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November 8, 2012

Daniels catches up at receiver

When you're the son of a 15-year veteran of the NFL, you're supposed to be good. Today, right now, not tomorrow.

But as DaVaris Daniels learned last year - and continues to learn in 2012 now that he's a regular part of the receiver rotation - you get what you earn, not what you believe you're entitled to.

"It's been a gradual process," said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound son of former NFL defensive lineman Phillip Daniels. "I thought I had it, but it obviously wasn't what everybody was looking for. You just have to learn as you go and figure out things you have to work on and try to put them into your game."

Daniels was kept out of action as a freshman in 2011. It was during his rookie season that he learned what he didn't know and what he had yet to master.

"Little things in my routes, my feet, bursting out of breaks instead of coasting…It was definitely difficult to grasp," said Daniels, the Vernon Hills (Ill.) High School product. "You feel like you're doing it right, but you realize in the end that you're not open or it's not working the way they want it to work. It definitely takes a minute to get used to."

Consider Daniels trending in the direction of bigger and better things. With three games left in the regular season, Daniels has caught 23 passes for 353 yards, wideout numbers second only to veteran TJ Jones.

Daniels had his most productive game to date last weekend against Pittsburgh when he caught seven passes for 86 yards - both personal highs - including a 45-yard reception that helped the Irish tie the game and then win in three overtimes.

"He's learning how to play the game," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly. "I'll give you an example. When he runs his routes, he's pretty difficult to defend. Then when he doesn't think he's getting the ball…It's one of those things he is learning every week about how to be that elite receiver in the BCS.

"It requires practice, preparation, attention to detail, all those things, and he's starting to get there. You're starting to see it. He's only going to get better and better."

There's something to learn every week. Now that opponents have more film on him - such as his decision to break deep as Everett Golson was scrambling around on the 45-yard reception last week - the next opponent will be aware of another tendency.

"You learn the different ways that people are going to play you," Daniels said. "Week-in and week-out, teams are going to have different schemes and you can't really do the same moves every time. That part of my game is always a learning curve."

Two things haven't changed: Daniels' quiet confidence in his ability and his "cool as the other side of the pillow" demeanor.

"DaVaris hasn't changed a bit," said fellow receiver Robby Toma. "He's that cool guy. He's never too down; he's never too up.

"As a player, he's grown up so much. He's made some key catches for us, and I couldn't be more proud of the guy. For him, he just had to get used to - not the speed, because obviously he's pretty fast - but corners being more physical, and ripping through friction when we're getting re-routed. And his blocking has gotten a lot better. He's getting in there and throwing his body around."

Daniels' confidence never wavered in '11 when the decision was made to preserve a year of eligibility.

"I've always had confidence in myself," said the soft-spoken Daniels in a voice just barely above a whisper. "I'd say it's pretty high. I'm not the kind of guy that talks about myself (or signals a first down). I'm not going to do that. That's not me.

"Everything has slowed down. Just reading defenses on pre-snap reads. Just knowing this guy might not be there when the ball is snapped. He might go over here…It makes a lot more sense to me now. I don't want to say it's easier, but it's starting to come more naturally."





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