Mar 22, 2012, 4:49 PM EDT
Michael Floyd is gone. After four record breaking seasons, the only No. 3 walking through the doors for the Irish is on the back of Amir Carlisle, who isn’t walking, but hobbling through on crutches, courtesy of a broken ankle that’ll rob the Irish’s newest offensive asset of a spring acclimation period.
While the Irish will be hard pressed to ever replace the school’s all-time leading receiver, it didn’t take long for head coach Brian Kelly to put rising sophomore Davaris Daniels on notice that he’ll be given the first shot at filling the very large hole Floyd left behind.
Even before having the thousand watt megaphone the Notre Dame media provides, Kelly often took to public proclamations to motivate his players. In his first comments of the spring, he started that process by making it known that Daniels, who sat out last season while learning the ropes, has all the physical ability needed to star in this offense.
“He probably tested out at tops in the skill position, ahead of guys like Cierre Wood, ahead of guys like Theo Riddick,” Kelly said of Daniels. “His numbers are off the charts in terms of vertical jump. He tested comparable to a number of the wide receivers at the NFL combine. He’s got great numbers.”
While Notre Dame didn’t release the results of their unofficial combine, a quick look at the NFL combine results let you know that if Daniels checks out with some of the better jumpers in the draft, he can certainly leap. (Though I think we already knew this.) While we caught a brief glimpse of Daniels running his 40 during the offseason workout video, we can only assume from Kelly’s comments that it was also comparable with the guys running in Indianapolis, which means it was in the 4.4 to 4.5 range. Whatever the exact number is, that’s a welcome change to an offense that couldn’t attack vertically with its personnel, even with Floyd in the lineup.
Of course, true to Kelly’s nature, he also made it abundantly clear that while Daniels has the skillset necessary to succeed, he’s yet to do it.
“Those are numbers. He hasn’t done anything yet,” Kelly said. “He hasn’t caught a pass in a game, hasn’t caught a touchdown pass. So we know he’s got the physical ability, now we’ve got to be able to see that translate, and it’s time for him to do it. We were able to move him slowly last year, it’s time for him to go, and this spring will be that opportunity, and we all feel very confident in his ability to come in and impact our offense.”
For his part, Daniels impressed Kelly in his first day on offense, running with the second unit behind fifth-year senior John Goodman and junior TJ Jones, showing off the sheer ability Kelly knows exists. In the various videos available around the net, it isn’t hard to see a confident kid with explosive athletic ability, even if it is in shorts and without pads.
Still, Daniels’ development will be one of the key stories of the spring. Rumors coming out of offseason workouts have the Irish thinking they’ve found offensive weapons in Troy Niklas and Amir Carlisle, two guys that can transform an offense quickly, especially when paired with All-American Tyler Eifert. Putting Theo Riddick with Cierre Wood should stabilize the running back depth chart, and allow Chuck Martin find something for George Atkinson and his sprinter speed to do.
Obviously, the Irish offense will go nowhere without a capable quarterback, but even that position should be buoyed by an attack that’ll likely look much different than the one we last saw floundering in Orlando. With Goodman and Jones yet to show they’ve got the chops to be an effective outside wide receiver, it’ll be up to Daniels to seize a job that’s there for the taking.
He certainly knows his head coach is watching.