Two Vikings that have good reads on the abilities of new teammate Michael Floyd, the Cretin-Derham Hall product who returns this week from his four-game suspension, are his college teammates Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith.
The three were at Notre Dame together starting in 2008. Floyd and Smith played together for four seasons while Rudolph left after his junior year for the NFL.
The Irish went 50-22 from 2008 to 2011, and Floyd posted 271 receptions for 3,686 yards and 37 touchdowns. Rudolph finished his three-year career with 90 catches for 1,032 and eight scores.
“He’s Notre Dame’s all-time leading receiver, and a lot of good receivers have come out of there,” Rudolph said of Floyd. “He had an incredible college career and we’re looking forward to having him have some of that success here.”
Floyd and Smith went out as first-round picks in 2012, Floyd going No. 13 overall to the Cardinals and Smith No. 29 to the Vikings. In 2011, the Vikings grabbed Rudolph in the second round, 43rd overall.
Rudolph was asked what Floyd can bring to the offense.
“I think he’ll help us tremendously,” he said. “He’s a talented receiver, he had a bunch of success in Arizona and he has the potential to be a No. 1 receiver in this league. He was a first-round pick coming out of college and he’ll definitely help our offense when he comes back.
“He’s a big-body receiver who can create mismatches for us. He gives the quarterback that huge catch radius that you see a lot of times with tight ends — he provides that at the receiver position.”
Floyd has averaged only over 49 receptions per year in his five pro seasons, including two games with the Super Bowl champion Patriots last year after being cut by the Cardinals following a drunken-driving arrest that led to this year’s suspension.
Smith said he got a great look at Floyd during their college days, as they would often scrimmage against one another in practice.
“Those situations come up a lot with guys you train with and play with,” said Smith, who redshirted in 2007 before playing four seasons with the Irish. “I don’t want to say it’s friendly because you’re going as hard as you can, but you know the guy across from you and it’s always in the back of your mind. It’s fun. It almost makes it more competitive.”
Smith said playing with Floyd has always been fun, and he is excited to see what he can do for the Vikings.
“I love playing with Mike, and I’m glad we got him,” he said. “I think he can be a big-time player for us. I know the things he can do and the type of guy he is in the locker room and with other players. I’m definitely excited we got him.”
Staying out of trouble
Floyd pleaded guilty to extreme drunken driving in February, serving a 24-day jail sentence. Since coming to Minnesota, he is staying with Rudolph, who said that he thinks Floyd’s troubles are behind him.
“I think he has learned from what he went through over the last year and I know he’s focused on getting back out there,” Rudolph said. “The only way to get this truly behind him is to go out there and make plays on Sundays.”
Smith said the Vikings did approach him before signing Floyd, and he gave a positive report.
“We’re obviously not making those decisions as players,” Smith said. “But yeah, you know, I’ve always loved playing with Mike and have a lot of trust in him.”
Does Smith feel like the connections Floyd made in college with several of his new teammates can help him stay out of trouble? “I mean, he can handle that on his own,” Smith said, “but I’m always going to be there for him with whatever I can.”
Happy to be home
Floyd, a five-star recruit coming out of high school in St. Paul, said he is happy to be back in Minnesota.
“It’s good to be home,” he said. “Born and raised here, it’s great to see family, and being on a new team, to know guys already that have been on this team, and I went to college with Kyle and Harrison, it’s really good. I’m comfortable and excited for the upcoming season.”
When asked about his role in the offense, Smith said that during the preseason they focused on getting him comfortable at a number of spots.
“Usually when you first come to a new team, they give you one specific position to have,” he said. “But I think now that I’ve learned a lot from one of the outside positions that you’ll be able to be flexible and get to start learning every single position, just in case one man might fall out, you’re in there to replace him and do as good as he was doing.”
Floyd said each stop along the way in his career helped him, but he’s hopeful he can stick with the Vikings. He is on a one-year deal and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
“I spent five and a half years [in Arizona] and it was great,” he said. “It was a great team, great organization, but I always think that sometimes everyone needs a fresh start, and I’m happy to land my feet here in Minnesota.”
Hazell on Purdue
Vikings wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell spent 3½ seasons as the coach at Purdue, who the Gophers visit on Saturday.
While Hazell’s teams struggled, going 9-33 before he was fired a year ago, he believes that the young players he and his coaching staff recruited to the Boilermakers are turning the program around this season.
“Our staff did a good job of recruiting for those guys,” Hazell said. “I think there’s a wealth of talent there.”
The Gophers have had good recent success against Purdue, winning the past four meetings, including 41-13 in West Lafayette in 2015, Jerry Kill’s final victory with the Gophers. Last year, Tracy Claeys’ team beat Purdue 44-31 at home. Before that run, Purdue had won 11 of the previous 14 matchups.
When asked to scout the Gophers opponent, Hazell said the Boilermakers have a number of talented offensive weapons.
“They have very good backs,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re hurt or not but some very good backs. Obviously the quarterback [David Blough] has been there and played a lot of football for them. He has played three years and is very good for them.”
Now coached by former Western Kentucky coach and NFL quarterback Jeff Brohm, the Boilermakers are 2-2 this season, with the losses competitive ones to top-25 opponents Louisville and Michigan. Hazell said this is the kind of team his staff envisioned when he was at Purdue.
“We played a lot of those young guys the first two years, and we thought they were going to be really good players their third and fourth year,” he said. “And that’s where they are right now in the program.”
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday and at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org