Matt Cashore / Irishillustrated.com

ND A-to-Z: Justin Brent

The enigmatic junior has three seasons of eligibility remaining but time is nonetheless of the essence if he is to make an impact wearing the blue and gold.

A four-star prospect and Scout.com’s 64th-ranked player overall in the 2014 recruiting class, Justin Brent was the second among 23 freshmen to commit to head coach Brian Kelly during the cycle. Primarily a running back at Speedway Senior HS (Speedway, IN) as a senior, Brent was nonetheless the nation’s 11th-ranked wide receiver prospect per Scout.com

After appearing in 11 games as a true freshman in 2014, Brent took a redshirt season as a sophomore – one of three members of his class to do so last fall.

Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s roster continues with Brent who enters his second off-season as a running back for position coach Autry Denson.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
Brent earns roles on three or four Irish “Run Teams” (kickoff and punt coverage and return) and is thus considered for playing time from scrimmage as a result.

With his athleticism and ability to contribute both from the backfield and as a wide receiver, Brent could earn a rotation role in either regard as the season progresses.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
His lack of focus and consistent dedication to his craft continues to plague his Irish career and as a result, Brent plays sparingly – or not at all, as was the case last season. The Irish are well stocked with talent at both running back and wide receiver though the latter collection is unproven.

If Brent doesn’t make inroads as a junior he’s likely headed for scout team duties as a senior as well and the extra season of eligibility will be rendered moot.

CAREER COMPARISON
Aside from classmate Corey Holmes?

Like Holmes, Brent doesn’t have a statistic (rush, reception, or tackle) to his credit, but Holmes enters summer 2016 as a lead candidate to start in the slot while Brent’s prospects for playing time remain muddled.

Brent’s future Irish playing career – and it’s relevant to note that he has three seasons of eligibility remaining – is likely to take one of the three following tracks:

  1. That of 1994 athlete/prospect Leon Blunt, who after earning a freshman season monogram as a quarterback and flanker, later transferred from the university despite shining in his second spring session.
  2. Fellow four-star wide receiver Deion Walker, a 2011 Notre Dame graduate who never carved a niche but finished his playing career at Massachusetts as a graduate student.
  3. South Bend native Daniel Smith, who like Brent, earned only special teams duties prior to his junior season but thereafter evolved into a quality backup wide receiver – especially as a perimeter blocker – while remaining a key cog on the Irish run teams.

DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
Is this a trick question?

BRENT AT HIS BEST
Senior Day 2014 vs. Louisville – buoyed by the aggressive style of the late Greg Bryant, Brent executes a key block to spring his classmate for a 61-yard punt return to the shadow of the Cardinals goal line.

Brent comes into your picture near the Louisville 40-yard line: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiKJnQyBetA

QUOTE TO NOTE
“There are very few tall guys that you can say are natural running backs. That’s in regards to being able to bend your pads. CJ (Prosise) had that (issue); he experienced that all year. It’s a little bit different and naturally harder for a 6’1” guy than it is for a 5’9” guy that’s built with leverage. Learning to get behind your pads and not take shots.” – RB coach Autry Denson when asked about Brent this spring.


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