Last edition we rated the following as Bowl Caliber Units – (9) RB, (8) Safety, and (7) OL.
There are three units that are New Year’s Day Bowl Caliber as we come out of Spring.
(6) Wide Receivers
Ah, Davaris Daniels. Since his arrival on campus, the upward arc of his increase in competence has been remarkable, but for the interruption of
his shoulder injury suffered in the third quarter of the Boston College game. He was “almost” ready to play as a frosh, but was held out. He started slowly in 2012 and was under some duress as the team prepared for Miami and the adventure at Soldier Field.
He started slowly but then exploded for 7 catches for 86 crucial yards against Pitt before suffering the injury in the BC game. But when the unforgiving moment came against Alabama, Davaris responded with 6 catches for a career high 115 yards. Against Alabama. Dee Milliner, Ha Ha Clinton Dix and the rest. Bama had allowed only three hundred yard receivers all year, Jeremy Gallon of Michigan, Ryan Swope in the loss to A&Md and Tavares King’s 142 yards in the SEC Championship game against Georgia, the only receiver who earned more yardage than Daniels. He had arrived.
This Spring he looks quicker and is making progress in being a better runner after he catches the ball. He is destined to put up serious numbers this year.
TJ Jones. Rock steady, has amassed over 110 catches for over 1300 yards and ten touchdowns in three years as a starter. TJ will be in his fourth year as a starter; he’s reliable, but not a gamebreaker and will not command the double team. But Jones is sure-handed and reliable in crunch time. TJ prospered in the crucible in Miami, cathching 7 passes for 90 yards against the Crimson Tide. Kelly has complimented Jones for having an outstanding Spring. He is far different from, and better than, the T.J.Jones, the freshman, of 2010.
Daniel Smith is a better blocker than a receiver, but the staff trusts him. Dan caught just 7 passes for 47 yards, but in an Eifertless offense that should increase in 2013.
Kelly can scarcely restrain his glee in talking about Amir Carlisle and blurted out that Carlisle is headed to the slot after his collarbone mends. Expect, at least until Bryant and Folston are ready, Carlisle to have a Riddickesque split between slot and running back.
Chris Brown has the cliched speed that “can take the top off a defense.” Remember, Davaris Daniels, even in for Spring, did not play as a true frosh, before exploding as a redshirt frosh. Brown is ahead of Davaris’ timeline. When his knowledge catches up to his speed, look out.
Luke Massa, the old QB convert, was actually getting some praise from the coaches before his injury in the Spring of ’12.
Remember when Kelly talked about recruiting Big, Big Skill and Skill? C.J. Prosise was a “skill” player, a track athlete (long jump and dashes) in high school who filled in at dog when Spond was questionable, then moved to safety.
When Spring began, Kelly complimented CJ on his weight increase and announced that Prosise would be cross trained at safety and slot. C.J. warmed to the slot tasks, and with Davonte Neal’s departure, ended the cross training. C.J. Prosise is in the slot. Practice confidentiality notwithstanding, Greer Martini raved about C. J.’s performance in the practices he witnessed. Prosise is the first robin of Woodberry Forest Spring (Doug Randolph arrives in June
and Greer Martini in 2014.) CJ is explosive and brings a defender’s disposition to his blocking. Player, and Play-Maker.
Corey Robinson. Originally thought to be a sure redshirt, his Spring performance has cast doubts on that. Kelly, in Coachspeak, says “Corey catches everything in his Area Code”. The analytic Mike Denbrock sayts that Robinson has the biggest “catch radius” (whaaaa??) since Eifert. Apparently Robinson needs more bulk, but we have plenty of UHND posters willing to handle a lard transplant. Corey has his Dad’s hands, disposition and class. Corey may have his mom’s hands too. This guy will probably play. And this is what an NDRKG looks like.
James Onwualu brought all of his wondrous athleticism, as expected, and a little more bulk than expected, at a battle-ready 215. With Ferguson and Neal gone, Onwualu could get some snaps in 2013. He’s capable of playing any of the three WR positions.
Torii Hunter the 3rd had a gruesome non-contact injury and while he is rehabbing ferociously, the tea leaves portend a redshirt year.
William Fuller is a different kettle of fish. While his LOI day weight listing of 180 may have been generous, he is an accomplished receiver, having caught more than 140 passes in high school. Some analysts suggested that he may be more game ready than the average recruit.
Daniels and Jones are proven and will lead this brigade. But there is speed, size and skill behind them. By mid-October, when the Cardinal and Gold of USC come to town, this could be quite the group.
(5) Tight Ends.
Anthony Fasano, Greg Olsen, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert. These TES have enrolled at Notre Dame this century. While not one of them is small, they are much more known for their pass catching prowess than for their blocking. Now comes the tight end that flips the script, Troy Niklas. Troy Thomas, Niklas’ coach at Anaheim Servite, said he thought Niklas was tailor-made to be a left tackle, even more so than a tight end. But you get the idea. Niklas who is completing his SOPHOMORE year at Notre Dame has completed 29 reps at 225 pounds. Those are remarkable numbers. He has freakish strength.
Niklas’ highest and best use is as a blocker. Remember he just passed his first anniversary as a tight end, so his knowledge base will be much higher this year. Niklas has good hands, and seems capable after catching the ball. Eifert is gone. Niklas is here. Comparisons are a fool’s-and a disloyalist’s errand.
Ben Koyack has underperformed his expectations coming out of Oil City. But he is capable enough to deploy in the two TE sets. He moved from question mark to asset this Spring. Last Spring, Alex Welch had passed Koyack for the backup slot. Word is that he looks sprightly on the practice field, showing great snap back from his injury. His hands are superb.
Given the penchant for two TE sets, Mike Heuerman, still small at 215, will likely play in the Fall. Kelly has spoken favorably about Mike. In June, all 78 inches of Durham Smythe will arrive from Belton, Texas. He will most probably sit out the year. The tight end position is a hologram, If you look at it improperly, or Eifertly, it is unappealing. But if you turn it the right way to view it, as the coaches have, you will appreciate its beauty.
Despite all the caterwauling about Kelly and this position in the past couple of years, this position is on sound footing. Remember, the first meeting Kelly had with his quarterback depth chart involved Crist on crutches and the wide eyed Tommy Rees.
Golson is a legitimate starter. Kelly managed him masterfully last Spring, and was able to keep his progress upward until it all came together for Ev on a warm Octgobe night in Norman.
In his first six games Ev completed 13 passes a game for 161 yards per game, a total of four TDs and three interceptions.
In the last six games Golson complete 18 passes a game for 239 yards per game for a total of 8 TDs and the same 3 interception. It seemed unfathomable last Spring, but Golson completed the year with an 12/6 TD/Int ratio. Most first year quarterbacks are underwater in that ratio. He showed good ability to throw the long ball, especially in the year’s second half. His biggest problem all year was ball security while running, but that got better in the second half of the year. As in, Golson 2.0 did not fumble the football the second half of the year.
College quarterbacks make their biggest improvement from theor first year of starting duty to thier second year. The staff has praised Golson as being more confident, more involved, more willing to lead. In fairness, Golson is a quiet kid, a pianist, and will never be a loud, boisterous leader. But as kelly wryly noted, he now sits forward on the edge of his chair.
Kelly has indicated that there is now virtually no comparison between GOLSON 3.0, this Spring, and GOLSON 2.0.
Tommy Rees? To paraphrase Orwell “All Notre Dame quarterbacks are different, but some are more different than others”. There’s never been another qb like Rees in the shadow of the Golden Dome. Shaky as a starter, he rises to the occasion as a sub. I mean he RISES TO THE OCCASION as a sub. It’s a role Tommy seems more comfortable performing.
There may be better second team quarterbacks in America, but does ANY second team college quarterback have the ability to perform the way Rees does? Andrew Hendrix will never be the starter at Notre Dame, but he’s nice to have on the depth chart, given that his pre-med studies give him another layer of appreciation for Notre Dame.
And it was nice to have Malik Zaire in for the Spring. He’s a go-getter, even making his way to Scottsdale with Nix for Luke Neal’s one week boot camp. Sure Kiel left. QB depth charts are volative. But with Kelly honing in on Brandon Dawkins this year and Jack Benedetti for 2015, the cupboard looks prosperous. It’s expected that this unit will move up a notch as the season progresses.