Notre Dame football: Daniels eager to take on key role
SOUTH BEND -- Valuable lesson: Don’t get too comfortable.
That’s about the time life sneaks up and bites you in the keister.
Pretend Notre Dame football practice is a microcosm of life. All’s well in a passing drill. It’s early in summer camp. Hitting’s not too intense just yet.
DaVaris Daniels ran a route downfield and hauled in a pass for about 20 yards. Instead of just getting wrapped up by the defense until the whistle blew ...
Safety Elijah Shumate laid him out. It was obvious Daniels wasn’t counting on the contact.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Daniels said, able to smile about the situation a little later. “I think it looked worse than it felt. Shumate’s a good guy. You’ve gotta expect everything.”
Expect everything: Good way to live life; good way to approach this season for the 6-foot-2, 192-pound junior receiver.
In his first year of game action last season, Daniels was fourth on the team with 31 catches for 490 yards. He’s still looking for that first collegiate touchdown.
Daniels and the rest of the Irish receivers benefited from the presence of All-America tight end Tyler Eifert. The big man commanded a lot of attention, which may have freed everyone else up a bit. Now that Eifert is gone, the defense can play Notre Dame receivers much tighter.
“With Eifert leaving, it puts pressure on all of us to come and step up to that role to be that guy that (quarterback) Tommy (Rees) can throw to on third down. Everybody wants it. We’ve all gotta work at it.”
That work can be a long, exhausting process. But, according to head coach Brian Kelly, there’s hope.
“Daniels will be a legitimate BCS wide receiver,” Kelly said. “He will be a guy you’ll have to pay attention to.
“He’s doing a great job of running vertically. Getting the football to him will be important.
“We’ll probably have the best balance in the wide receiver corps that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Of course, when Michael Floyd is the bread-and-butter guy two years ago, and Eifert last season, there’s something to be said to having a lopsided lean toward a bona fide star.
Makes that third-and-five pass a whole lot easier to complete.
TJ Jones (5-11, 192 pounds) is small, but an excellent route-runner. Freshman Corey Robinson (6-5, 205) can catch anything thrown in his direction — kind of a Robby Toma type, with a real receiver’s body.
“Corey has great hands; a little bit of speed — something you wouldn’t think about when you look at him,” Daniels said of the somewhat gangly youngster. “He’s definitely going to be a great receiver.”
C.J. Prosise, Daniel Smith, Chris Brown and James Onwualu are others who could make an impact.
Expecting will be a little easier for Daniels this season. He has been through the wars before. He knows game speed. He understands the heat of battle.
“This year, I know everything that’s going to come at me,” he said. “I know the offense pretty well. This is the most comfortable I’ve ever been.
“Consistency is the key to become that receiver everyone wants you to be. I have to be consistent.”
There is no substitution for consistency. When Kelly called Daniels “a legitimate BCS wide receiver,” that means he’s a guy who has reached the level of making a play on every snap.
“He’s consistent,” Daniels said of the prototype big-time receiver he strives to be. “He’s somebody that everybody can rely on. They know he’s going to make a play when his number’s called. That’s something I work on every day. I want Tommy to know I’ll be that guy who will be there, no matter what.”
It’s the whole enchilada: Know the route; run the route; catch the ball; secure the rock.
“Route-running was my main focus going into the spring,” Daniels said. “Working on that with TJ, who is a great route-runner, it’s really helped develop my game.”
Don’t leave anything to chance.