When Brian Kelly addressed the media on Saturday, he announced that sophomore wide receiver Davaris Daniels was a full go for contact drills in Saturday’s practice and will be available for Notre Dame in the BCS Championship game next Monday after missing the final two games of the regular season with a shoulder injury.
Daniels only missed two games, but that missed time along with the long layoff between Notre Dame’s last game and the BCS title game next week will make getting back to full speed a challenge for the sophomore, but Brian Kelly does not see his time off as a major impediment for him. ”I think we’ll be fine with him. He’s a really good player that understands his reps are going to be based on how he practices and how he performs. So I’m certain he will play a role in the game,” Kelly said on Saturday.
Daniels’ return to the lineup will give the Irish passing game a boost after Notre Dame struggled throwing the football downfield over the final two weeks of the season with the talented sophomore on the sidelines after suffering the injury against Boston College.
Prior to injuring his shoulder, Daniels was developing a good rapport with quarterback Everett Golson and had his best game as a collegiate wide receiver the week before the injury occurred when the Irish came back from a 20-6 fourth quarter deficit to beat Pitt in triple overtime. In that thrilling victory, Daniels hauled in career highs in receptions, seven, and receiving yards, 86 including a 45 yarder – also a career long.
On the season Daniels’ numbers are modest – 25 catches for 375 yards – but his presence in the lineup gives Notre Dame a reliable downfield target that they missing against both Wake Forest and USC. Daniels had receptions of 20 yards or more in five of the 10 games he played in this season and has the highest yards per catch average on the team, 15.0 y/c, for anyone with more than 10 catches on the season.
Daniels isn’t a major game changer in terms of Alabama’s preparation for the Irish, but his presence in the lineup will give Notre Dame another weapon to help spread out the Crimson Tide defense – something Kelly mentioned on Saturday. ”We have to be attacking all areas and getting the kind of match-ups that we need offensively,” said Kelly. ”We have to get big chunk plays, I’m going to tell you that right now. They know that and we know that.”
Getting a player back that has been able to pick up those big chunk plays throughout the season just gives Notre Dame another card to play against a very stingy defense. Freshman speedster Chris Brown is the only other receiver on the roster to record a 40+ yard catch this season with his 50 yard bomb against Oklahoma. Daniels meanwhile hauled in a 41 yarder against Purdue and then the 45 yarder against Pitt.