In-Depth: WR and TE

A detailed preview of Notre Dame's wide receivers and tight ends entering tonight's contest with the Hurricanes.

Of the team's 11 WR/TE pass targets this fall, seven have caught a pass in excess of 20 yards, with only the freshmen trio of Chris Brown, Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson, and junior Daniel Smith, the exceptions.

Tight End Tyler Eifert: Tied with classmate Robby Toma and redshirt-freshman DaVaris Daniels for third on the squad with nine receptions through four contests. Eifert played nine quarters without catching a pass before his clutch, game-deciding 3rd and 4 stutter-fade route gained 38 yards to help hold off Michigan as the Irish moved to 4-0. The senior has been targeted for 21 passes not including three pass interference penalties he's drawn from opposing defenses and is one of three players to catch a touchdown pass for the Irish this season.

Tight End Troy Niklas: Has made the most of his opportunities, catching two of the four passes thrown in his direction for gains of 30 and 29 yards, while also drawing a crucial pass interference penalty on what proved to be the game-winning drive vs. Purdue in the home opener. Niklas is a de facto starter for the two-tight end heavy Irish offense and has moved ahead of classmate Ben Koyack in the team's pecking order if not the official depth chart.

Tight End Ben Koyack: Hasn't caught a pass over the last two weeks after a grab vs. both Navy (28 yards in mop-up duty) and Purdue. Suffered two drops vs. the Midshipmen as well, one of which would have resulted in a sizable first quarter gain. Koyack must improve his pass blocking acumen to earn continued time in the lineup -- the Irish would love to employ more three tight end sets but Koyack has struggled to protect vs. outside rushers. The sophomore has shown improvement as a run-blocker after struggling vs. Purdue (and starring against undersized Navy).

Wide Receiver T.J. Jones: Tied for the team lead with 12 pass targets over the last two weeks. Of his 11 receptions, 10 have gained first-down yardage. Jones has a 21-yard reception (MSU from Golson) and a 24-yard reception (UM from Tommy Rees) to his credit over the last two outings and was the team's top target in the road upset over the Spartans in East Lansing (targeted for 8 passes with four grabs for a team-best 59 yards). His touchdown reception vs. Purdue was the first since Week Five 2011 -- also against Purdue -- though Jones' seven career touchdown receptions ranks second only to Eifert among current Irish players.

Wide Receiver DaVaris Daniels: Targeted for a team-high six passes in a Week Four win over Michigan. Daniels has nine receptions for a team-high 159 yards including grabs of 41 and 35 yards, catches that rank 1st and 4th in terms of long Irish gains through four contests. Ranks fourth behind RB Theo Riddick (22), Eifert (20), and Jones (18) with 14 pass targets despite sitting out more than five quarters due to injury and another in the comfortable win over Navy in Week One.

Wide Receiver Robby Toma: Targeted for 11 passes and has made the most of his opportunity, recording nine receptions, all of which occurred vs. Purdue and Michigan State. (Toma was not targeted for a pass vs. either Navy in Week One or Michigan in Week Four.) His 21-yard catch-and-run on third down late in the fourth quarter vs. Purdue served as the game-winning drive's longest and decisive play, taking the pigskin from the Boilermakers 41 down to the 20-yard line to help set up Kyle Brindza's winning field goal. Has gains of 21 and 20 yards this season.

Wide Receiver John Goodman: 5th-year senior has recorded just two catches on three targets but the pair are two of the three most important of the Irish season to date: a leaping 10-yard grab of a lobbed pass from Rees on 3rd and 10 vs. Purdue to extend what proved to be the winning drive and a spectacular one-handed 36-yard touchdown snare despite interference to put the Irish up 7-0 at Michigan State in a 20-3 victory. Goodman began the season nursing a groin pull suffered late in August camp.

Wide Receiver Daniel Smith: Has caught each of the four passes thrown in his direction for 24 yards and one first down (a 3rd and 6 conversion vs. Purdue). The quartet of catches marked the first of the junior's career. Smith's presence is more likely in favorable down-and-distance situations as the Irish can take better advantage of his solid blocking to date when not faced with obvious passing situations.

Chris Brown/Davonte' Neal/Justin Ferguson: True freshman burner Chris Brown should have a touchdown to his credit -- quarterback Everett Golson missed the wide open speedster down the post on a first quarter offering vs. Michigan State in Game Three…Slot receiver Davonte' Neal appears to have settled in as a punt returner, but the overall offensive scheme has marched on without his quick-twitch talents to date…Fellow frosh Justin Ferguson joins Brown as a member of the kick return unit as a front line blocker; each of the trio has exhausted a season of eligibility on special teams -- only Brown is without a catch this fall, though he's likely to be the freshmen most targeted over the next two months.

Quote of Note: "He just continues to develop. He's got elite speed; he can get behind anybody.  There's a lot of things that go to playing that position, you know, his split, his alignment, who is he blocking, who is he blocking on a particular play, what kind of release; all those things, we are going to live through Chris's development. But we know one thing, if we match him up one-on-one, you're going to have some favorable outcomes on our end and it's just going to be a matter of time." -- Irish head coach Brian Kelly on freshman wide receiver Chris Brown


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