Notre Dame may count on freshmen to shoulder load at WR

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Notre Dame may count on freshmen to shoulder load at WR

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Michael Floyd caught 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011, his senior year at Notre Dame. While the Irish return a some experienced receivers, the team may wind up needing a few true freshmen to help make up for Floyd's departure to the NFL.
"There's no replacing Michael Floyd's production," admitted first-year receiver Chris Brown. "But as a unit, we just gotta come together and just fill that role."
T.J. Jones, Robby Toma and John Goodman return to the Irish offense with a few years of experience under their collective belts, while DaVaris Daniels will get a shot after not seeing the playing field his freshman year.
And Notre Dame is deep at tight end, with All-American Tyler Eifert headlining a group that also includes Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack. But Brown, Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson could see some playing time, if the first few days of practice are any indication.
Brown and Neal saw plenty of work with the first and second-team offense in last week's open practice, with Brown gouging out large chunks of yardage after making a few catches on short passes. And Neal's blue-chip talent was on display as he worked with quarterback Everett Golson, who many believe will be the starter on Sept. 1 when Notre Dame opens their season against Navy in Dublin.
"Everybody wants to get on the field, but I'm just looking to do my part as of right now," Neal said. "Coach Brian Kelly will put in that situation when it comes down to it. But right now, we're just working getting set with the plays."
The trio of freshman wide receivers all room with upperclassmen, as Brown lives with Goodman, Ferguson with Jones and Neal with Toma. That veteran presence has helped each rookie adjust to life at the college level.
"I'm feeling very comfortable," Brown said. "The older guys have made it a lot easier for me -- John Goodman, Daniel Smith, T.J. Jones, all of them just making it more comfortable for me, and I feel like I'm actually getting in it."
"I'm starting to get real comfortable with the playbook," added Neal. "Robby Toma's helping me out, learning the plays, learning the scheme, and Theo Riddick also back there coaching me up. And slot receivers coach Tony Alford is a great coach, he's done a great job putting the plays in a way that I can understand them."
Neal came to Notre Dame after a lengthy recruiting saga that extended a few weeks past signing day. He was one of the most coveted skill players in the country, with the kind of playmaking ability that had coaches from LSU to Oklahoma to USC salivating. While there were rumors about discord within Neal's family about his school choice, he repeated over and over on Monday "I love it" and emphasized how happy he is at Notre Dame.
"There's a lot of great players here, so I'm not stacking myself up with anybody," Neal said. "We're all looking out there to compete. That's what everybody's doing. You can't ask for a better to compete with than at Notre Dame."
Both Brown and Neal say they aren't aiming to be the next Floyd, Golden Tate, Jeff Samardzija, Tim Brown or Rocket Ismail, at least in their freshmen year. They're aware of Notre Dame's history, but are aiming to stay focused on the immediate task ahead.
"Those are all great receivers," Neal said. "I just came in looking at trying to play my part as a freshman right now. I'm coming in as freshman, looking to do what I can to be a good receiver for right now."

Former Blackhawks D-man Trevor Daley reflects on bittersweet postseason with Penguins

Former Blackhawks D-man Trevor Daley reflects on bittersweet postseason with Penguins

Trevor Daley’s hearing the same chatter in the Pittsburgh Penguins this season as he did with the Blackhawks last fall.

“It feels a lot like when I started last year with Chicago, where a lot of guys were speaking the same thing: ‘We want to try to do it again,’” Daley said on Wednesday evening. “I felt I was in that situation with the same feeling with the guys around me, so it was an exciting time.”

Well, there is one difference this time around. When Daley was traded to the Blackhawks in the summer of 2015 he didn’t know that feeling of winning a Stanley Cup. Now, he does. After the Blackhawks traded Daley to Pittsburgh he became a key part of the Penguins’ run to their Cup triumph.

Daley fit in immediately with the Penguins because they all found common ground: he wasn’t the only one going through changes at the time. Daley was traded to Pittsburgh two days after the team named Mike Sullivan its new head coach.

“The way they were going with a new coach coming in, I think everyone was happy to have a fresh start, including myself. I felt I was in the same situation they were,” Daley said. “It all worked out obviously in the long run. But a lot for my success had to do with being on the same page as everyone else.”

Daley suffered a fractured ankle in late May, missing the rest of the postseason. But after the Penguins won the Cup in Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks, Daley, on the ice in full uniform and skates, was the first to get the Cup from captain Sidney Crosby.

“When you get to hoist that thing,” Daley said. “There’s nothing better than that.”

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The postseason was bittersweet for Daley, as his mother became ill with cancer as the playoffs began. She got to see Daley hoist the Cup on June 13. Sadly, she died on June 21.

“Pittsburgh was great to me. I got to go home in between series. When I had time off I got to see her and when I got hurt I got to spend more time with her. It did make it bittersweet,” Daley said. “Before she passed she would always say, ‘Why are you here? I want you to be playing.’ But under the circumstances, at least I got to say I got to spend a little more time with her.”

The Penguins are waiting for a few players, including Crosby, to return from the World Cup. Who knows how the season unfolds but much like last fall, Daley is part of the let’s-try-to-repeat talk.

“We’re excited for those guys to be able to have the opportunity they have [at World Cup]. We get to watch the best player in the world doing what he does, knowing he’s coming back to us,” Daley said of Crosby. “We’ve been enjoying it; we’ve been staying in touch with them while they’re gone. Most of them are back now. Those guys are going to be ready to go. They’ve already played some big games, so it’ll be good.”

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Brian Hoyer spent Wednesday’s practice as the presumptive No. 1 quarterback, sources said, and with Jay Cutler limited due to his thumb injury, the Bears began prep for the Detroit Lions next Sunday in Soldier Field with Hoyer getting more used to the offense that he has only sparingly run since training camp.

Some of Hoyer’s teammates spent Wednesday’s practice getting a little more used to him.

A veteran of 27 NFL starts, Hoyer doesn’t do things the way Cutler does them. He doesn’t throw as hard. He doesn’t throw as far. And he runs a sort-of hurry-up offense compared to Cutler.

“Hoyer has a real good sense of urgency to him,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “He’s more fast paced. He likes to quicken up things, whether it’s the cadence, the flow – he just has a real natural sense of urgency about himself.”

This involves more than just a feeling. The Bears ARE faster under Hoyer, based on one very unofficial measure, because game situations differ even though the Bears ultimately lost all three games.

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Based on snaps and time played, the Bears have run 2.2 plays per minute with Cutler. They have run 2.6 per minute, approaching 20 percent more, under “urgent” Hoyer.

The play rate, however, is not entirely on the quarterback. Like all teams, the Bears build tempos into their system, and defenses also dictate some of how the Bears elect to work.

Still, “Jay is more laid back, more relaxed, even-keeled,” Leno said, smiling. “But that’s just Hoyer, more sense of urgency."