Vernon Hills wide receiver DaVaris Daniels made an oral commitment to Notre Dame on Tuesday night. It is a boon to coach Brian Kelly's program, which desperately needs impact players on offense, especially with the anticipated departure of Michael Floyd to the NFL draft after this season.
How good is Daniels? The 6-3, 190-pounder has proven to me that he is capable of emerging as a top 100 prospect by the end of this season. He is very versatile and can play a number of positions but he has NFL potential as a wide receiver with his extraordinary athleticism, 4.5 speed and 6-10 high jumping skill and 41-inch vertical leap.
He was the best freshman I had seen in the Chicago area and now he is the best senior.
That said, while Daniels is justifiably excited about his decision and Notre Dame fans are thrilled to add him to an incoming recruiting class that already ranks among the top 10 in the nation, the hype and hoopla must be tempered by one undeniable fact: He hasn't been accepted yet. Offered? Yes. Committed? Yes. Accepted? No.
This is a smart move by Notre Dame but it is curious why, if Daniels wanted to go to Notre Dame all along as even he admitted, why didn't he make the announcement at the press conference that his father, Washington Redskins defensive lineman Phillip Daniels, called in June? At the time, Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken said DaVaris would choose either Notre Dame or Miami.
After the Sun-Times jumped the gun, reporting that DaVaris would choose Miami because he hadn't been accepted academically by Notre Dame, he called off the press conference. Finally, on Tuesday night, with no bells and whistles, his father announced on Twitter that his son had chosen Notre Dame.
Daniels got off to a bad start academically as a freshman. Monken reported last November that the youngster was a borderline student at best. But he added that Daniels was taking extra courses and was doing everything he could to improve his academic standing. He wasn't sitting on his athletic achievements. In fact, he said he was disappointed that his low grades had prevented him from receiving more scholarship offers from major Division I programs. He understood that if he wanted to play football at Notre Dame, his dream, that he had a lot of work to do in the classroom.
Time will tell if he has done enough. He is scheduled to take his ACT on Oct. 23. Later, after examining his transcripts, Notre Dame's admissions office will rule on his eligibility, whether he will be allowed to accept a scholarship to Notre Dame. At this point, he hasn't qualified.
But history is full of outstanding football players who were late qualifiers, including St. Rita's John Foley, Vocational's Chris Zorich, Bloom's Bryant Young, even the legendary George Gipp and Jerome Bettis.
Last year, Stanford, known for its stingy academic requirements as Notre Dame is, turned down 10 football players who had made earlier commitments because the school's admissions office wouldn't accept them.
Daniels has demonstrated his extreme versatility while leading Vernon Hills to a 5-0 start this season. As a quarterback, he has completed 4 of 6 passes for 71 yards and one touchdowns. As a receiver, he has caught 10 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns. He also has rushed for 203 yards and five touchdowns, returned one punt for a touchdowns, intercepted three passes and returned one for a touchdown.
In April, Daniels told Sun-Times reporter Taylor Bell how he "put myself in a hole as a freshman with my grades. I came out of middle school and didn't know too much. I got thrown on the varsity as a freshman and didn't know how to manage my time with studying."
But he said Notre Dame was his favorite, though he admitted he was open to other offers, including Illinois, Miami and Oklahoma. "Notre Dame has everything I'm looking for. Coach Kelly has committed to the spread offense. I'm comfortable there. It's a family atmosphere," he said.
In June, Daniels told Taylor Bell: "I love Notre Dame. That could be the place. I feel I can fit in there. I'm excited about what coach Kelly has to offer."
But, prior to the press conference, he realized he couldn't get into Notre Dame and was prepared to announce for Miami. Why? "They have brotherhood and tradition. I grew up watching Miami's powerhouse teams dominating everyone. My dad has teammates who went to Miami. I had to follow my gut and go with it," he said.
In the end, his gut told him that he didn't have to commit to Miami or anyone else in June, that he could wait until his grades were improved and he could be accepted at his dream school, Notre Dame. So he called off the press conference and waited until he felt the time was right. Hopefully, he is right. And Notre Dame's admissions office will accept him.