Now that the regular season has finished our eyes have turned to the bowl season and a likely matchup in the Champs Sports Bowl against either Florida State or Clemson.
But before the bowl date is set in stone and we start previewing one of the above opponents, One Foot Down wanted to introduce a pre-Signing Day series called, "Reviewing the Redshirts."
The series is simple---we'll take a look at most (if not all) of the current freshman who have preserved a year of eligibility this season and will be looking to make an impact on the field next year.
Some of these players we've talked about quite a bit as they've sat out 2011 (hello baby McNabb!) while others have continued to fly under the radar and quietly work hard in practice in anticipation of a possible breakout season in 2012.
In all, 13 players from this class (including transfer Jordan Prestwood) will go into next season with four years of eligibility.
The first player in the spotlight for this series is a playmaker from Illinois who may be called upon to log some serious minutes next fall.
Ladies and gentlemen, here is Reviewing the Redshirts: Volume One.
WR DaVaris Daniels
Hometown: Vernon Hills, Illinois
Height: 6'1" 1/2
Rivals: No. 21 WR, No. 178 National, No. 2 Illinois
ESPN: No. 12 WR, No. 65 ESPNU150, Grade: 81
Scout: No. 23 WR, No. 161 National
247: No. 12 WR, No. 63 National, No. 1 Illinois, Grade: 95
Need at Position: HIGH
Expected Spot on 2012 Depth Chart: Often-Used Backup
Daniels was one of the top receivers in the country last year, but coming in there were some questions about his size.
Was he 6'3"?
Some listed him at 165 pounds---was he really that skinny?
As you can see, Daniels is officially listed just under 6'2" and at a solid if unspectacular 185 pounds. Some hoped he would be a little bigger than that as a freshman, but even as a lanky yet muscular youngster, Daniels should be able to inch closer to 200 pounds over the next two off-seasons (his father, NFL DE Philip Daniels is 6'5" 302 after all).
As the most highly regarded receiver of the class (and really the only receiver---Farley was originally recruited as a safety) it was somewhat surprising to see Daniels sit out this year specifically because head coach Brian Kelly has mentioned a lack of depth at this position as a concern.
Such is life for freshman receivers in Brian Kelly's system---particularly if they don't enroll early.*
*Which makes you wonder how the current crop of '12 recruits will be handled during the summer and fall.
Still, due to his hype and potential---plus his size---Daniels is going to be counted on to be heavily in the mix next season.
Notre Dame will be returning three of its top four receivers next year, but obviously there will be a huge hole left by Michael Floyd. 2012 freshmen aside, Daniels will battle with junior-to-be Daniel Smith as the tall receivers on the roster who should find plenty of opportunity to play on the outside.
Will Daniels be a starter next year though?
My belief is that he'll be in the two-deep immediately by the start of fall camp, and because of his size, have great odds of starting on the outside by mid-season. If Daniels has a break out spring (or if Riddick is moved back to running back) you can boost these odds even higher.
I'm curious to see how much of a playmaker Daniels is and how polished he is as a receiver---remember he was more of a jack-of-all-trades athlete in high school than a pure receiver.
If Daniels has good-to-great speed for his size and is the type of player who can immediately improve the screen game (something the Irish desperately need) he might have a very successful first season on the field.
Especially if Daniels is a good down-field threat with elite ball skills, as many assume, the Vernon Hills product might be on his way to be the next great receiver at Notre Dame.