The fourth of 14 storylines as we approach the 2014 football season...
If it's possible to produce 80 receptions, 1,235 yards, and 7 touchdowns through two seasons and still leave fans wanting more then DaVaris Daniels has achieved that goal. I'm not sure we've debated a player more on this site (besides departing No. 11) than Daniels and his spring semester suspension only exacerbated the frustration many feel with the talented rising senior.
I understand that frustration to a point but at the same time I've always been a big believer in Daniels and thought that even with his warts he's been a very good player for the Irish. Especially after he opened up to CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler back in February it's easy to sympathize with his situation and suspension:
Not many receivers started the season hotter than Daniels, whose 17 catches for 299 yards and four touchdowns through three games underscored the enormous potential Notre Dame saw in the 2010 recruit out of Vernon Hills, Ill.
The production plummeted on the field -- and in the classroom -- in October. Daniels' next seven games featured 18 catches, 235 yards and one score. Daniels was hesitant to tell the team about the injuries -- which flared up around Week 4 against Michigan State -- because he didn't want to make excuses when taking the field, he said. The turf toe and plantar fasciitis on the left foot had him limping out of the apartment every morning.
...Daniels found a way to manage his pain on the field but never managed his schedule off it. He wondered if he did enough to get by and never told academic advisors about his time management struggles.
In light of the on-going NCAA O'Bannon stuff it's easy to sympathize with a Notre Dame athlete fighting through injuries, falling behind in the classroom, and letting his teammates down. Yes, his suspension was disappointing but he's worked his way back to the team and was readmitted to the University a couple months ago now. It's time to move on.
Injured, struggling with schoolwork, and still putting up 745 yards with Tommy Rees as your quarterback, though? Is there really that much room to complain?
Now, it's pretty clear that Daniels could use more focus (and a season of full health) on and off the field. He was often not on the same track with Rees and Daniels has taken the bulk of the heat for that lack of communication and several errant incompletions. He's also been quite streaky on the field which has had his detractors pointing to his lack of consistency.
Even still, when Daniels has found a groove he's been very, very good. He came alive against Purdue in 2012 and stepped up with a quality performance after some injuries on offense. He was part of the resurgence against Pitt that same year and flashed his massive potential with 115 yards in the title game against Alabama. As mentioned above, he was one of the country's receiving leaders through 3 games last year and put up 186 yards in back-to-back games against BYU and Stanford later in the season.
At the end of the day we have a NFL talent and that's always a positive. Additionally, Notre Dame has a very good track record of maturing players when they come back from suspensions or academic concerns. Add in that Daniels is primed to be the number one receiver and has a good relationship with quarterback Everett Golson and there's plenty of reason for optimism.
I'll listen to and agree with some of the criticism of Daniels but I'm feeling awfully good about his prospects in 2014. No receiver has totaled 1,200 yards in a single season in the Kelly era but I think Daniels can get to that mark this fall if he stays healthy. It might not happen because the ball is being spread around to a lot of different targets but I wouldn't be surprised if Daniels reaches that milestone.