Wide Open?

One player reportedly stood above the pack in Notre Dame's winter conditioning "Combine" drills...

If Notre Dame's coaching staff ran a combine in the spring of 2009, it's a good bet Biletnikoff winner-in-waiting Golden Tate and NFL free agent surprise Sergio Brown would have topped the majority of the speed and agility charts.

Had the same tests been tracked in spring 2010 and 2011, NFL hopefuls Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd no doubt would have seen their names leading most categories.

During winter conditioning 2012, Brian Kelly and his staff finally did track official numbers, and one player, at least according to the head coach, apparently stood above the rest.

"I think of our top testing numbers, (DaVaris Daniels) probably tested out at tops in the skill position, ahead of guys like Cierre Wood, ahead of guys like Theo Riddick," Kelly said of the redshirt-freshman wide receiver. "His numbers are off the charts in terms of vertical jump – he tested comparable to a number of the wide receivers at the NFL combine. He's got great numbers."

Those numbers, including 10, 20, and 40 yard dash, vertical leap/reach, cone drills, and broad jump among others, have yet to be released, but one number looms for Daniels that anyone with a media guide or computer can verify.

"He hasn't done anything; he hasn't caught a pass in a game, hasn't caught a touchdown pass," Kelly was quick to add. "So we know he's got the physical ability, now we've got to be able to see that translate, and it's time for him to do it.

"We were able to move him slowly last year," Kelly continued of the decision to withhold Daniels from game action. "It's time for him to go, and this spring will be that opportunity, and we all feel very confident in his ability to come in and impact our offense."

While Daniels has yet to make his first play on a college football Saturday, one competitor at his position turned that trick three seasons ago. Returning 5th-year senior John Goodman debuted for since-deposed head coach Charlie Weis at "quarterback" (he ran a read-option keeper) in 2009; caught his first ball that day against USC, recorded his first multi-reception game the following week against Boston College and secured his first touchdown two weeks later vs. Washington State.

Goodman hasn't scored since and managed a mere 22 receptions during Kelly's two-year run of the offense.

"Goodman continues in his path to finish up his career and really make an impact," Kelly said of the Fort Wayne, IN product's goal. "That's what he wants to do. He's been that kind of spot player: does a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I think he's primed to have a big year for us, and we're excited about that."

Race Track 'Backs

Daniels or Goodman will likely join T.J. Jones and, it is assumed, slot receiver Robby Toma as the team's four main wide receivers, at least at the season's outset. The quartet however will receive competition not only from a potential trio of incoming freshmen, but a trio of hybrid players already on the roster.

"I think its incumbent on us to get the playmakers on the field," said Kelly specifically of kick return star George Atkinson who did not make an impact from scrimmage as a true freshman last fall.

"We have more depth, but you've got to keep some of these guys engaged, as well. There's merit to the fact that, making sure that your guys are engaged in the sense that they know they're going to have an opportunity, and George is too good of a player for him to sit on the bench and not get involved in what we do.

"Coach (Chuck) Martin and coach (Tony) Alford, myself, we're going to have to make sure that he touches the ball, and he can do it from the slot, he can do it from the running back position that we have him in right now."

Senior Theo Riddick is the lead dog in the hybrid RB/slot receiver role and it is assumed that transfer Amir Carlisle will contend there as well after returning this summer from a broken ankle suffered late in winter conditioning.

Incoming freshmen Davonte' Neal and Keivare Russell also fit the slot/backfield profile.

"We're going to be in a lot of no back sets, so (Atkinson's) got to be able to catch the football from wherever we put him. But certainly he doesn't have the same level (of experience) as a (Theo Riddick) who played wide receiver. But he's capable of catching the football, and we're going to move people around. If there's one thing that we'll do, it's make sure that we move guys around to get him the football."

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