SOUTH BEND, Ind. — By coach Brian Kelly's account, Notre Dame wide receiver DaVaris Daniels is ready to step into the spotlight.
Daniels, back from a spring semester exile, showed the kind of maturity Kelly hoped to see over the summer heading into Monday's preseason camp opener in Culver, Ind. Daniels is Notre Dame's leading returning wide receiver after reeling in 49 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago, and he's also the oldest member of a relatively inexperienced unit.
Kelly said Daniels that maturity has manifested itself as leadership, too.
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"I think with Daniels, it's what I probably have said from day one: We want to see that every day and we are seeing some really, really good signs of that," Kelly said. "Now it's a matter of taking that to a championship level (which) means doing it every single day."
Daniels struggled with the day-to-day grind last year as his production slipped during the middle of the season. After torching opposing defenses for 299 yards on 17 receptions with four touchdowns in Notre Dame's first three games, Daniels went silent over his next seven games: 18 receptions, 235 yards, one touchdown.
While Daniels wasn't banged up enough to miss time, he did admit last November he had dealt with a "lower-body" injury, borrowing an ambiguous phrase from hockey lingo. He later admitted to CBS Sports he dealt with plantar fasciitis, turf toe and a hip flexor — painful issues for sure, but the kind of knocks tough-as-nails wide receiver T.J. Jones learned to play through over his four years in South Bend.
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The maturity had to come for Daniels to return to Notre Dame, and it very well could help him make a greater impact as a leader. But in terms of quantifiable impact, Daniels' maturity should lead to a greater mental toughness, which would help him push through those October and November bumps and bruises that hindered him a year ago.
And if Daniels can turn those peaks and valleys into consistent success, he'll live up to Kelly's expectations.
"I look for DaVaris Daniels to give us great production," Kelly said.