Two Steps Forward

His season not played quite to the level projected, junior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels showed late he could one day be great.

A mis-read coverage or route adjustment here. A false start there. A route run with far more conviction on one snap than the next.

Each is a hallmark of a player not-yet-ready for prime time. None of the above should apply to Notre Dame junior DaVaris Daniels after two seasons of Saturday battles, but it's apparent the team's most physically gifted pass-catcher has ample room to grow.

Good, very good at times, but nowhere near great is his 2013 epilogue.

"He has to run consistently," said Kelly of Daniels following a 27-20 loss to Stanford Saturday. "He does some really, really good things. He's coming. I mean, there's a lot of good things out there for him. He does a really nice job. He's just got to continue running his routes, and every single play is where his focus needs to be.

"That's the next level for him, is that consistency."

Promising words but also identical to what Kelly offered as a critique of his potential breakout star before the season began.

Both Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin were lukewarm in their praise of the promise-filled target in the spring and August camp thereafter.

Now we know why.

Daniels was up: Temple, Purdue, ASU, Brigham Young, Stanford.

He was down: Michigan State, Oklahoma.

He was in between and intermittent: Michigan, Pittsburgh.

He might have even been a tad disinterested: Air Force and Navy.

What he wasn't, was what he could have been: the best receiver on the Irish. That was TJ Jones, a senior who in 2012 mirrored some of Daniels' struggles, likewise in his junior season at the program. Jones noted his senior year was the first he could fully focus on football.

Daniels, to his credit, hasn't pouted, though it's clear frustration creeps in.

"I can't really control how many yards I get. I can just go out there and make plays when my number's called," said Daniels after a touchdown and 106-yard day against BYU.

His number's likely going to be called more next season -- potentially his last in South Bend though Daniels is eligible for a fifth season in 2015.

Returning quarterback Everett Golson is a close friend and former scout team partner. The pair was coming into its own as a pitch-and-catch tandem by season's end during last year's run to No. 1. They peaked with a strong performance from Daniels in the BCS Championship loss to Alabama, his six catch, 115-yard evening seemed to indicate 2013 would be a celebration of his ascent.

Indeed, if Daniels is capable of more than 100 yards vs. the Crimson Tide, he can certainly be prodded to light up the likes of Pittsburgh when his team flails toward defeat.

"He's a great competitor, great player, obviously has a lot of talent," said senior quarterback Tommy Rees. "I'm excited for him and his future."

That future should start now. Daniels has too much talent to play exceptionally well some of the time and nondescript at others. To his credit, he improved as the season progressed.

"I definitely see it, you guys see it as well," said Jones of Daniels' late-season resurgence. "He makes plays all over the field. If the ball's not coming to Troy (Niklas) or myself, he's the one catching it, whether it's touchdowns or crucial third downs."

With Jones gone -- and 1,042-plus yards and nine scores out the door with him -- Daniels will be the default leader of the 2014 receiving corps, a young, talented, and deep group.

It'd be better for all involved if "default" has nothing to do with it. Top Stories