Eifert.
“I definitely worked harder in the weight room,” the 5-foot-11 Jones said. “I put on another seven pounds (up to 190) to prepare myself for the physical beating that getting more catches is going to put on my body.”
The freshmen — particularly Neal — have been drawing rave reviews early on for the Irish, and coach Brian Kelly expects them to be “in the mix.” But perhaps the most intriguing candidate to break through is fifth-year senior John Goodman, a highly touted recruit who has underperformed in his Irish career, making just 28 receptions for 315 yards and one touchdown in his career.
The 6-3 Goodman sees the absence of a clear-cut No. 1 wideout as his big chance.
“I see it as a great opportunity, something I need to take advantage of,” he said. “I need to go out and just take the position and make sure it’s mine and not even let there be any competition for it, kind of like Mike (did) last year and the years before — how he went out and kept that position and dominated on the field. That’s what’s in my head right now, just dominating on the field in practice, and then going against Navy and doing the same, if not beating them even worse than I do (our) DBs. You’ve got to have that confidence, and it’s something I think I can do.”
Of course, Goodman knows that everybody else — from Toma and Jones down to Neal and Brown — has the same idea.
“Everybody thinks that,” Goodman said. “It just depends on who does it every single day.”