NOTRE DAME — Chris Brown’s baptism into college football wasn’t a quiet ceremony in garbage time on the high end of a 30-point blowout.
Instead, It came on a crucial drive surrounded by the loudest away crowd Notre Dame played in front of all year.
Flashback to last October. Notre Dame was tied with then-No. 8 Oklahoma midway through the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Everett Golson dropped back on second-and-two, and the speedy Brown blew past the entire Sooner secondary to grab a 50-yard pass and put Notre Dame in position to score 17 unanswered points.
Brown caught only one other pass that season, a six-yard grab in the shutout against Wake Forest, but still generated plenty of buzz around the program. But while flat-out foot speed can catch secondaries off-guard on occasion, a handful of failed attempts at replicating the big play connection between Golson and Brown proved that the former track star had to bring more to the offense.
“I realized that I was almost one-dimensional receiver last year, so I had to expand myself as a receiver,” Brown said
Brown spent the offseason sharpening the tools that would make him a better-rounded receiver. He consulted veterans TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels and Daniel Smith.
Daniels, who was in Brown’s shoes a year ago as a sophomore looking to make an impact on the offense, likes what he saw from the young receiver.
“He’s way more confident,” Daniels said of Brown. “He knows what he’s doing now.”
Even after what head coach Brian Kelly called a “just OK” camp for Brown, the sophomore emerged as Notre Dame’s third starting receiver for the opening game against Temple on Saturday, Aug. 31.
Kelly, typically a coach who will play up any player mentioned in press conferences, turned a few heads when he gave Brown’s preseason camp performance a lukewarm review.
“We expect a little bit more consistency from Chris,” Kelly said. “He’s got great talent. He really worked hard this summer. I was really pleased with his summer work. He put on weight. He got to the level that we wanted him physically. Now we want to see a consistency out of him.”
Kelly said demanding consistency from second-year players is nothing new within the program, in fact it’s his number one critique throughout the team. Brown has a chance to prove that he’s more than just a blip on a highlight reel on Saturday in what will be his first college start.
“We think he’s got such a high ceiling,” Kelly said. “I mean, we think he can be a terrific football player. ... He has flashes where you go, ‘Wow,’ and then you go, ‘What was that?’ So he’s at that point now going into year two with us that we’re looking for that consistent performance week in and week out.”