Kelly: Daniels Out For Next 2 Games

Sophomore wide receiver DaVaris Daniels underwent surgery Sunday morning for a broken left clavicle suffered during the second half of the 21-6 victory at Boston College. Team physicians Dr. Chris Balint and Dr. Brian Ratigan (1989-92 Irish linebacker) performed the procedure.

Brian Kelly voted his Fighting Irish No. 1 in the coaches' poll.

Daniels’ left shoulder was in a sling shortly after his awkward fall on an incomplete deep ball into the end zone, and head coach Brian Kelly said the wideout will miss the remaining two regular season games versus Wake Forest (Nov. 17) and at USC (Nov. 24), but will be back for the January bowl game.

Although Daniels had yet to catch a touchdown pass in his first season of action, his 25 receptions were fourth on the team for the well-balanced attack that has tight end Tyler Eifert and wideout TJ Jones tied for first with 34 catches apiece, while running back/slot Theo Riddick has snared 29 passes.

However, Daniels’ big-play capability has been coming more to the forefront in recent weeks, including 22- and 14-yard catches in traffic during the 30-13 win at Oklahoma two weeks ago and a game-high seven catches for 86 yards in the triple-overtime win versus Pitt the ensuing week, highlighted by his 45-yard grab to set up the touchdown that put the game into extra sessions. His 15.0 yards per catch are the best on the team for players who have caught at least six passes.

“He was really making good progress, learning how to play the position, learning how to practice,” said Kelly, who estimated that Daniels might be able to start doing some running and light workouts with the team by early December. “This will be a temporary setback for him.”

Next in line are fifth-year senior John Goodman (four catches, 77 yards, two touchdowns), junior Daniel Smith (six catches, 37 yards) and maybe freshman speedster Chris Brown (one catch, 50 yards, at Oklahoma). Goodman caught an 18-yard score from quarterback Everett Golson against Boston College, and Smith has been become a more dependable, physical blocker on the perimeter with the offense’s bread-and-butter zone stretch play. Brown is in the embryonic stages of development but defenses do have to respect him as a deep threat.

The other main injury from the game was a blow to the head of freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell. He was removed from the game as a precaution, with sophomore Josh Atkinson filling in. Kelly said Russell’s injury has “cleared up nicely and he looks to be on track for practice on Tuesday.”

Kelly Votes Notre Dame No. 1
Just because Brian Kelly doesn’t go on the campaign trail and publicly stump for his team doesn’t mean he can’t exercise his right to vote. After having the Fighting Irish No. 2 last week behind Alabama, he moved them up to the top slot when the Crimson Tide lost at home yesterday to Texas A&M, 29-24.

The reasons were at least three-fold. First and foremost is a consistently dominant defense that is tied with Alabama for No. 1 in scoring defense (11.1 points per game).

“Each team has its own distinctions,” Kelly said. “The distinction of this football team is it’s the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. It’s proven that against very, very good teams all year. We make it very difficult for you to run the football. If you look at national championship-caliber football, you’ve got to look at a defense, so that’s why we feel strongly that our football team has put themselves in the discussion. We’ll let others decide, but I think we’ve played our way into the discussion.”

Next is a schedule that he believes doesn’t take a backseat to anyone, including having played 10 FBS opponents, none from the FCS, and quality road wins at Oklahoma and Michigan State, in addition to defeating a strong Stanford team.

Finally, the progress of sophomore quarterback Everett Golson in the past month is helping to take the offense to a higher tier as far as balance. Golson has rushed for 269 yards in the last five games he’s played and performing much better in all phases of the game.

“I like the way our quarterback is developing,” Kelly said. “He’s getting better and better each and every week … What we’re going to see here is a guy who can hurt you throwing it, ‘escapability’, and then running the football. Ball security was really good [against Boston College]. If we trend that way and continue, we’ve got the makings of a quarterback that is getting to the level we need him to be.”

Golson also is getting more comfortable with running the option — as is Kelly — which forces defenses to account for something else while getting stretched thinner.

“When you’re executing option with a player like that, it really makes it difficult for a defense to bring pressures,” Kelly said. “Anytime you’re putting the ball out there in the perimeter, there’s a risk factor. I wasn’t comfortable with that risk factor [early in the year]. I am now. He’s handling the option. He read it right every time, they did not have a hat for him, they wanted to play the pitch, and he got us tough yards.”

That’s not to say Kelly believes his Notre Dame program has “arrived.”

“Never ask a coach what concerns him about his team,” Kelly joked. “This could be a 40-minute conversation.”

News & Notes
• Kelly said junior cornerback Bennett Jackson (team-high eight tackles, seven solo, two pass breakups) had his best game in a Notre Dame uniform, while classmate Prince Shembo (five tackles, four for loss, including three sacks) was outstanding.

The ability of Shembo to put his hand on the ground in the 4-3 alignment or drop back to Cat linebacker in the 3-4 provides seamless flexibility to the defense, as does junior Danny Spond at the other outside linebacker spot, where he is more responsible for pass coverage.

Danny Spond, his ability to play in space, play a No. 2 receiver and then line up over a tight end — it starts with those outside linebackers and we have two guys that allow us to do that,” said Kelly of the rotating defensive alignments.

• Manti Te’o set a single season Notre Dame record for linebackers with his sixth interception this weekend, but what Kelly particularly admired is the All-American, who finished with five tackles, doesn’t try to overcompensate or try to rack up personal numbers on his own while free-lancing.

“He was 1/11th of the defense,” Kelly praised. “He did his job — he didn’t try to do more. That’s just a mark of a great player. He kept his eyes on his work and played really solid football.”

• Playing behind Shembo, sophomore Ishaq Williams has been a little lost in the shuffle, but the former five-star prospect from New York also continues to improve each week. He was credited with three unassisted tackles at Boston College.

“Playing a lot faster,” said Kelly of Williams. “He’s making progress to the level where he could be a guy who really influences the football game. Tracked down plays from opposite end, and just understanding how to play the game.”

• Junior nose guard Louis Nix III was ejected from the game in the latter stages of the fourth quarter when the game got a little chippy and he thought a cheap shot had been taken at a teammate. He did receive a lecture from the staff afterwards about needing to control his emotions a little better.

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