SOUTH BEND — DaVaris Daniels felt a moment of trepidation when he ran across the middle in practice and took his first hit since breaking his left collarbone two months ago. Then the Notre Dame wide receiver realized it felt like just another normal hit.
“I had to get the jitters out of the way,” he said. “It was like a confidence boost.”
The top-ranked Fighting Irish could use a confident Daniels when they face defending national champion Alabama (12-1) in the BCS title game Monday in Miami.
Irish coach Brian Kelly said the Irish need to make some “big chunk” plays against the Crimson Tide and Daniels could help. His average of 15 yards per catch is the highest of any Irish receiver, and he had the longest catch of the game for Notre Dame in four of the 10 games he played.
“We have a lot of guys that can fill in that role, so it's on all of our shoulders. Everybody has to make a play,” Daniels said.
Kelly said the Irish need to spread the field against the Crimson Tide, and Daniels can help with his speed.
Daniels, who had his first contact Friday, said his shoulder still isn't 100 percent but said it's getting better daily. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore had his best game against Pittsburgh with seven receptions for 86 yards, including a career-best 45-yard catch, a week before getting injured against Boston College on Nov. 10.
Kelly said Saturday that Daniels, who has 25 catches for 375 yards, looks good.
“I think we'll be fine with him. He's a really good player who understands that his reps are going to be based upon how he practices and how he performs,” Kelly said. “I'm certain he'll play a role in the game.”
Daniels returned to practice in early December wearing a red jersey, which meant he couldn't be hit. He said it helped him get back into condition and get his timing down. He said it didn't take him long to get back into a groove with Irish quarterback Everett Golson.
Daniels said he tried to keep his mind in the game after being injured by attending team meetings, watching practices and going through as many off-field activities as he could.
“I think that really benefited me to get back to where I am right now,” he said.
Daniels said he doesn't know yet exactly what his role will be against the Crimson Tide.
“Hopefully it's a lot,” he said.