Brown's Growth Apparent in Junior Season

Statistics suggest that Notre Dame junior Chris Brown combined with quarterback Everett Golson for the receiver's first touchdown of the season last week against Stanford. Film review, and Brown's coaches, realize that's not the case.

Likewise, statistics show the speedster's first career score came last Oct. 26 in Colorado Springs (Co.) vs. Air Force.

Film, and Brown himself, feel otherwise.

Heretofore best-known to Irish fans as a deep-threat-in-waiting, one that dented Oklahoma for a crucial 50-yard post route in 2012, Brown has worked diligently since his arrival in South Bend to be something other than a one-trick pony.

"You want to be complete at anything you do," said Brown. "If I can spring a guy through for a touchdown, that's pretty much like I caught it."

It's what Brown did for Golson to conclude the first half against Purdue in Indianapolis this season, sealing his defender more than 17 yards downfield to allow the quarterback an unfettered sprint to pay dirt. And it's what Brown did two years ago for former Irish running back Cierre Wood on the latter's 68-yard Senior Day touchdown run vs. Wake Forest.

Then just 172 pounds, Brown battled and blocked his assigned defender, more than 50 yards down field. Wood scored untouched.

Last week vs. Stanford, Brown (now up to 195) added a little television glory to his film room resume. An untouched touchdown jaunt of his own.

"It was great getting one," said Brown of his first touchdown reception this season, a 17-yard catch-and-run on a crossing route vs. the Cardinal. "I've been looking to do my part. The team's getting wins and that's what we're here for."

Golson was in Brown's ear post-touchdown. The two engaged in an analysis of the play that was more corrective than congratulatory.

"We're just trying to run it perfectly, trying to make small adjustments to the play for future reference," Brown offered of the dual-teaching moment caught on camera. "That's us paying attention to the smallest details to try to get everything perfect, even though it was a successful play."

(Of note, the identical play was attempted again later in the contest and sailed incomplete. Work remains.)

Regardless, Brown likely would have been listening rather than discussing had such a conversation taken place in previous seasons. "I'm a lot more comfortable," said Brown. "Getting more comfortable, still, and making plays when they come my way."

The Next Step? More After the Catch

Through five games, Brown ranks fourth on the Irish in receptions (14) and third in pass targets (26). He's likewise fourth in receiving yards (153) and third in first downs gained through the air (9), while tying for the team lead in pass interferences/holds drawn (3).

(He's added three dropped passes, trailing only Will Fuller's four through five games.)

Among his 14 receptions are seven pass routes in which he was stopped with his back to the defense upon completion. A hitch route or something slimier -- vexing in that Brown's goal is to become much more dangerous after the catch.

"When it comes to YAC (yards-after-catch) I'm not the shiftiest guy, but when I get a 5-yard catch I"m trying to make it into (a big play)," Brown said. "I expect to turn (a hitch) into something good. That's how I go into every hitch, slant, or anything short."

Teams have consistently afforded Brown room off the snap to account for his well-documented speed. As a result, Brown has yet to hit a defense deep this season, dropping the farthest pass thrown to him, a perfectly placed skinny post from Golson against Michigan.

(Brown's longest gain this season occurred vs. Syracuse, a 23-yard down-and-out prior to halftime.)

It's been an adjustment, but one that has allowed Brown to work on a crucial aspect of his craft -- one that could pay off when he's challenged and has a chance to take a cornerback deep.

"That helps me (corners playing off). I'm forced to change speed and develop into a complete receiver," he said. "So when I do go for a deep route, I'll change up my speed and use different techniques."

This week's opponent, 2-3 North Carolina, ranks 103rd nationally in pass efficiency defense and has yielded almost 1,600 passing yards through five games. The Tar Heels last three foes have scored 70, 50, and 34 points, respectively. Opportunity, it appears, will knock.

"They're an athletic defense," said Brown. "We're treating them as if they're everyone else. Don't look past anyone."

And don't look past a player doing the little things to help his team reach 5-0.


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