When Davaris Daniels missed spring practice due to academic reasons, a golden opportunity was placed in front of the remaining returning Notre Dame wide receivers. One receiver who seized that opportunity and rode the momentum from a strong spring into fall camp is junior Chris Brown.
So far through a week of fall camp, Chris Brown is beginning to emerge for Notre Dame according to head coach Brian Kelly. “He was clearly our best receiver this week consistently – route running, releases,” Kelly said of Brown on Saturday after practice. “He still has to be more consistent catching the football but clearly he was out best guy this week,” he added.
Kelly noted that Brown’s emergence began even before the junior had the opportunity to be the leader at his position in the spring.
“I think it started with, first, we had a great mentor in TJ Jones and I think he saw the growth and mirrored that,” Kelly said.
Then there was Brown’s best game in an Irish uniform in the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers. “You know, he had a great Bowl game. He probably had his best game of his career against Rutgers in the Bowl game,” Kelly said of Brown last week at his first fall camp press conference.
That opportunity this spring, however, was not lost on Brown. “When you see some light at the top there, I think you take hold,” Kelly said. “(He) saw an opportunity there when Davaris wasn’t with us. Chris by defacto was really the veteran of that group. He was put in a leadership position in the spring and he really took off.”
Brown continued to display leadership throughout the off-season conditioning and OTA’s. “Talking to coach Longo, we talk about who is leading those groups and he said (Brown) was clearly the leader offensively with the wide receivers even with the offense as a whole,” said Kelly on Saturday.
Daniels is back now and while Kelly hasn’t anointed him as a starter upon his return while the senior has been slowed with a groin injury during the first week, it would be an absolute shock if Daniels wasn’t a starter on August 30 baring further injury. Still, there is another outside wide receiver position up for grabs and it sounds like Brown is more than making his case for it.
There will be plenty of competition for that position between now and August 30, but Brown’s leadership ability could give him an edge over some of the younger receivers battling with Brown. Kelly lauded Brown for his leadership last week as well as mentioning it again this weekend. “The guy that has been consistently the best leader since January was Chris Brown. I look for Chris Brown to give us really good production,” Kelly said last week.
Leadership will only take Brown so far though. Sophomores Will Fuller and Corey Robinson have been having great camps so far as well and freshmen Justin Brent and Corey Holmes have had their development accelerated due to some of the injuries that have hit the Irish wide receiving corps early in camp.
Right now it looks like Brown is ahead of them all, but with three more weeks until the season opener, a lot can still change. Brown will need to continue to show the consistency Kelly noted from the first week of camp in order to hold off the younger receivers and prove he is more than just a threat like he’s been seen the past two seasons. So far though, it seems like Chris Brown is going is trending towards being a “now” as opposed to “never” player from our series earlier this summer on Now or Never players in 2014 for Notre Dame.