Notre Dame midterm grades: Receivers

Notre Dame midterm grades: Receivers
October 10, 2013, 6:30 pm
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On paper, the greatest strength of Notre Dame's offense through six games is its pass-catchers. More specifically, it's Tommy Rees' top three targets -- T.J. Jones, DaVaris Daniels and Troy Niklas.

Those three players have combined to catch 12 of Notre Dame's 13 passing touchdowns (four apiece), with 1,116 yards on 72 receptions. Beyond Jones, Daniels and Niklas is an inexperienced, but talented, group of receivers who could play larger roles in the second half of the season.

Freshman Corey Robinson would appear to be the best position to up his volume, although the 6-foot-5 matchup nightmare only has four catches for 66 yards this year. Sophomore Chris Brown has seven catches for 125 yards, but hasn't developed into a consistent deep threat. Junior tight end Ben Koyack caught his first career touchdown against Arizona State, and with Notre Dame lining up out of two-tight end sets more often in its last few games he could be targeted more coming off the bye week.

But the guys Notre Dame thought would emerge have, in Jones, Daniels and Niklas. Jones is the favorite target of Rees, a reliable route-runner who's steadily improved each year on campus. He's both an inside and outside threat and is incredibly smart in using his undersized frame (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) to beat opposing defenders on any route that's called.

[More: Rees, Jones power Irish offense vs. ASU]

Daniels has been a big part of Notre Dame's best passing games -- he caught 21 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns against Temple, Michigan, Purdue and Arizona State, games in which Rees threw for 275 or more yards. But against Michigan State and Oklahoma, Daniels only accounted for four catches for 19 yards, while Rees sputtered to a 23/58 line for 246 yards. Part of that was Rees overthrowing Daniels on deep fades, though, especially against Michigan State.

Niklas has proven to be a fantastic red zone weapon for Rees, and put that strength on display against Arizona State when he used his 6-foot-7, 270-pound body to box out a Sun Devils defender on a touchdown reception. He's still raw and has struggled at times with routes and blocking, but has shown to be a legitimate weapon.

Overall, this is a talented group that's given Rees plenty of options this year. He hasn't always been able to connect on those, though, but this is a group that plenty of college quarterbacks would love to have.

Position midterm grade: B+

More midterm grades: Quarterbacks, running backs