Michael Floyd and Brian Kelly seemed like a match made in spread-offense heaven.
Kelly built his reputation on high-flying offense and turned relatively unknown receivers like Dominick Goodman, Mardy Gilyard and Armon Binns into stars at Cincinnati. Now he was getting to work with a blue-chipper like Floyd, a 6-foot-3 specimen who has dominated at times whenever he's been healthy in two years at Notre Dame.
Except Kelly didn't like what he saw when he first watched Floyd on film. The first-year Irish coach made his biggest splash at the school's media day last month when he said he originally thought Floyd was "overhyped." He was a guy who ran sloppy routes, who used his physical skills to outwrestle opponents for the ball but wasn't consistent.
That media day pronouncement wasn't the first time Floyd heard Kelly's thoughts. The coach made that opinion known to the player behind closed doors as well. And an offseason citation for underage drinking probably didn't help Floyd's cause, either.
But rather than sulk or rebel, Floyd decided there was one thing he could do to change Kelly's mind: work harder.
"Every coach has their own kind of feeling about every single player," Floyd said. "Him telling me that he thought I was overrated kind of made me work harder, and that's what I did. I'm a guy that competes every single day. So him putting that in my mind motivates me more to want to play harder and get better."
That plan paid off. Kelly didn't tell the media that Floyd was overrated to denigrate him. He did so to compare where the junior started to where he is now. He ended his story by saying he hadn't had a player in 20 years work harder than Floyd did in the offseason.
"He has singlehandedly set the bar for where everybody else needs to bring their play," Kelly said.
The main thing Floyd tried to improve was his technical skills.
"They put a really big emphasis on me running routes, different routes," he said. "Making sure I could get all the routes and get in the right depths."
Conditioning was another point of emphasis. At nearly 225 pounds, it's not easy for Floyd to play at the pace of the hurry-up offense, especially when he has to sprint downfield and back in a matter of seconds, then repeat that over and over again.
Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar said Floyd wasn't in condition to do that in the spring but has gotten there now. He's still not a finished product.
"I'd still like to see him catch the ball more with his hands," Molnar said. "And when he catches the football, maybe throw a move on a guy rather try to run over the guy. Have a little shake."
Imagine how productive Floyd can be if he improves in all those areas and he stays on the field. He already ranks first among active FBS players with an average of 84.1 receiving yards per game. He has 1,514 yards and 16 touchdowns in 18 career games. He missed five contests with injuries last year, but if you averaged his numbers out over 12 games, he would have gone over 1,360 yards with 15 touchdowns (Golden Tate set the Irish single-season record with 1,496 yards in '09).
Floyd should get off to a strong start. Purdue is replacing its entire secondary from a year ago, and it would register as a shock if Dayne Crist doesn't look his way early and often on Saturday.
Floyd could generate some early-season buzz in the opener. This time, that hype won't be unearned in the eyes of his new coach.