Chris Brown arrived at Notre Dame four years ago as a better triple jumper than a wide receiver. The South Carolina product ranked as the nation’s best in that track event as a high school junior when he broke his home state’s 32-year old record with a 51-foot, 2.5-inch jump.
Now entering his final season at Notre Dame, Brown finally has a chance to mature into more than a dual sport athlete trying to specialize in football. Even at a wiry 195 pounds, Brown is no longer the wispy receiver who looked like he could get blown away by nickname, Breezy.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z look at Notre Dame’s roster continues with the senior wide out.
Brown emerges as a true No. 2 receiver in the mold of DaVaris Daniels, who posted 46 catches for 720 yards and five touchdowns in his final season. The high end for Brown feels like Rhema McKnight’s fifth-year when he put up 67 catches for 907 yards. No one is suggesting Brown match McKnight’s 15 receiving touchdowns that season, but getting halfway to that figure feels possible with a few good breaks.
The quarterback uncertainty leaves Brown out of sync with both Everett Golson and Malik Zaire as the Irish move to more of a run-first offense. While that could be a good move for the program, it might not suit a speed receiver who doesn’t have the natural blocking ability of Corey Robinson or Justin Brent. It’s hard to see that happening, though, and harder to see Brown not being an integral part of the mix. If Brown doesn’t have a big senior year it’s more likely that Robinson exploded than there being any kind of scheme change.
Through three seasons, Brown’s stats (56 receptions, 813 yards, 2 TDs) match up with David Grimes in catches (55-579-4) and Duval Kamara in yardage (75-781-6). Grimes went on for a complementary senior season almost identical to his sophomore and junior years. Kamara’s career fell off the table as a senior when he was suspended for the bowl game and struggled academically.
A consensus three-star prospect among the four recruiting services, Brown has lived up to that billing. He had offers from South Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, among others. But those were the best of Brown’s options before he committed during September of his senior season. While he hasn’t had a spectacular career in South Bend, he’s more than hit the three-star threshold.
The first catch of Brown’s career remains his best and represents his biggest single-game impact. That 50-yard bomb at Oklahoma came in a tie game with barely eight minutes remaining, helping blow open the contest that announced Notre Dame and national title contenders. That’s tough to beat. There won’t be any shame if Brown never does.
“I feel like I’m really consistent on third down. In addition to being able to blow the top off, I feel like my ability to get in and out of breaks has improved so much. Just being able to consistently do that now brings another element to it.” – Chris Brown during spring practice