Notre Dame season preview: Daniels primed for a breakout?

Notre Dame season preview: Daniels primed for a breakout?
July 24, 2013, 11:00 am
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Tyler Eifert caught 113 passes and nine touchdowns in 2011 and 2012, but will be 250 miles south with the Cincinnati Bengals when Notre Dame fall camp opens in early August.

Replacing Eifert is certainly a daunting task for the Irish, especially since he was Tommy Rees' favorite target. But it's a task offensive coordinator Chuck Martin thinks his players are up to.

"When you show up and Eifert's not there, well you realize I could be the best guy here … it just gives you confidence because they're not here that, okay, it's my time," Martin said during spring practice. "Last year, it was like, if I don't do really good they're gonna probably throw it to Eifert. They gotta throw it to somebody."

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That somebody will come from a talented crop of up-and-comers. Outside of T.J. Jones -- an established, steady senior wideout -- there's Davaris Daniels and Troy Niklas. Behind them are C.J. Prosise, Chris Brown and Alex Welch. And there's a talented group of incoming freshman who could see playing time, too, including Corey Robinson and James Onwualu.

Daniels brings the most experience to the group, as he caught 31 passes for 490 yards in 2012. He showed flashes of promise toward the end of the year, although he missed two games with a broken collarbone.

Niklas is the direct replacement for Eifert, and brings the kind of size and athleticism offensive coordinators salivate over in a tight end. Still, he's only caught five passes in his collegiate career, and will have to make a major leap to come close to becoming the next great tight end at Notre Dame (following Eifert and Kyle Rudolph).

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Those are the two guys generally keyed on to make up the bulk of production lost by Eifert. It's worth noting, though, that Notre Dame wasn't incredibly worse off in 2012 without Michael Floyd, who caught 100 passes for the Irish in 2011.

Eifert only caught half that number in 2012 -- and Jones matched him with 50 receptions. Still, with the loss of a go-to target, Notre Dame players know somebody's going to have to grow into that role.

"That’s what we talk about in the meeting room, everyone stepping up their responsibilities, doing what they need to do to play a bigger role -- if that role is being the go-to guy, then it’s being the go-to guy," Jones said in March. "If not, then it’s picking up your role in general."