NOTRE DAME — Though Notre Dame is powering through spring practice without its top receiver, DaVaris Daniels is still very much a part of what's going on in South Bend.
Daniels, who is away from Notre Dame for the semester following an academic suspension, has remained in constant contact with offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock throughout the spring. Denbrock said he has a tight grip on Daniels' time away from the team.
"I'd rather not DaVaris make too many decisions on his own," Denbrock said with a laugh following practice Monday, April 7. "I've been very close to that situation."
Denbrock says the two touch base at least three to four times a week, "if not every day."
"(We talk) to make sure he knows we're thinking about him and we're keeping an eye on him and what our expectations while he's away from here are, including what our expectations for him are going to be when he comes back," he said.
Daniels is expected to be reinstated to the university and return to the team in the summer. In his absence, Notre Dame has had to rely on a wealth of young receivers to shoulder the brunt of the work during the spring.
Denbrock said he looks for three traits in his receivers — consistently making plays, consistently doing it right and playing like "your hair is on fire all the time." Though no one player has separated himself from the rest of the group yet, Denbrock offered his assessment of the top targets emerging from the spring.
- Justin Brent, freshman
"It's a big world for him right now. You've heard the phrase, 'Drinking through a fire hose.' He is literally drowning at times with information and overload. I've done the best that I can to put him against KeiVarae Russell, to put him against the best we have to offer and challenge him. There's no challenge that he's backing down from, which is a positive sign. Even though he's confused and unclear about assignments, he's going hard and he's continuing to compete."
- Amir Carlisle, senior
"I think he's getting more and more comfortable. He's a guy that has done it some, but now he's gotten 13 opportunities here in the spring to kind of grow at the position, and I think he's feeling a lot more comfortable. He's making plays when he gets an opportunity to, and that's why we wanted to put him out there to begin with."
- Will Fuller, sophomore
"If you look at TJ Jones' game and how it grew over the years and how much better he got at running routes and understanding how to break down leverage in coverage, that's where Will is. ... He's a guy that can press the field vertically and run by people, but that refinement of skill level and versatility in your route-running and how you go about your business is a big key to being the type of breakout wide receiver we need him to be."
- Torii Hunter Jr., sophomore
"He is very gifted physically, and right in the mix with all those young guys as far as what we feel he can do down the road. Like a lot of young guys, the more he sees things, the better he's going to be. He's not where we need him to be yet, but you can see so many positive things that are going to happen there moving forward. We're just trying to speed up the process as fast as we can."
- C.J. Prosise, junior
"The physical traits obviously are off the charts from a strength standpoint and an athletic standpoint. He is still continuing to grow and understanding the nuances, the little things, more than anything else that lead to the consistency that we need. No. 1, his route running has gotten better. Consistency catching the football has gotten better. There's a pretty good competition going on there (between Prosise and Carlisle)."