NOTRE DAME - DaVaris Daniels spent the entire season last year watching Michael Floyd work his magic.
Now the sophomore-to-be who hasn’t played a down of college football is expected to fill in the gaping hole left by the potential first-round draft pick.
Not right away, of course. No one in the Notre Dame football program, including Daniels himself, is expecting that.
But the lanky 6-foot-3 receiver from Vernon Hills, Ill., came in last year as a four-star recruit with NFL combine-worthy stats.
In Notre Dame’s own version of combine drills earlier this month, Daniels’ numbers impress: A 38-inch vertical, a 10.5-foot broad jump and a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.
So, yeah, he has potential. Just give him time.
“This is a new offense with new players,” Daniels said after practice Friday morning. “You can’t really live up to what Floyd did in his years here in one year. Floyd was a great player, don’t get me wrong, and I can see why everybody is kinda freaking out about him leaving, but, yeah, we’ve got good players here and somebody is going to fill the void.”
The young receiver has certainly made an impression on his head coach. When Brian Kelly was asked who has stood out in the first week of spring practice, DaVaris Daniels was the first name out of his mouth.
“He showed up,” Kelly said of Daniels after Wednesday’s practice. “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.
“Now, as we get deeper into film today he’ll probably have run the wrong route and made a great catch. Something like that. But he stood out to me.”
Operating under an eagle eye of scrutiny isn’t exactly new to Daniels. After all, he’s the son of former Washington Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels.
The younger Daniels says he and his father talk frequently, and the conversation always turns to football. While the receiver has grown to accept his father’s advice over the years, he’s glad the two play different positions.
“I don’t think I could take that criticism,” Daniels said with a grin.
Even though he was itching to play his freshman year, Daniels said he learned to appreciate sitting out the season and maintaining another year of eligibility.
“I think every freshman wants to come in and play right away, so not being able to at first was a little frustrating,” he said. “It was all for the best. I am happy now that I still have four years to prove what I can do.”
Plus, he got the perk of studying under arguably the greatest receiver in the history of the program, and the lessons Daniels learned from Floyd are carrying through to this season.
“The work ethic that he brought every day, his leadership on the field and off the field his last year here,” Daniels said of Floyd. “He’s a great guy, great leader, great player. There’s nothing that you can’t learn from a guy like that.”
Wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock said it will be that final mental step — of transforming from a physically impressive player into an athlete who can handle the mental demands of Division I football — that Daniels still needs to hurdle.
“Physically, he’s got some skills that you’re looking for in somebody who could be a dynamic player,” Denbrock said. “The mental and the little things have to catch up with the physical ability. They will at some point.
“To learn the offense to a point where he can let the physical tools he brings to the table kind of free flow and just play the game without thinking too much or worrying too much, without all those things clouding his mind. If you get that, you got a pretty solid football player.”