It's not just about playing through pain for DaVaris Daniels. He still has to learn to do that — it's one of the lessons coach Brian Kelly hopes he learned from his mid-season doldrums.
But now that Daniels finished the 2013 regular season out with back-to-back impressive games, Kelly wants to see him put it all together on a more consistent basis next fall.
"He does some really good things, and he's coming," Kelly said Saturday. "There's a lot of good things out there for him. He does a really nice job, and he's just gotta continue running his routes and every single play is where his focus needs to be. That's the next level for him, is that consistency."
Daniels caught five passes for 79 yards with a touchdown against Stanford, and a week before that he had six receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. But there still were moments where Daniels and quarterback Tommy Rees didn't link up, the sign of a receiver still learning what he's doing.
T.J. Jones said Daniels' development is largely about gaining maturity and experience, the kind of things that can only come with time. He has big-play potential, though it's only come in spurts. Still, he caught 46 passes for 720 yards with seven touchdowns this season, and there's still a bowl game to pad those numbers.
With Jones moving on after Notre Dame's bowl game, the spotlight will turn to Daniels next fall. Notre Dame will have talent around him — tight ends Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack and wide receivers Chris Brown, Corey Robinson, Will Fuller and James Onwualu all showed promise among those who played this year — but Daniels will have the most experience of anyone next year.
With added maturity and experience, Jones said, Daniels will learn how to exploit opposing defenses better. That's a skill Jones perfected in his senior season, and one that could key a greater consistency for Daniels.
"I think you've seen it late in the season — he's making more plays, he's getting open more," Jones said. "He's being more of a go-to guy on the opposite side of me. And it's definitely something you can see will grow in the future."