The X-Factor: A quick Q&A with Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - This week, a lot has been made of the Notre Dame passing game. While receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate receive all the attention, sophomore tight end Kyle Rudolph might be the key.
He's the one running through the middle of the field, often matched up with a nickelback or a linebacker, a matchup he can exploit with his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame. As a freshman, he caught 29 passes for 340 yards.
This year, he has a chance to develop into one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country and he sat down for a few minutes to discuss how that happens.
Q: How do Floyd and Tate help you out? Kyle Rudolph: "It helps out tremendously cause it forces teams to put safeties over the top of them and if you don't put a safety over the top of them, they'll run right by you and we can run Go's all day. When you have Michael and Golden on the outside, you have to have a safety over the top of them and it opens up the middle of the field and gives me a lot of room to work."
Q: Has there been an instance that stood out to you, like Wow, I have 20 yards to play with? KR: "A little bit in the Hawaii game with Michael and Golden, there were a couple times in the first half that once you got past the linebackers, the middle of the field was wide open because they had to carry on top of Michael and Golden."
Q: When you see that, what goes through your head? KR: "Yeah, you turn and I have a big problem with slowing down when I turn my head so I have to make sure I keep running as fast as I can and turn my head at the same time."
Q: Has that happened before? KR: "Not in the Hawaii game but there have been a couple instances where the middle of the field will be open and I'll be running and I don't even know I'm doing it but I'll have my head turned and I'll find myself slowing down in this huge area where there is no one."
Q: Have you noticed it more in the Nevada game, like 'Damn, they are paying so much attention to those two guys.'" KR: "Yeah, coach (Charlie) Weis had a great gameplan going into that game and having Michael and Golden on the outside, it is a tremendous advantage for us as a team when you have those guys on the outside."
Q: With Michael and Golden on the outside and their ability to take guys out of plays, is that the catalyst for this whole offense? KR: "It plays a big part of it but at the same time, being able to run the ball is huge for us. As it showed last year, Michael and Golden could run by everyone but we couldn't run the ball, so that hurt us at times. Now, being able to run the ball makes things easier."
Q: So how did you teach yourself to keep your speed when you turn your head? KR: "Make it conscious to yourself and a conscious effort and it's something we've worked on. I worked on it all summer, worked on it out in California (with Tate, Floyd and Jimmy Clausen), something that for me it's my arms. If I keep my arms going, that'll keep me going. Just little things like that."