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Young receivers look to seize opportunity

| Thursday, April 10, 2014

Notre Dame’s top three pass-catchers from 2013 are not currently with the team.

Receiver TJ Jones graduated.

Tight end Troy Niklas went to the NFL.

Receiver DaVaris Daniels is suspended for the spring semester due to academics.

Only two players on the current roster — junior receiver Chris Brown and senior tight end Ben Koyack — have caught a pass in a game from a quarterback on the current roster. Brown and Koyack each tallied a grand total of one reception from senior quarterback Everett Golson in 2012.

20140409, Football Practice, Brown, Michael YuMichael Yu | The Observer

To add to the unproven nature of the passing game, Irish offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock said Monday that no receiver has separated himself from a deep and wide-open group.

What will separate the receivers?

“First thing would be consistently doing it right all the time. The second would be consistently making plays when you have an opportunity to make a play. And the third would be playing like your hair’s on fire all the time,” Denbrock said. “If they continue to have those three traits and continue to grow their game, they’ll be the guys that are out there.”

There’s a veritable logjam in the receivers room, but Denbrock said he likes it that way. Sophomores Will Fuller and Corey Robinson have seen plenty of reps with the first-team offense on the outside, and senior Amir Carlisle has been a regular in the slot. Brown, junior slot man C.J. Prosise, sophomore Torii Hunter Jr. and freshman Justin Brent have also been involved.

“I love the aspect of the competition we have there because we have some talent across the board,” Denbrock said. “I love the atmosphere that it creates in the wide-receiver room as far as from a competitive standpoint, guys trying to get their reps, guys trying to get on the field. I’m comfortable with letting that sort itself out.”

Denbrock said those players’ performances will dictate how many receivers he uses.

“If it’s close and it’s a close call, we’ll play as many of those guys as we feel like deserve to play,” Denbrock said. “If it’s clearly one, two, three guys or four guys that are really setting themselves apart and consistently doing it the right way, then we’ll make that decision moving forward.”

Brown, Robinson, Prosise, Carlisle and Fuller all nabbed receptions in 2013, totaling 44 receptions for 628 yards and three touchdowns between them. Daniels, who is expected to apply for re-admittance to the University, in which case he’d be eligible to play in the fall, topped those five receivers on his own last season. The senior racked up 49 grabs for 745 yards and seven touchdowns ¾ second on the team to Jones in each category.

Denbrock said he has been keeping tabs on Daniels during his separation from the program.

“I’d rather not DaVaris make too many decisions on his own,” Denbrock said. “So I’ve been very close to that situation. We’re in touch at least three or four times a week if not every day, just to make sure he knows we’re thinking about him and we’re keeping an eye on him and what our expectations while he’s away from here are, including what is our expectation from him when he gets back.”

Denbrock said although he hopes the suspension will serve as a wake-up call for Daniels, the Irish likely won’t know for sure until Daniels is back in the fold.

“Right now I think his mind’s in the right place,” Denbrock said. “I think he’s excited about getting back with his teammates, whenever that’s possible to do, and get this thing moving.”

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

Contact Mike