Friday morning Notre Dame learned that defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola was returning for a 5th year. Friday night, the Irish learned that another key defender from the 2021 squad was returning for a 5th year when safety DJ Brown announced his return.
Brown’s 2021 season was bookended by a pair of poor outings that mare an otherwise strong senior campaign. First, against Florida State in the opener, Brown missed an open-field tackle that resulted in an 89-yard touchdown. Then, he ended the season with a missed open-field tackle in the Fiesta Bowl, leading to a touchdown. In between, Brown tied for the team lead in interceptions with Kyle Hamilton (3) though we all know Hamilton really had four since he was robbed of one against Toledo by the replay booth.
Coming into the 2021 season, Brown only had 15 career tackles. He ended the year with 42, including his first career tackle for loss.
Brown joins fellow safety Houston Griffith in returning for a fifth year. They return to a safety room that lost Hamilton to the NFL but will also include Ramon Henderson and Xavier Watts, who both transitioned to safety during the season. They could also be joined by Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph who is visiting Notre Dame this weekend. The former All-American would immediately elevate the talent in a safety room that is heavy on experience and potential but not necessarily star power at the moment.
When Hamilton went down against USC, Brown started the North Carolina and Navy games but moved back into his pre-Hamilton injury status with the emergence of Henderson and Watts against Virginia.
Brown still has two years of eligibility remaining because of the free COVID year in 2020. He only played in one contest as a freshman in 2018.
Should Joseph ultimately transfer to Notre Dame, how the safety rotation works out will be interesting to watch now that Brown and Griffith are returning. A few weeks back, most would have guessed that only one of the two would be back in 2022.