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Restocking: Wide Receivers

Feb 28, 2013, 1:46 PM EST

Davaris Daniels

The departure of Michael Floyd ended a golden era for wide receivers in Notre Dame football history. When the former Irish star left campus, he left a void on the roster that ended a pretty impressive run by Notre Dame wideouts.

Since Charlie Weis took over the Irish program, wide receiver stats have exploded, with a Notre Dame wide out going for 1,000 yards in every season but 2007. Before Floyd, there was Golden Tate. Before him, there was Rhema McKnight, Jeff Samardizja and Maurice Stovall, each putting up seasons that had them rocketing up the history books.

But Floyd’s departure wasn’t only painful because of the lost production, it also exposed a roster deficiency left behind by the Weis era — a sheer lack of numbers at a position that would be crucially important in an offense that was expected to keep a base of three wide receivers on the field. While Kelly and his offensive staff supplemented that with versatile tight ends like Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert, the edict was clear: go find some athletes that could bring a new era of playmakers to South Bend.

Let’s check out the work in progress, and take a look at how the Irish got here:

2008
Michael Floyd — In his four seasons, he rewrote the Irish record books at the position.
John Goodman — Played sparingly, finishing his eligibility as a part-time contributor in 2013.
Deion Walker — Spent four years as a reserve before finishing his eligibility at UMass.

2009
Theo Riddick — Recruited as an RB, Riddick spent two seasons in the slot before heading back.
Shaquelle Evans — The highly touted recruit transferred to UCLA shortly after Brian Kelly arrived.
Roby Toma — Looking to be a thrown-in with Manti Te’o, Toma performed capably in his four years.

2010
Austin Collinsworth — Spent his first season as a WR before transitioning to the secondary.
Bennett Jackson — Recruited as a WR, Jackson transitioned to CB and started there in 2012.
TJ Jones — An immediate contributor at the slot, Jones shifted outside. A key contributor.
Daniel Smith — Local product has yet to make a meaningful impact on the depth chart.
Luke Massa – Signed as a quarterback, Massa shifted to WR, but sat out 2012 after ACL injury.

2011
George Atkinson — Many expected GA3 to play WR, but he started and has stayed at running back.
Matthias Farley — Spent his redshirt season at wideout before switching, and playing, safety.
Davaris Daniels — Spent 2011 redshirting before an impressive debut season in 2012.

2012
Chris Brown — Played as freshman, added vertical speed threat to offense.
Justin Ferguson — Sat out 2012. At 6-foot-2, 196-pounds, has size for outside receiver.
Davonte Neal — Spent 2012 as the team’s primary punt returner while seeing limited action.

Way too early spring projection

It’s a huge year for the development of Davaris Daniels. Playing his first season after redshirting, Daniels flashed the type of potential in 2012 that projects him to be a No. 1 wide receiver, though he was plagued by injures. This spring is the time for him to state his case for being a leading man. While TJ Jones may never be that, he is a great supporting piece. His versatility and ability to fight for tough yards while also catching everything thrown his way, was one of the great surprises of last season. It’s also a big spring for Chris Brown, who needs to show he can do more than just take the top off a defense once or twice.

While the staff continues to say good things about Daniel Smith, he’s got work to do if he’s going to hold off the youth on this roster. Same goes for Luke Massa, who looked good last spring before hurting his knee. Guys like Justin Ferguson will be eager to get their shot and early enrollees James Onwualu and Corey Robinson will be fighting for time as well on the outside before Will Fuller and Torii Hunter join this summer.

What happens in the slot should be interesting. Some would argue last season was wasted for Davonte Neal, who failed to crack the receiver rotation but spent the season as the primary punt retuner. Who else plays inside will be interesting. Does Jones shift back? Does Amir Carlisle spend time there? Can a youngster make some noise early? There’s production to be had at the Z receiver, and it hasn’t happened in the first three seasons of the Kelly era. Without a returning All-American to prop up the passing game, this could be our first look at the future.

  1. whisk3yjack - Feb 28, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    One small correction, Keith: Ferguson played in 2012 (though he only recorded a single reception for 9 yards against Navy).

    Regarding the Z WRs, we’ve got talent at the position, but we might not have enough reps to go around. If the staff continues to utilize lots of 12 and 13 personnel, they won’t see the field much. Someone’s got to make room for the TEs.

    • dudeacow - Feb 28, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      That’s what annoys me. They decided to blow his redshirt for nine yards.

      • irishbornraised - Feb 28, 2013 at 7:36 PM

        That didn’t burn the redshirt, it still counted

  2. nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    If Davonte Neal develops over the next couple years into the player we all think he can be, ND fans will look back on 2012 as tragic.

    WTF was Kelly thinking, blowing a year of eligibility for this guy so he could fair catch punts?
    ANYBODY could have done that. Goodman, McDaniel, (insert 12 other names here).

    I rank this as a close second to his management of the QB position in 2011 as the worst of BK.
    Really, really bad.

    • nd1992 - Feb 28, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      If Neal develops “into the player we think he can be” then there is absolutely no chance he would consider coming back for a 5th year. If he doesn’t develop, then there is no way Notre Dame would want him back for a 5th year.

      So it is an entirely moot point.

      (With the possible exception of a quarterback whose skills don’t translate well to the NFL, there is really no reason to “redshirt” an offensive skill player.)

      • nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        Completely disagree

        At 5’8″, 180 lbs, even if he puts on weight and adds height (unlikely), he’s a long shot to be an NFL prospect.

        So a 5th year would have been a very relevant consideration when it comes to Neal
        He could have 4 years of eligibility left, as we speak. Instead he has 3.

        But hey, we’ve got all those fair catches that BK had him give us, so …

      • gtizzo - Feb 28, 2013 at 11:40 PM

        Nudeman your forgetting Steve Smith and Wes Welker both only about one inch taller then Davonte Neal.

      • gtizzo - Feb 28, 2013 at 11:41 PM

        The Carolina Panthers Steve Smith not the former USC receiver Steve Smith.

      • bombers95 - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:34 AM

        Nude, Tavon Austin, 5’8, 174 lbs. His stock is on the rise after the combine. A season spent fair catching punts for one of the worst punt return teams in CFB is a wasted season.

    • ibleedirish - Mar 2, 2013 at 8:10 AM

      I see your point of course, but had he not been placed on special teams we all would have been going ballistic screaming that he was wasting away on the bench. I still think he showed some decent speed, and if anyone thinks catching punts in the face of a headhunter is easy, I suggest they try it once. The end result wasn’t good at all, but it was certainly more of a coverage issue than it was Neals fault.

    • jimbasil - Mar 2, 2013 at 5:06 PM

      I agree.

  3. ndnapa - Feb 28, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    I think it’s Neal who will emerge as a gamebreaker if they give him a real shot this year. I think they put him on ST because they feared a transfer. But he’s a big talent who needs to be unleashed.

    • nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      You could be right about the fear of the transfer.

      ND is a LONG-G-G way from home and I believe his first choice was USC.
      Also, ND is an academic stretch for him

      • whisk3yjack - Feb 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        Or Neal could simply have been promised PR duty during his recruitment.

        His final two schools were ND and Arizona; USC was never seriously in the mix.

        Do you have any proof that he squeeked past admissions or is struggling academically? If not, please refrain from making such comments.

      • nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 3:13 PM

        First, yes, I know more than I can say here about the academic angle. And that’s all I’ll say

        Second, there is another commenter here who had a long conversation with Neal’s dad at an ND game watch one night. From his dad’s mouth, and contrary to the narrative at the time of his recruitment that UA was his preference, it was actually his choice.

        So yes … my sources are pretty good here.

        I don’t post rumors and innuendo.
        So YOU need to refrain from making such comments.

      • nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        That should have read ” … contrary to the narrative … USC was actually his choice”

        Not “it” was his choice

        But that’s only from his dad’s mouth, so feel free to disbelieve if you’d like

      • brianjack13 - Feb 28, 2013 at 4:56 PM

        If his first choice was playing for kiffin in that disaster, it seems like his dad made a good call. It also sounds like you didn’t hear any of this first hand, so id say the info is still somewhat shaky even if it partially true. That kid is going to blow up next year, he is surrounded by young talent on o. Next year the offense needs to catch up with the d and nd has the talent and speed (finally) to get there.

      • nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        brianjack
        Nothing shaky at all about it, but please …
        Feel free to believe what you need to believe to get through your day

        Let’s just say I know more than I can say here, OK?
        That’s all I should have said in the first place. My bad.
        Meant no disrespect to the young man, who I’m glad is at ND

      • dickasman - Feb 28, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        AZ hos simply puts out and loves AAA(African American Athletes) and A2M. Transfer. Done!

      • dickasman - Feb 28, 2013 at 6:38 PM

        BK really didn’t do anybody any favors with that pathetic punt no return game. How does he go to bed at night knowing he had zero punt returns for the entire season?

        Probably why Eagles didn’t want him.

      • dickasman - Feb 28, 2013 at 6:39 PM

        Guys, he’s a AAA. Bad grades? Woopty doo, there’s a shocker!

      • don74 - Mar 1, 2013 at 4:11 PM

        As long as Kerry Cooks is on the staff Davonte is at ND.

  4. dudeacow - Feb 28, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    I’m excited for the WR corps. Jones had a breakout year and that slippery guy looks the part of a #1 receiver. Daniels, though, I was wrong about him. I said at the beginning of the season that he never would do well and wouldn’t live up to his potential. My apologies, Daniels, and have fun with your upcoming 1,000+ yard season. And with Neal, I watched the Navy game the other day and saw his nine yard gain. HE IS FAST. I’m very excited for his first season in the slot.

  5. 4horsemenrideagain - Feb 28, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Nude you consistently make cogent points and offer thoughtful analysis, but commenting on a kid’s academics goes beyond what is appropriate, in my mind. The fact that it comes from a good source might help you in a libel or slander trial, but it seems sort of cheap and dirty. The schools can’t comment on players academic records as a matter of federal law. So why should it be part of our discussion here, no matter the accuracy of the source? It may be a fine line between us gossiping about a player’s background, etc. and the position I am staking out, but I put myself in his shoes and think why should my high school gap and the like be fair game for the commentariot so long as I am eligible?

    • nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 5:05 PM

      You are probably right on this point
      I shouldn’t have gone there.
      Apologize

      • yogihilt - Feb 28, 2013 at 5:42 PM

        Well played, both of you

      • rjshan - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:06 PM

        You’re apology is too late. When ego takes over for logic you’re in trouble. You, of all people should know better.

      • nudeman - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        Rjshan
        Welcome. We needed an Arab commentor.
        Your brother named Qjshor?

        Seriously, if the apology is too late then consider it retracted, but for you only. K?

        Last thing: Mix in a little more bran at the breakfast table.

    • dickasman - Feb 28, 2013 at 6:42 PM

      Another black athlete getting bad grades? Did they make up prop 48 for white kids? Truth is truth stop sugar coating sht being all manti n sht nekkaz!

  6. fnc111 - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    Daniel Smith did a helluva job as a blocking WR. I would not say he hasn’t done anything yet. Ferguson played versus Navy and Purdue. He did not sit out the season.

  7. fnc111 - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    If Kelly doesn’t play him this year i can guarantee Davonte is going to transfer to Arizona. He would tear it up in the dickRod system and my gut says the inept ND coach Kelly won’t use him or develop him or this offense for that matter. Better pay Diaco BIG money to stay or ND will fall back to 6-6 under the direction of Kelly, the guy who can’t develop a QB to save his life.

    • stedward - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      I’m impressed by your commitment to come on here and post an unfavorable opinion on every article. At least you put in a little more effort than the troll tide.

    • kansasirish - Mar 1, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      fnc…..you sir are the definition of a true idiot!

  8. gtizzo - Feb 28, 2013 at 11:45 PM

    Keith why did you leave out the 2013 class?

  9. mediocrebob - Feb 28, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    FNC

    Not really understanding your last post. Please go into depth and explain.

    Can Kelly not develop QBs bc he didn’t develop Crist/Rees? Is Notre Dame in trouble under BK bc he hasn’t proven to build programs every where he’s been?

    Please explain.

    • nudeman - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      You won’t get an answer. Not an intelligent one, anyway
      fnc is a bombthrower. Everything about ND is bad.
      He recently posted that “ND is going nowhere under Kelly”.
      Really? I could have sworn they just had an undefeated reg. season

      I don’t mind ND criticism here, and have been really hard on some things; mainly Tommy Rees and more recently BK
      But like many others, I always try to back it up with some modicum of thought and reasoning

      fnc … not so much

  10. mediocrebob - Feb 28, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    I would argue that BK had a fairly decent size hand in Golson’s development throughout this past season. Maybe?

    • ibleedirish - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:23 AM

      My grandfather always said “Never argue with a moron. From a distance its difficult to tell who’s who.”

      Stop feeding fnc boys.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM

        to pinch a great line from Argo: “If he had a thought in his head, it would die of loneliness.”

  11. blackirish23 - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    @ dickasman: not sure about you but 3 A’s sounds like a student on their way to quite a decent semester in the classroom to me;-)

  12. mikes1160 - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    fnc111, troll away

  13. idratherbeinsouthbend - Mar 1, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Feel free to chime in on this idea, but maybe we’re all looking at this from the wrong angle. Does it really matter if any of these guys develops into the next Michael Floyd?

    Here’s my rationale, outside of Mardy Gilyard (sp?) at Cincy, Kelly hasn’t really had a stud WR in his entire career. His offense is predicated upon getting the ball to the open receiver and using personnel groups to create mismatches and scheme his offense.

    So, given that idea, the next Michael Floyd will probably not be developed. He will be created by the media because he catches more balls than the other guys. He will be highlighted because he has made one or two critical catches that are shown on ESPN over and over again.

    Basically, the next Michael Floyd will be the one that finds himself in the right spot at the right time against the right coverage. It’s an offense of opportunity.

    I will grant you that the guy who has the most skills (blocking, route running, speed, ball security, etc. etc.) would give himself the most opportunities, but to sum it all up, we really won’t know who’s coming to the party until the arrive at the party.

    Does that make sense?

    • nudeman - Mar 1, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      I made this point a year ago or so and got killed for it. So naturally I’m going to make it again

      WR has become the preminent diva position in the NFL
      See “Burress; Plaxico”, “Moss, Randy”; and “Bryant, Dez”, “Crabtree, Michael”, and 20 others like them; they’re usually surrounded by babes, .45s and more babes and in big cities

      Divas don’t dig the classroom; Divas don’t dig discipline
      Divas DEFINITELY don’t dig small Catholic universities in the midwest

      Divas love the ocean, beach, fast cars, coeds and bright lights (and a few other things)

      Yes, I know Moss wanted to go to ND. Exception to the rule.

      Point:
      In this modern day and age, ND will ALWAYS struggle to get the lanky, uber talented WR who can break a game open. Unless your father’s nickname is “Admiral”, you ain’t going to ND if you’re tall, fast and can jump out of the gym to catch a lob pass in the corner to tie the game

      Sorry. Sometimes facts stink

      Roll dam Tide

      • domer77blowsgoats - Mar 1, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        Top 5 Signs Indicating Too Much Time Spent in Men’s Locker Room Showers in AZ

        5. Providing dietary advice
        4. Not accepting of other religions
        3. Excessive use of “quotes”
        2. Quoting “first hand knowledge” when in reality was eavesdropping while waiting for the soap to drop
        1. Attempting to make online “username” real life nickname

      • bernhtp - Mar 2, 2013 at 8:09 AM

        Correction: Randy Moss did not want to come to Notre Dame. He wanted to join an elite football team and was beguiled by Holtz into committing. Unfortunately, it didn’t work when it was clear he was bringing his babes, .45, and most conspicuously, his criminal record and time in jail. FSU was the perfect landing place for the combination.

        Speaking of Florida, troubled kids, and forced redshirt years, what is your prediction on our friend Aaron Lynch? While the outlook for USF is certainly bleak, I’m wondering what he will do individually (given that is his focus anyway).

      • nudeman - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:02 AM

        bern
        There’s no reason to think Lynch won’t have a great year, on the field anyway
        The issue with him is avoiding spontaneous combustion in the locker room
        If he he’s grown up at all, could be a high #1 round pick
        Not exactly sure I’d bet on it though

  14. idratherbeinsouthbend - Mar 1, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    The other way to find out who the next “go-to-guy” will be is to keep an eye on what fnc says. He has proven himself wrong nearly 100% of the time. So, if he says that Devonte Neal will be a burning pile of dung, there’s a strong possibility that Devonte Neal will be a great receive.

    No offense to anyone else on this board, but fnc has the best track record for predicting….it just happens to be that he always predicts wrong.

    • papadec - Mar 2, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      idrather – I absolutely have to agree with your fnc evaluation. A great reverse predictor.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      at least he is consistent.

  15. frankb51 - Mar 5, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    dont worry bern Lynch can always default to Marshall, a la Moss

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