DaVaris Daniels understands the trepidation about Notre Dame’s wide receiver position minus Michael Floyd.
Last season Daniels, a former four-star prospect from Vernon Hills, Ill., took a red shirt while watching from the sidelines despite some initial buzz he might be prepared to contribute. Along the way he learned from a potential first round pick and the most prolific receiver in Notre Dame history.
Since Daniels has discovered that while the Floyd void is noticeable, it can be filled.
“Floyd was a great player, don’t get me wrong,” Daniels said, “and I can see why everybody is kinda freaking out about him leaving. But we’ve got good players here. Somebody is gonna fill the void and we’re all doing a good job so far this spring.”
Many have looked to Daniels as the heir apparent to Floyd.
Daniels built a reputation during high school as an explosive playmaker capable of scoring from anywhere out of any formation. That included time at running back and as Wildcat quarterback to go with lining up at wide receiver.
While the Irish tucked away that athleticism last fall, Daniels put it back on display at the end of winter conditioning when the team took part in combine-style testing. He checked in with a 38-inch vertical jump, 10.5-foot broad jump and 40-yard dash in the 4.5-second range.
Once spring drills got started it became more about translating that to the field.
“Physically he’s got some skills that you’re looking for in somebody that can be a dynamic player,” wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock said. “The mental and little things have to catch up with the physical ability and they will at some point.
“Like most young players, things confuse him. Switches by the defense, rotations in coverage, all those little things that you kinda have to get used to seeing more than once.”
Optimism abounds that Daniels is ready to make the jump from bewildered freshman to sophomore capable of contributing explosiveness to an offense that lacked it last season. The Irish had just two pass plays of more than 40 yards.
That positive vibe starts from the top with head coach Brian Kelly.
“He showed up,” Kelly said Wednesday after the opening practice. “It’s the first day. I’m not ready to anoint him as the next Michael Floyd. He’s got a long way to go. But he’s extremely athletic so we’re looking for his ability to translate that. I saw that a little bit today.”
Daniels hopes to use spring practice as a springboard into next season after taking a year to gather himself both on the field and off. That patience and, to a certain degree, learning could pay big dividends in the fall.
“Last year, along with being a freshman, it was hard to maneuver my way in there,” Daniels said. “You just learn little techniques and you put it into your game and you realize you’re more open than last year. Coach Denbrock is doing a great job of installing that. Everything is working. The concepts are easier now that I’ve learned, I’ve been through this a year.”