Notre Dame's loss of former standout receiver Michael Floyd was, at one time, thought to be irretrievable. Such a harrowing predicament no longer befuddles the Irish.
Prior to the 2012 season, doubts surrounded the Irish offense's ability to move the football consistently through the air, as Floyd had been drafted by the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and his former head coach, Brian Kelly, was on the verge of anointing a new starting quarterback.
There could be no true replacement for Floyd, who set school records for single-season receptions (100), career receptions (271), career 100-yard games (16), career receiving yards (3,689) and career receiving touchdowns (37).
The Irish offense's reliance on Floyd to move the ball through the air during the 2011 season became a crutch, as he finished the season with 62 more receptions than any other true receiver on the roster—T.J. Jones would finish with 38. (Remember that Tyler Eifert is a tight end.)
Seemingly, the only viable candidate to spark life into the Irish passing game was Eifert, though opposing defenses would be keen to remove Eifert as a receiving threat.
The question then became simplistic in nature—which receiver would evolve into a play-making threat?
Jones was a common answer during offseason discussions, though doubts surrounded the 5'11", 190-pound receiver's potential to become the Irish's No. 1 option at the position.
One name that received little attention was DaVaris Daniels, at the time an unproven redshirt freshman.
During the 20-17 victory against Purdue last September that improved the Irish's record to 2-0, Daniels finally earned the recognition and consideration he had deserved all along. The Vernon Hills, Ill., native recorded four receptions for 70 yards, including a critical 41-yard snag that led to the Irish's game-winning field goal.
In another high-pressure, late-game situation against Pittsburgh, Daniels emerged once again.
It was, unquestionably, Daniels' most complete performance of the season, as the 6'2", 190-pound receiver hauled in seven receptions for 86 yards, including yet another heroic effort in crunch time.
Trailing 20-12 with less than three minutes remaining in regulation and a chance at victory seemingly all but shot, Daniels snuck behind the Panthers' secondary to corral a 45-yard reception that kick-started Notre Dame's tying drive and kept its national championship aspirations alive.
In the Irish's following game at Boston College, Daniels would suffer a shoulder injury that kept him inactive until an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game that was devoid of dramatic moments for Daniels to appear in.
Despite trailing Alabama by multiple scores throughout the title game, Daniels' stat line is still rather impressive: six receptions for 115 yards against a Crimson Tide defense that finished the 2012 season ranked seventh nationally in passing defense.
That performance alone should secure Daniels' identity as Notre Dame's go-to receiver of the future.
Yet it's his knack for making his presence felt in decisive moments that what will make Daniels a key figure within the Irish offense during the 2013 season.
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