Multiple Choice

Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, and Tyler Eifert aren't walking through that door…and that's just fine with Notre Dame's pass-catchers and offensive coaches calling the shots this fall.

"I like the balance in our offense, but I still think we have a dynamic playmaker in T.J. Jones. I just think we surround T.J. with much more balance. We didn't surround Michael (Floyd) or Tyler (Eifert) with as much balance as T.J. is going to have this year." -- Head coach Brian Kelly on Notre Dame's new "go-to" guy

Though not the focal point of opposing game plans, Jones offered a reasonable imitation of a go-to target last fall, too, matching Eifert for total catches with just 36 fewer yards and the same number of touchdowns. (He moved the chains more than the the All-America did by a slim margin as well.)

Jones' plan for his senior season is simple: the entire receiving corps has to up their game to aid an offense that took a backseat to the team's dominant defense last fall.

"Last year as an offense, we felt we kind of leaned on the defense in some of those tougher games," he said. "Having to sit around and wait and hope the defense would make the critical stop is not a good feeling. We'll be more aggressive with our play, our play-calling, how we play the ball in the air, everything about our offense.

"We're more physical, we run crisper routes," he continued. "The big thing I've seen among our receivers is we're more physical with the ball in the air, whether its downfield, intermediate routes, short routes, we're more physical regardless of our (individual) size across the board.

Joining Jones as a potential go-to target is junior DaVaris Daniels. The offense's most intriguing, albeit inconsistent youngster last fall, Daniels feels he's on the cusp of something big.

"My confidence is through the roof," he said. "I've prepared this summer, through this camp, and up to now for this day coming Saturday. I think I'm more complete, not complete yet, but getting to being an all-around player, consistent; my route running is more in-tuned."

That, Daniels noted, was a challenge as a first-year player last fall (Daniels was withheld from action as a true freshman in 2011).

"It's so much faster, there's a lot of stuff that goes on in a given play that you've never seen before, especially in high school. To see what goes on in a game is crazy.

"(Route running) is understanding defenses and how they're going to play you. You get a different corner every week and you have to worry about what he does vs. this move or that move. It's getting in the film room a lot and knowing the defense's tendencies."

Expected to accompany Jones and Daniels in the starting lineup is sophomore speedster, Chris Brown. A deep threat last fall, Brown secured one game-changing pass (50 yards down the post at Oklahoma) but caught just one more of the other 10 thrown toward him.

"He's way more confident," said Daniels of Brown. "He knows what he's doing now. It's something we see with a lot of freshmen to their sophomore years. He's going to fit nicely in this offense."

Considering his status as a first-teamer, Kelly apparently agrees, though that doesn't mean the veteran coach sees a finished product.

"I thought it was just okay," said Kelly of Brown's August camp efforts. "We expect a little bit more consistency from Chris. He's got great talent. He really worked hard this summer. He put on weight.  He got to the level that we wanted him physically. 

"I don't want to compare him to anybody, but we went through this a little bit with other players in our program, where we demanded that consistency, and that's where we are with Chris….We think he's got such a high ceiling.  I mean, we think he can be a terrific football player.

"But if you rewind, this is pretty much my critique of most of the players in the program.  We're looking for consistency across the board, because he has flashes where you go, 'Wow,' and then you go, 'What was that?' 

Brown toe'd the company line when asked to analyze his game and/or progress since last fall.

"We're just working on today and worried about tomorrow's practice," he said. "I have to bring the same mentality every day."

Somebody Check him for Stickem

Receivers coach Mike Denbrock noted the Irish could go past their standard six-receiver plan for game days this fall. But whether Notre Dame features four, five, or seven receivers this season, its apparent at least one freshman will be among them: Corey Robinson.

"Corey is one of the lucky ones," said Jones. "He got the height (nearly 6'5") he can jump, he has the hands. He's deceivingly fast. His strides are long, and once he gets going, if you're not on your horse, he can run past you. They got three receivers that can do some damage in the future.

"He has some sticky fingers," Jones joked. "If he's one-on-one and it's thrown high, nine times out of 10 he's coming down with it and we're anticipating it 10 times out of 10."

Robinson will be joined by senior Daniel Smith in the rotation, but also fellow freshman James Onwualu, and potentially two more newcomers, redshirt-freshman C.J. Prosise and true frosh Will Fuller.

"It's as talented a group as we have across the board and the balance in what that affords us is an opportunity to not necessarily have one particular … be the feature of the defensive strategy," said Denbrock. "I think the balance helps us in so many different ways and that we have a number of guys who can make plays on the outside. Then it's hard to prepare for from a defensive standpoint because if you're going to bracket somebody or double-team somebody, that becomes a little bit of an issue if there are other guys on the field who can make a lot of plays."

Jones has already made his share, including a game-winning, sliding gem in overtime vs. Stanford. But for both he and his fellow targets, the best appears yet to come. Top Stories