Last season, Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson had one of the largest targets in the nation in Tyler Eifert. Golson also had the luxury of having Theo Riddick, a running back that was very experienced in catching the football out of the backfield or slot position. This season, Golson will have to find another favorite target and he might not have to look too hard.
The leading candidate to be the Irish top receiver is senior T.J. Jones, who like Eifert was a solid receiver last year. Jones was a big part of the Notre Dame offense last season catching 50 balls for 649 yards and four touchdowns. Jones arrived in South Bend early in 2010 in preparation for the 2011 season where played behind receiver Michael Floyd, who currently plays in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals.
Jones did not take a long time to make a name for himself scoring against the Purdue Boilermakers on a five-yard touchdown in his first game at Notre Dame Stadium. Jones found the end zone three times in his first season catching 23 passes for 360 yards. In 2011, Jones increased his production to 38 catches for 366 and again found the end zone three times.
Jones should know all about being the top man on the Notre Dame campus being one of the top receivers in 2012. If Jones needs any advice on how to handle stardom on a Notre Dame campus he could look to his godfather, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail for advice. Ismail played for Notre Dame in the late 1980s with Jones father, Andre Jones was a defensive end for Notre Dame from 1987-1991.
Jones is not the only returning receiver who contributed to Notre Dame’s offense last season. DaVaris Daniels also had a solid season last year for the Irish and should emerge as a starter at receiver. Daniels was redshirted his first season at Notre Dame but was a contributor last year catching 31 passes for 490 yards. Daniels missed the last two games of the regular season due to injury but bounced back for his season high of 115 yards against Alabama in the BCS National Title Game.
Daniels will be key for Notre Dame and Jones will be the top receiver for the Irish and he will have to take some of the younger receivers under his wing like Floyd did for him early in his career.
Chris Brown, Daniel Smith, Justin Ferguson and Davonte Neal all saw limited playing time last season but had contributions. Brown had two catches but his first Notre Dame catch caught Notre Dame fans attention. Brown hauled in a 50 yard bomb from Golson against Oklahoma for his first catch at Notre Dame. Smith had seven catches in limiting action and should contribute more in 2013. Ferguson only had one catch but could see significant playing time in next season. Neal was highly recruited and was used primary as a punt returner last season. Neal is very athletic and should see more touches as a receiver in 2013.
Freshman Corey Robinson and James Onwualu each arrived on campus early to get s start on classes and and prepare for next season. If Robinson and Onwualu want to be successful their first assignment should be to find Jones and learn as much as they can from him this spring.