Q&A: Pass Targets

We had questions, now we have the answers. At least most of them. Irisheyes.com takes a position-by-position look, Q&A style, at the 2012 season. The questions of August camp answered by the events of the 2012 season, with crucial queries still remaining for the January 7 title tilt vs. Alabama.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish defensive line.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish linebackers.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish defensive backs.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish quarterbacks.

Click here for our Q&A regarding the Irish running backs.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Tight end Tyler Eifert was the go-to target as expected but the emergence of junior T.J. Jones as a weekly contributor helped balance the attack.

Camp Questions: Could Tyler Eifert approach graduated star Michael Floyd's production? Would spring star John Goodman break out in Year 5? Was DaVaris Daniels the compliment Eifert needed and could the newcomer provide big plays in a passing game that appeared to lack a downfield element? Could T.J. Jones bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season in 2011? Where would RB/slot Theo Riddick be used most effectively? Could freshman Davonte' Neal push senior Robby Toma for time in the slot? Would August star and true freshman Chris Brown become part of the weekly rotation? How would backup tight ends Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack be used in congress with the star Eifert?

The season's answers

Eifert's caught fewer passes for less yardage and with one less score than he did in his breakout season of 2011, but was ultimately a better football player, one on which the Irish passing game relied to close out a win vs. Michigan, to comeback and beat Stanford, and to gain crucial yardage and a game-clinching score at both Oklahoma and USC.

Daniels showed flashes of his potential but ultimately settled in as Notre Dame's 3rd/4th target before falling to a shoulder injury in Week 10 at Boston College. Jones emerged as a comeback player of the year candidate at the program, finishing second to Eifert in receptions and pass targets while leading the team in first down pass receptions and tying with Eifert for the team lead in touchdown grabs.

Riddick was more of a mid-range weapon in the passing game as a RB occasionally aligned in the slot than he ever was as an official slot receiver in 2010-11. His ability to beat one-on-one coverage in space proved crucial in close wins over Stanford and Pittsburgh. He finished third behind the Eifert/Jones tandem in both receptions and targets.

Toma held off the explosive Neal, the former proving too reliable as a chain-mover and blocker in the running game. Brown was used to stretch the field vs. top tier defenses but caught only one pass of measure -- a game-changing 50-yard post route at Oklahoma that led to Notre Dame's winning score. Earning time in lieu of the celebrated freshmen was junior Daniel Smith, who at 6'4" 215 pounds, provided another quality perimeter blocker for Notre Dame's crucial second-half ground game.

Goodman battled injuries and as a result caught just seven passes, but five of the lot were either touchdowns or crucial to a Notre Dame victory.

Niklas moved ahead of Koyack in the pecking order thanks to his prowess as a blocker in the run game.

Season Takeaway: Modern football is defined by gaudy passing statistics, and Notre Dame's recently re-written record book reflects that change. But passing yards, receptions, and multiple touchdown grabs rarely equate to scoreboard success. The Irish pass catchers were timely in their production, and it was enough to finish without a blemish on the right side of the W/L ledger.

BCS Championship Questions

Will the Irish attack Alabama's stout, speedy defense with their "12 Personnel" (two tight end sets)? Or Eifert see more time as a detached tight end allowing for a third receiver (or second running back) to stress the Crimson Tide's back seven? Can Jones, Toma, Brown, and potentially Daniels, should he return from injury, beat an Alabama secondary that will play more press coverage than the Irish have seen since mid-September? Can the Irish "go big" vs. Alabama, using Smith, Eifert, and Niklas to secure running lanes while still keeping the defense honest downfield? Will Eifert beat top cornerback Dee Millner when given the opportunity as a solo boundary wide receiver?

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