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Goodman, Daniels among group to replace Floyd

Andrew Owens | Friday, April 20, 2012

How do you replace a receiver that amassed 271 catches, 3,686 yards and 37 touchdowns in four illustrious seasons at Notre Dame?

While finding an individual to produce in 2012 at Michael Floyd-like levels is virtually impossible, the Irish aren’t imposing the burden on any one player. Rather, it’s a ragtag group of upperclassmen attempting to finally find their niche while also leading the way for the underclassmen.

“I don’t think anyone has roles right now,” said senior running back Theo Riddick, who is in his second stint in the backfield after dabbling at receiver for two seasons. “At this point, we’re still trying to find who can do what and who has weak points there and strong points there.”

While Riddick can no longer be found at a receiver position on the depth chart, the New Jersey native will be a hybrid of sorts for Notre Dame and will be called upon to make plays in many different roles.

“You can be very dangerous if you can [run and catch],” he said.

While previous contributors senior Robby Toma and junior T.J. Jones return along with senior tight end Tyler Eifert in 2012, the rest of the unit involves an influx of familiar names who have yet to make their mark on the field.

Graduate student John Goodman said he needed to find a new mental approach before being able to step up as the threat he says he is today.

“[Last year] I’d drop a ball here and there and [Irish coach Brian] Kelly would say, ‘You’re two catches from being a good receiver,'” Goodman said. “I’d keep that in mind and then this year I count my drops and if I get one I get [upset] at myself, but [I have a short memory]. My drops this spring have gone down so much compared to past years and it’s a confidence factor.”

Goodman said he worried too much in the past about where he would be on the depth chart or what the coaches thought of his performance. This spring, he said he has realized just how much confidence the coaches have in him, which has led to a more relaxed approach.

Junior Daniel Smith participated in each of Notre Dame’s spring practices after being hampered by injuries most of his time since enrolling at the University.

“Daniel is important to us, Kelly said. “We need him to come up and be a consistent player for us … He’s had the injury bug and it looks like he’s kicked it because he made every spring practice and he wasn’t able to do that in his previous time here.”

Since shaking off an injury of his own, sophomore DaVaris Daniels has experienced an epiphany similar to Goodman’s during the course of spring practice, Kelly said.

“This week DaVaris Daniels really stepped up his play and became a guy we can feel comfortable now saying that he’s going to help us win games next year,” he said. “And that’s really important.”

After sustaining a leg injury early in spring practice, Daniels is healthy again and is starting to display some of the flashes that made him a highly touted four-star recruit coming out of high school.

“He made a couple plays [in practice],” Kelly said. “All he’s heard is all this potential [he has], but then he makes a couple plays and that’s just the igniter. And once that guy ignited, he made a ton of plays. We know it’s there, now we have to get it from him and we feel really good about going into the summer now as it relates to Daniels.”

Daniels said the proverbial light bulb turned on after the Champs Sports Bowl after having a discussion with the coaches about his role in 2012 and beyond.

“[They put] that motivation in my head and I’m doing it I guess,” he said. “My confidence is much more than what it was last year … When you have a head coach that believes in you, you can’t help but believe in yourself.”

Daniels said his next step on the path to becoming an elite receiver is becoming a better route runner to complement his speed, but he said the unit isn’t feeling the pressure as much as fans and the media might expect.

“From the outside looking in, there’s a lot of pressure, but we’re a loose group,” he said. “We know what we can do, so we’re just going out there and having fun and trying to make plays. We don’t feel the pressure at all.”

It’s one thing when the receivers exude confidence about their own play, but it’s another when the defensive backs whose job it is to stop them agree.

“I think the receivers have been looking great this spring and they have definitely been very competitive,” Irish senior safety Zeke Motta said. “We have some good looking athletes on that side of the ball, from DaVaris to Robby. We have a lot of versatile guys.

“It’s exciting to see from a defensive perspective. Obviously [the defensive backs] don’t like to give up anything, but it’s cool and I think they’ve been doing a good job of bringing them along.”

Motta said he has seen the receivers’ confidence grow during practice and thinks the unit will be a strength for Notre Dame in the fall.

“Confidence is key for any player,” he said. “[It helps] just to be able to come out and know you’re going to be making plays and stuff like that. Obviously it helps when you see that and make those plays. Everybody’s confidence has been going up because we’ve been coming together and focusing on that.”

While Floyd may be on the brink of signing a lucrative NFL contract, his former teammates contend they are ready to apply the lessons they learned from the All-American in their daily routine.

“He came in every single practice to dominate, and that’s my objective now and I believe I can do that every single day,” Goodman said. “He came to dominate, he came to lead, he came to do whatever made the team better. As a fifth-year senior … I have to assume that role.”

Jones. Toma. Daniels. Smith. It may not carry the same ring as Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden, but the current Irish receivers have learned it’s more about today than the past.

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