Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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18 NOV. 14, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL A t this point in his career, Avery Davis may be preconditioned to throw in the disclaimer. Asked if he has taken prac- tice reps at quarterback in case mass unavailability issues arise, Davis noted he had not. All his time this year is allocated to wide receiver, his latest and hopefully last position. Enough switches, though, have a way of leaving a lasting impact. "I'm always prepared," said Davis, a senior and Notre Dame's starting slot receiver. He's prepared for that move in particular, because he came to Notre Dame as a highly regarded quarter- back. But he's also prepared to change positions on short notice. He has done so five times, in fact, all in his first three years on campus —for an average of 1.67 position switches per season. Nomadism became the theme of his career. Until now. Davis is finally the owner of a con- sistently present and impactful role. At a position that has taken time to find itself, Davis has been a re- freshing constant. Fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book is unafraid to look his way. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is willing to call plays for him in important moments. Da- vis' 12 catches (for 129 yards) are tied for second among Irish wide receiv- ers through six games. Six of those have come on third down, a team high, with all but one moving the chains. "I feel most comfortable where I'm at now," Davis said. Most of his targets are within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, which leads to run-after-catch opportuni- ties. The 5-11, 202-pound Davis is particularly difficult to contain there. Among 269 Football Bowl Subdivi- sion wide receivers with at least 15 targets, he's 29th with 7.7 yards after catch per reception, per Pro Football Focus, a nod to his speed and vision. "He's playing a lot faster," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "If you put a clock on him, he's sub- 4.5 [in the 40-yard dash]. There have been times where he hadn't played as fast as he actually is. He's playing a lot freer, a lot more confident." A permanent home unsurprisingly evoked feelings of coziness. Davis possesses an understanding of routes and vision as a runner from his time playing quarterback. He's fast enough to run by opposing slot defenders and slippery enough to break tackles. And as his 17-yard touchdown grab against Duke showed, he's unafraid to go up and get the ball. Davis arrived at Notre Dame in 2017 with all those traits, and the Fighting Irish staff wanted to use them. But timing, trust, need and an extended opportunity never mixed all at once. He moved around like a chess piece, trying to find a spot where he could help. "If I was Avery," Kelly said in spring 2019, after Davis' second switch, "I would be sick of the head coach, too. He just wants to get on the field." Davis' odyssey began in January 2018, when a quarterback depth chart with little upward mobility and a running back room thinned by two dismissals prompted a re-evaluation of his future. After a year spent run- ning scout team, Davis shifted to running back. That was switch No. 1. It lasted a year. Davis' 100 total yards in 2018 were marred by two fumbles and two drops that made the coaching staff wary of giving him more work, so he was moved to cornerback. Davis accepted that assignment during 2019 spring practice. The experiment there ended in training camp, when Shaun Crawford re- turned from injury and won back a spot. Back to receiver Davis went for switch No. 3. One game in, running back Jafar Armstrong suffered an ab- dominal injury, and Davis was called upon again to fill a need there. "Avery is a great teammate," Kelly said last season. SETTLING DOWN Avery Davis is finally at home, and Notre Dame is better because of it

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