College football: Notre Dame looks to TJ Jones to lead receivers
By LaMond Pope 713-2691 or firstname.lastname@example.org August 8, 2013 6:28PM
Updated: September 10, 2013 6:33AM
SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly believes the Irish have a first-round draft pick in wide receiver TJ Jones.
A statement like that from a coach could lead to stress for some players.
Jones takes a different approach.
“I don’t know if it’s pressure, or at least it’s not pressure for me. It’s more motivation,” the 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior said earlier this week. “If I know that my coaches have that faith in me, and that I have that faith in myself, then that’s just going to allow us to better work together for me to push myself harder to attain that goal that he thinks that I can achieve.”
Jones is the top returning receiver for the Irish. He finished tied with tight end Tyler Eifert for the team lead in catches (50) and receiving touchdowns (four) in 2012.
Eifert is now with the Cincinnati Bengals. But Notre Dame is confident others are ready to fill any void.
“We have a lot of talent. We’re deep,” quarterback Tommy Rees said. “I think TJ has improved in the past three years. I think he can be a great receiver this year. I think he can really step out of the role he’s been in and take on a bigger one.
“(Wide receivers) DaVaris (Daniels) and Chris Brown are two guys on the outside that both have a tremendous amount of potential. I think we can get the best out of them. And I’m really excited about the young guys.”
It starts with Jones, who has 111 receptions for 1,321 yards and 10 touchdowns through his first three seasons with the Irish. He had 649 receiving yards last year.
“Sometimes he doesn’t get enough of the accolades,” Kelly said last week. “I think he’s a great receiver.”
Daniels had 31 catches for 490 yards last season. Brown made two catches for 56 yards. Freshman Corey Robinson enrolled early and went through spring drills.
Troy Niklas, Ben Koyack and Alex Welch are among the options at tight end.
Replacing Eifert’s production won’t be easy. But Jones drew parallels to losing Michael Floyd after the 2011 season.
“Learning how to get past that,” Jones said, “how to work together as a whole and put all the different parts together and get everybody involved in our offense last year is definitely going to help us to strive this year.”