Notre Dame officially confirmed wide receiver DaVaris Daniels' readmission to the university Wednesday, ending a forced sabbatical that had Daniels sitting out the spring semester for academic reasons.
When contacted for an official update on the status of Daniels, the university's sports information department confirmed both the wide receiver's readmission and basketball guard Jerian Grant's.
"The University recently granted readmission to a group of individuals, and that group included student-athletes Jerian Grant and DaVaris Daniels. Both will return to Notre Dame beginning with summer school next month," the school said in a statement.
While the return of Daniels seemed an eventuality, it's a critical piece to Notre Dame's offensive puzzle. The rising senior is the team's top returning receiver, ready to take over the No. 1 job after senior TJ Jones put together an excellent final season in South Bend.
Without Daniels, the Irish wide receiving corps spent the spring basically getting an introduction to quarterback Everett Golson. Outside of Chris Brown's 50-yard reception against Oklahoma, no receiver other than Daniels had caught an official pass from Golson.
That's quite an unknown for a position group expected to carry the Irish offense. And while Brian Kelly and new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock hope for breakthrough seasons from sophomores Will Fuller and Corey Robinson, what they'll really need is a much better Daniels.
On paper, there's nothing wrong with the production Daniels put up in 2013. His 49 catches, 745 yards and seven touchdowns were a huge step forward after an injury-plagued redshirt freshman season. But the Irish receiver's inconsistency turned his stat line into a rather hollow exercise.
|Comparing DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones' stat lines|
|Player||Targets||Catches||TDs||Catch Rate||Target Rate||Yds/Target|
Comparing Jones' season to Daniels' is illuminating. For as impressive as Jones was with his 1,108 yards and nine receiving touchdowns, Daniels left an incredible amount of production on the table.
As Jones served as the engine that powered the Irish offense, Daniels was actually targeted more often than Jones, his 111 targets two more than the Irish senior. That puts Daniels' 745 yards into context and is part of the reason the Irish coaching staff has pushed Daniels harder and harder to capitalize on his talents.
With two seasons of eligibility remaining, Daniels isn't looking that far into the future. He toyed with declaring for the NFL draft after his suspension was announced, but ultimately decided to return to Notre Dame to become a better player. And if he puts up the type of numbers that he expects to in 2014, he'll likely leave South Bend with his graduating class.
"Come back, become one of the top receivers in the nation and see how it goes after that,” Daniels told CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler.
According to Kelly, those goals aren't out of reach. But getting there will require the wide receiver to take a long hard look at the man in the mirror, as he said at a recent charity event: "He's immensely talented. But he's got to have his foot on the pedal all the time. If he does, he's as good as anybody out there that I've coached. But there's only so many times you can go to the whip.
"Sooner or later you gotta do it. I think this hopefully is that time where he goes, 'I've got to be cognizant of the fact I got a lot riding on this, I've got to be that guy every single day.'"
Rejoining Golson will help. While nobody really noticed, the duo put together an excellent game against Alabama, with Daniels catching six passes for 115 yards against the national champs. With Golson in 2012, Daniels averaged a robust 10.7 yards per target, well above the 6.7 he plummeted to with Tommy Rees.
After a semester away, Daniels will have the chance to make up for lost time with the coaching staff, with NCAA rule tweaks allowing the staff to spend time with players during the summer semester. And with the latest academic speed bump out of the way for the Irish football program, Daniels can spend the summer preparing for a breakout season that's overdue.
"He's on the clock now," Kelly said. "He's gotta walk the line, he's gotta do things the right way. It's not just Notre Dame, it's his career, it's everything now. I think he knows that all eyes are on him."
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Follow @KeithArnold on Twitter.
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