Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Daniels ready to seize opportunity
By Matt Fortuna
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — There were times when Phillip Daniels would exit the home locker room at Soldier Field and see his son, DaVaris, waiting outside in tears because the Chicago Bears lost. There were times when DaVaris would get so mad following defeat after defeat to Phillip in "Madden" that father eventually let son win.
"I never told him that, to this day -- he'll probably read about it now," Phillip, veteran of 15 NFL seasons, said with a laugh. "He'd win and jump to celebrate and I'd laugh at him. But when I beat him, man, I realized, I knew I couldn't win. My wife's like, 'Let him win.'
"I'm a competitor, too. I wanna win at everything. But every time we played I'd lead him in the fourth quarter and then let him win, but I never told him that."
Notre Dame is hoping that competitive nature from DaVaris Daniels translates to the field this fall, as he will have the chance to line up in one of the many spots that Michael Floyd occupied for the Irish the past four seasons. The big shoes to fill -- coupled with lofty praise from head coach Brian Kelly -- has increased expectations around the sophomore-to-be, a receiver who has yet to play a snap in college.
Expectations are high for DaVaris Daniels before the sophomore has even played a down.
"I think we're all just kind of taking it one day at a time; this is a new offense with new players," Daniels said. "You can't really live up to what Floyd did in his years here in one year. Floyd was a great player, don't get me wrong — I could see why everybody was kind of freaking out about him leaving. But we've got good players here, somebody's gonna fill the void and we're all doing a good job so far this spring."
Daniels said he had been used all over the field through the first week of spring practice, and he said it was tough at first not playing during his freshman year, when he admitted he ran the wrong route on what seemed like "every other play."
His father said the year on the sideline was for the best, especially with a record-breaking wideout like Floyd ahead of his son. A Vernon Hills, Ill., native, the younger Daniels said he hopes Floyd, likely a first-round pick during next month's draft, ends up with the Bears.
"Floyd, the main thing that he said is you gotta work hard, and he's like the epitome of, anything that you thought working hard was, that's what he did," Daniels said. "That's what he left me with, that's a part of his game that I think I'm trying to develop into mine."
Phillip, now the Redskins' director of player development, echoed his son's sentiments that no one can replicate Floyd's body of work in one season, and he cautioned that his son and Floyd are different receivers with different body types. (Floyd was 6-3, 224.)
A former defensive end, Phillip stands 6-foot-5 and weighs more than 300 pounds. DaVaris, at 6-2 and 190, is thankful he does not line up on the same side of the field that his father did, for fear of his criticism.
DaVaris said he first beat his father in a race when he was 11 or 12. Phillip -- who played for the Redskins, Bears and Seahawks -- confessed to being the less athletic of the two, saying his son can run circles around him.
Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said DaVaris passes the eyeball test and has the look of a future NFL player, joking that he wishes he had been cut from the same cloth.
"I'm still pissed at my dad when I look at DaVaris' dad," Martin cracked. " 'I love you, Dad, but you don't look like Phillip Daniels. I could've been somebody.' "
Kelly raved last week about Daniels' performances in team testing. The receiver said that he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, did 10 feet, 5 inches in the broad jump and jumped 38 inches in the vertical, though his father said DaVaris has jumped 41.5 inches in the vertical before.
"His numbers are off the charts," Kelly said. "In terms of vertical jump he tested comparable to a number of the wide receivers at the NFL combine. He's got great numbers. Now, those are numbers. He hasn't done anything. He hasn't caught a pass in a game, hasn't caught a touchdown pass.
"So we know he's got the physical ability. Now we've got to be able to see that translate, and it's time for him to do it. We were able to move him slowly last year, it's time for him to go, and this spring will be that opportunity, and we all feel very confident in his ability to come in and impact our offense."
Daniels was seen with the second-team receivers early in the Irish's first spring practice Wednesday, the first half-hour of which was open to reporters. A leg injury kept him out of practice Saturday, but both Kelly and Phillip said it was more of a precautionary measure, and he is expected back this week.
Learning all three receiver positions, Phillip said, will be crucial for DaVaris, who is looking to seize the opportunity this offseason and carve out a name -- among both Irish receivers and his family -- of his own.
"God-given ability, and he's an awesome kid," Martin said when asked what stands out about Daniels. "He's an awesome kid from an awesome family. He's a fun kid to be around. All the things that it takes to be a great one -- he might have it just naturally or we gotta get it out of him. He can run, he can jump, he can catch, he's smart. OK, I'll work with that guy."