July 13, 2014 // Notre Dame Football

Now or Never ’14: Chris Brown

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Chris Brown - Notre Dame WR

(Photo: Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

Our series on Now or Never players for Notre Dame in 2014 rolls on today by staying at the wide receiver position where we look at junior speedster wide receiver Chris Brown.  Last year at this time we pegged the then sophomore to be as a potential breakout candidate for the Fighting Irish in 2013, but Brown managed just 15 catches for 209 yards and a single touchdown last fall.

As Brown enters his junior season, can perhaps the fastest wide receiver on the roster establish himself as a vital weapon in the Irish arsenal  or will he get passed on the depth chart by a growing pool of wide receiver talent that Brian Kelly and company have built?  Let’s take a look.

Pedigree

Coming out of high school in South Carolina, Chris Brown received some mild interest from major programs with offers from the likes of Virginia, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Illinois, North Carolina, and Wake Forest.  Most of that interest came from local schools and was based mainly on the potential that Brown possessed due to his elite speed.

After an impressive junior prep season that saw Brown catch 52 passes for 1,098 yards and 16 touchdowns, Brown’s production dipped drastically as a senior due to a broken collarbone.  He recovered before the end of the season but capped off his high school career with just 33 catches for 532 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Had Brown remained healthy as a senior and replicated his junior success it is very possible that he could have garnered more interest from top programs.  Two weeks before Brown visited Notre Dame for an official visit that resulted in his commitment to the Irish, he visited Tuscaloosa for a visit with the Crimson Tide without an offer in hand.  Miami was also expressing some interest along the way as well.

As a freshman, Brown had just two catches but one of them was one of the biggest catches of the 2012 regular season for Notre Dame.  Brown hauled in a 50 yard bomb from Everett Golson against Oklahoma as the Irish stormed in Norman for a 30-13 road upset.

Chris Brown scored the first and only touchdown of his career against Air Force in 2013.  (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports).

Chris Brown scored the first and only touchdown of his career against Air Force in 2013. (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports).

Reason for Optimism

Even though Brown hauled in just two passes as a freshman, he showed the ability to get open down field. Two years ago though Brown was still very raw and much like Golden Tate in 2007, his route repertoire was limited to basically go routes as he learned the position.  It was assumed that last year Brown would take a step forward just like Tate did in 2008.  No one thought Brown would have 1,000+ yards like Tate, but more was expected than 15 catches and 209 yards.

The problem for Brown in 2013 was that he is a vertical passing threat and Notre Dame didn’t have the necessary components to have a dangerous vertical passing game.  The good news for Brown is that they do in 2014 with the return of Everett Golson and his strong right arm.  Tommy Rees was an extremely accurate passer for the Irish over his career, but it’s not secret that he didn’t have a cannon and that limited how much Notre Dame could utilize Brown’s big play speed.

With Golson back under center for the Fighting Irish offense, Notre Dame figures to have a much more dynamic offense in 2014 that can utilize the downfield threat that Brown adds to the Notre Dame offense.  With TJ Jones headed to the NFL and Brown the most experienced wide receiver on the roster ready to challenge for that open position, Brown will have every opportunity to lock down that position.  If he does, that will set up Brown for a breakout junior season.

Reason for Doubt

More was expected of Brown a year ago when Notre Dame ended up playing a trio of freshman wide receivers in addition to Brown as their third option behind Davaris Daniels and Jones.  Brown had the chance to secure a larger role in 2013 but instead shared time with freshmen Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, and James Onwualu.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Chris Brown (2) attempts to catch a pass as Oklahoma Sooners cornerback Aaron Colvin (14) defends in the first quarter at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Brown was primarily a deep threat decoy as a freshman and sophomore the last two seasons.  (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports

While Onwualu has since moved to linebacker, Robinson and Fuller are still fighting for playing time at wide receiver and incoming freshmen Justin Brent, an early enrollee who looks more like a senior than a freshman, and Corey Holmes will throw their names into the mix as well.  If Brown is not able to lock down a prominent role in fall camp, he will run the risk of falling behind the younger wide receivers and face an uphill battle for playing time over his final two seasons.

Over his first two seasons Brown also did not have the build of an every down wide receiver.  He put on some weight in the off-season but still just did not have the look of a wide receiver who would be able to consistently get passed jams at the line of scrimmage during spring practice.   In order for Brown to emerge in 2014, he will have had to have maximized all the time he had with Paul Longo in the weight room.

2014 Outlook

Chris Brown had perhaps his best game in a Notre Dame uniform in the Pinstripe Bowl by catching five passes for 54 yards – passing his previous single game high of three receptions.   With Davaris Daniels out of spring practice, Brown saw the bulk of his action with the first team, but with Daniels back and locked into a starting role, that experience doesn’t guarantee  a starting gig this fall.

The only other wide receiver on the Notre Dame roster that rivals Brown in the speed department is sophomore Will Fuller.  That asset along should give Brown an excellent chance at starting opposite Daniels this fall.  That would, however, require Brown to hold off Fuller and that is no certainty at this point after the spring that Fuller had for Notre Dame.

Fuller figures to be Brown’s stiffest competition heading into the fall.  Corey Robinson will likely be a mainstay in the offense once the Irish reach the red-zone but will also likely play behind Daniels at other times.  CJ Prosise, Amir Carlisle, and Torii Hunter will battle it out in the slot.  Justin Brent, on the other hand could be a wild card here.  He doesn’t have the speed of either Fuller or Brown, but he is a big and strong and could be a chain mover in the Irish offense.

Given Brown’s edge in experience look for him to at least start off the 2014 season in the starting lineup.  Whether or not he stays in the lineup though will be up to him.  There will be no shortage of capable wide receivers comping at the bit for playing time if Brown is not able to show more consistency.

Comments to this Article

  • Miami Heat commented on July 14th, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Does anyone realize that Corey Holmes runs a low 4.4 or high 4.3 CONFIRMED!!! And he has better hands than all except Robinson.

    [Reply]

  • Toulmin H. Brown commented on July 14th, 2014 at 8:27 am

    A speedster like Brown who has my build (thin but with agility) should develop a regular light weight training routine on a daily basis. In addition daily arobic-esc physical regimens developing stamina would be most desirable as or track-n-field related exercises. You would be surprised how a often a common sense approach like this is ignored by athletes at all levels.

    ND now has the luxury of a brand new turf track which eliminates bad weather or at least reduces its effects. Brown will excel on a track built for speed as will the entire team.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 14th, 2014 at 10:08 am

    So what you are telling us is that you are built like a D1 wide receiver?

    [Reply]

    Toulmin H. Brown replied on July 14th, 2014 at 11:41 am

    What is a D1? I’m 59 come August 3. The answer to your question is – yes

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 14th, 2014 at 11:53 am

    The fact that you don’t know what D1 is makes sense based on your comment. But I’m glad you’re a 59 year old that stands 6’1″ 190lb with 6% body fat.

    JackedDome replied on July 14th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    NOW you are Ron Burgundy…of course he is a little more fact deficient but the humor is the same.

    [Reply]

    Toulmin H. Brown replied on July 14th, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    I’m one of the fastest white boys in Louisiana and I’m willing to prove it. A hole

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 14th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Just to clarify. At 59 you are one of the fastest “white” boys in Louisiana?

    Toulmin H. Brown replied on July 14th, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    What I’m telling you is I* work/live working outdoors in stifling humid conditions which I’ve adapted to early in life. I’m fast and if you want to meet I might just be willing. I suspect you’re fat and old RB. You certainly are grumpy.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 14th, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Might be willing? You want me to fly all the way to that humid cesspool you live in and you might be willing to race? How about a race from the chicken coop to the alligator wrestling pit? Or we race down bourbon street to get a Hurricane?

    Your call.

    Shazamrock replied on July 15th, 2014 at 8:21 am

    All the way to bourbon street for one measly Hurricane?

    Better up the ante and throw in a couple of redheaded sluts with some slippery nipples and a leg spreader on the side!

    Cheers!

  • Shazamrock commented on July 14th, 2014 at 8:52 am

    How the amount of playing time among the WR’s is divided up is anyone’s guess, but having two players with elite speed like Chris Brown and Will Fuller BOTH on the field at the same time is something that I would like to see.

    Last year we had no deep threat, having those two on the field at the same would most certainly open things up underneath for others like Daniels, Robinson, Koyack, Prosise, Carlisle, & Hunter, as well as taking some of
    the pressure off the running game.

    I also had the feeling that over the past few years that the coaching staff was asking a few selected players if they would give punt and kick-off returns a try.

    Hopefully the battle for more playing time by the Wide Receivers will spill over to a health competition for kick / punt returner
    on special teams.

    Competition is good, and having a good one for kick and punt returner may be the missing element that finally puts our return game over the top.

    [Reply]

  • bruce johnson commented on July 14th, 2014 at 10:31 am

    there are lots of ways to WIN

    todays clip

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qiAEeudOs8

    [Reply]

  • JackedDome commented on July 14th, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I really don’t know how this could be titled “Now or Never” in respect to Chris Brown. He was a lesser to never used receiver because of the deficiencies of Tommy Rees. IF he pays attention to what BK is laying down and runs the routes that Golson needs to move the ball, he will get the ball. 15 receptions isn’t stellar, thrown to 22 times is also very minimal. When the tight end has more catches than Chris Brown is thrown to it points to an offense that is centered on the short ball. Golson can throw 25-35 yards with accuracy…that changes everything. Chris is fast, Chris is always looking for the ball, Chris is reliant upon the QB. The Now or Never should be aimed at EG…

    [Reply]

  • Jerry Seppanen commented on July 15th, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Chris Brown wont have to play every down with the depth. Hope he breaks a
    long one against Rice so other teams will see it film and have to adjust.
    That will ,open things all the more.

    [Reply]

  • HURLS commented on July 15th, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    As Rodney King (LA) once said, “Can’t we all just get-along?”

    [Reply]

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