From Zero To ?

Junior wider receiver DaVaris Daniels can beat any cornerback on the Irish schedule. How often will he?

A breakout effort in his second career game vs. Purdue…two tough-as-nails catches to move the chains at Oklahoma...a game-changing jump ball for 45 yards vs. Pittsburgh……a career-best effort when all crumbled around him against Alabama…

The above marks the best of DaVaris Daniels in his redshirt-freshman season under the Dome, the latter accentuated by the following locker room comments from offensive coordinator Chuck Martin:

"He has that level, that's what I've been talking about. He's only a freshman…but whenever you want to flip the switch. It's just about consistency because he does it in practice. He's had other big moments in games this year where he's had, he had a catch against Michigan where he's hanging the wall, he's 20 feet off the ground. I don't know if he knows how good he can be."

Daniels led the Irish with six catches for 115 yards, the latter total marking the only time an Irish pass-catcher eclipsed the century mark last fall.

What he didn't do, and what he's never done, was score a touchdown.

Entering his junior season, Notre Dame's most athletically gifted wideout and it's unquestioned "No. 2" option has never scored a touchdown at the college level.

Yet his ascent from potential to playmaker seems assumed.

"Daniels will be a legitimate BCS wide receiver," offered his head coach Brian Kelly, a guy who knows a little bit about offensive talent. "He will be a guy that you'll have to pay attention to. He's doing a great job of running vertically, getting the football to him will be important, especial vertically. (He) and T.J. (Jones), I think I alluded to it, I think we're going to have great balance, probably the best balance in the wide receiving corps since I've been here, across the board."

Daniels has the frame, the speed, the pedigree (his father is 15-year NFL defensive lineman, Phillip), and the opportunity. He even has an "in" with the team's starting quarterback.

"We saw it coming, talked about it a little bit," said Daniels of being paired with Tommy Rees as a roommate for training camp in Marion, Ind. "Working with Tom, it's just getting our chemistry back. It had been awhile that he had been throwing the ball to all of us, so that was the main thing."

The Dreaded "P-Word"

Daniels career-arc isn't unlike many eventual college stars, future pros, or merely major team contributors. He's a work in progress, blessed with catch-words such as "upside," and "potential."

But he's yet to challenge a cornerback enough to draw a pass interference call (nor did any Irishmen last fall not named Tyler Eifert or Troy Niklas), has yet to hit pay dirt, and hasn't put together back-to-back games with as many as four receptions.

"Individually I would say consistency is my main focus," said Daniels. "After the national championship, in the spring consistency is something that was brought up at times (from the coaching staff). Individually I think that was my main focus all summer and for this camp."

That quality is what puts senior T.J. Jones -- set to be a four-year starter -- as the lead dog in the team's passing attack.

"He's just consistent. He's somebody that everybody can rely on," said Daniels of Jones. "They know he's gonna make a play when his number is called. It's just something I've been working at every day, trying to be that guy that Tommy knows is there no matter what.

"This year I know everything that's gonna come at me. I know the offense pretty well. I think this is the most comfortable that I've ever been, ever, since I've been here. I'm looking forward to it."

So is his offensive coordinator.

"He's got some special skills, he's an awesome kid," said Martin. "He just needs to become a professional. We've all got talent (college teams). You've just got to bring it every second of every game."

That professional approach has to date eluded Daniels, the offense's presumed difference-maker. Not every rep is as important is it should be.

"In the spring," said Daniels of the luke-warm praise parsed by Kelly and Martin. "The spring is the spring, it's kind of far away from the season. Now that the season is right around the corner, things have picked up. We know what kind of offense we want to be and know what kind of things we want to get done."

For Daniels and most supremely talented second-year contributors, "the spring" is indeed far from competition. But for the great ones, the Manti Te'o's and Tyler Eifert's, "The spring" is all about competition, a chance to improve, a chance to beat the man on the opposite side of scrimmage tasked with the same.

Martin's post-Alabama bloodletting challenge remains:

"I don't know if he knows how good he can be."

He has three weeks, and more important, the three months that follow to find out.


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