A glimpse at the 2011 Notre Dame wide receiver depth chart offers a mixed bag:
- One of the nation's best
- A coaching staff favorite, whom most observers believe will emerge as a consistent weapon this fall
- A seasoned sophomore who rounds out its presumed starting trio of targets.
- Thereafter, an undersized, though difficult-to-tackle slot receiver in a near-certain backup role, plus a senior whose best moments occurred in 2009; one with just 21 career catches in ample playing time.
That's all that stands between freshman DaVaris Daniels and meaningful first-year playing time.
That and a trio of other newbie targets in the same boat, of course.
A starting spot might be hard to come by for any of the six competitors outside the likely top three of Michael Floyd, Theo Riddick, and T.J. Jones, but Daniels and his competitors for the 4th, 5th, and 6th receiver spot – those considered part of the game day rotation by position coach Tony Alford – need only a strong August camp to position themselves for significant playing time this September.
A seventh spot, at least in terms of varsity practice snaps, is also available to the most impressive summer camper.
"Look, as this thing shapes out, we have plans to make sure we're four deep at running back and for me, I need seven receivers: two deep and a swing," said head coach Brian Kelly during the spring practice session.
The 6'2" 175-pound Daniels enters an ideal situation, at least for a true wide receiver looking to impress a staff that needs someone to step up as a consistent compliment on Saturdays.
Wide Receiver Depth ChartThe number in parenthesis denotes the player's remaining years of eligibility:
1st Unit: The starting trio was rarely on the field simultaneously from Week Seven through the season-finale in Los Angeles.
Senior "W" receiver, Michael Floyd (1): His backup will earn the fewest snaps on the second unit, and possibly fewer than the team's third-string "swing" receiver.
Junior "X" receiver, Theo Riddick (2): Moved outside from the slot late in the spring and debuted for fans/media as a perimeter receiver in the Blue Gold Game. Look for him outside, inside, and in the offensive backfield this fall. He's the team's second best receiver and running back.
Sophomore T.J. Jones (3): We were told by a reliable source that his move to the slot (and Riddick's subsequent move to the perimeter) should be considered "permanent" – for whatever that's worth in college football.
2nd Unit: The Irish rarely received contributions from a No. 4 wideout last season, as most of the receptions by John Goodman and Robby Toma were in starting roles with their teammates felled by injuries.
Senior John Goodman (1): Capable of a breakout senior season, though most observers felt he'd step to the fore in both 2009 and 2010…
Junior Robby Toma (2): A lock for consistent playing time as the backup slot receiver…
Senior Deion Walker (2): Finished the spring as the No. 6 wideout by default. Has just one career catch and did not appear in a game last fall.
3rd Unit: Could be more talented than the second, but each comes with baggage – rookie or otherwise.
Sophomore Daniel Smith (3): Missed most of spring practice with a hamstring injury, much to the chagrin of his head coach…
Sophomore Luke Massa (4): Converted quarterback is likely headed for a season on the Scout Team; Massa was nonetheless lauded for great strides between Practice 1 and Practice 15 in the spring and presents a tall, coordinated target for future development.
Freshman DaVaris Daniels (4): Likely more polished than fellow incoming freshman, Matthias Farley (reviewed below). Daniels could audition as a kick returner as well.
Freshman Matthias Farley (4): Viewed by most (well, at least me) as a defensive back prospect, Farley nonetheless registered 10 receiving touchdowns as a high school senior. At 6'2" 195-pounds, Farley has a college-ready body, if not knowledge of the craft.
Daniels' Potential DebutDaniels has at least a 50/50 chance to beat out Walker, Smith, and his classmate Farley. Earning more practice snaps than that trio would place him No. 6 in the rotation, and though the Irish rarely employed six receivers in the same game last fall (if at all) the technical sixth wideout was senior Duval Kamara, who scored three November touchdowns and also caught six passes in a single October contest.
There are approximately 285-300 pass receptions available to Irish pass catchers in 2011…Daniels would do well to snare 10-15, and would likely earn additional opportunities if he can bring something to the table after the catch – an element absent from the offense for the bulk of 2010.
Forecast: A season spent as the No. 6 receiver, with single-game appearances as its No. 5 and possibly No. 4 due to front-line injuries or merely his improvement. Though Daniels could earn special teams action, I believe classmate George Atkinson and sophomore Bennett Jackson will rank as the team's primary kick returners.