Florida State and Notre Dame are typically two teams that go into every season with really high expectations, and in recent years, those expectations have gone unfulfilled. It was no surprise when the two teams played in a pretty ugly Champs Sports Bowl on Thursday night, a game that was won on a second half rally by the Seminoles and quarterback E.J. Manuel.
Notre Dame appeared to be in control of this game with a forced fumble by Manti Te’o that was recovered for a touchdown by the Irish, and a defensive battle until the third quarter, when Notre Dame was able to make one of the coolest circus plays you will see all year into a touchdown.
Quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix split a third quarter drive that resulted in Rees throwing a fade route to–who else–Michael Floyd which was bobbled, tipped, and tipped some more before Floyd finally came down with the ball.
Aside from a nice punt return early in the game, Floyd was held in check by Xavier Rhodes, who absolutely shut him (or Tommy Rees) down the whole time he was in the game, but Rhodes was injured and Floyd had a huge size advantage over Greg Reid, and then Reid himself went up so high, he was actually injured on the way down.
After FSU was down 14-0, the way their offense had played it didn’t look like anything was going to happen, and then LaMarcus Joyner took a kick into striking distance for the ‘Noles, only to see E.J. Manuel sacked and Florida State having to settle for three.
Then, E.J. Manuel showcased his clutch factor, hitting “veteran” receiver Bert Reed for a touchdown to start the fourth quarter. He followed that up shortly thereafter with a touchdown toss to Rashad Greene, the game MVP with five catches for 99 yards and the game-winning score.
The Seminoles are such a young team, and they have so much talent now as well as their incoming freshman class that it’s scary. Their fans don’t have to worry about the future so long as half that talent develops.
As for their current NFL prospects, you have to look at a guy like Brandon Jenkins who could leave early, but I am just not sure he will. He finished the year with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss, so I guess I could see it but I still remain intrigued by one of his teammates defensively, linebacker Nigel Bradham.
Bradham is not a guy who is going to wow you in any one area, but he has been consistently productive and has very good size at 6’3″ 240. I’m not sure where he will go in the draft at this point, but he finished his career with 287 tackles, and NFL teams will take notice that on tape, he is around the ball a heck of a lot more than he’s not. He had nine tackles against Notre Dame, and for the most part, the FSU defense was pretty dominant all night long.
I like that Manti Te’o is returning for his senior year, because I think Notre Dame is going to be good next year and that is important to those kids who make a four year commitment to a school. Te’o is honoring that commitment and will be one of the best players in the country next season.
As I said before, Michael Floyd was pretty much shut down this entire game, but you can tell that he’s going to be a very good NFL player. He needs to be able to get separation from guys who can actually challenge his size, but that will come as long as he keeps his head on straight and continues working hard. The speed, hands, route running are all there for Floyd. He should be a first round pick if he checks out with a team off the field.
Another receiver/tight end I really like is Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, who could be better than Kyle Rudolph or John Carlson, a couple of other very talented UND tight end prospects.
Not unlike former Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, Eifert has terrible hair and that will have to be corrected (kidding) but he definitely has the size at 6’6″ 250 and the pass catching skills to be a 3rd or 4th round pick if he comes out now. I think he should go back to Notre Dame for one more year to get better as a blocker, but then again, he could get better as a blocker while making NFL money, so who knows what he will decide to do.
Overall, this was a pretty sloppy game, one that has a ton of future NFL prospects but not exactly the greatest prospects who will be available in 2012.