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January 23, 2013
Chris Brown stood a few rows up into the stands of Sun Life Stadium during Notre Dame's bowl media day. Barely 48 hours later he'd be back there on the field, hoping to be an X-factor during the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama.
Brown never got his hands on the ball during Notre Dame's 42-14 blowout loss as TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels combined for 13 catches for 205 yards as the Irish produced their first 100-yard receiver all season.
With All-American Tyler Eifert gone to the NFL, Notre Dame will need more triple-digit performances from its receivers next year. It won't be a surprise if Brown delivers at least one.
"I'm just looking for anything they want me to do," Brown said. "If they just ask me to go out there and block, that's what I'll do."
There might be some of that this spring for Brown, but his first full off-season under strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Longo doesn't figure to turn the 6-foot-2, 172-pound track athlete into the next Michael Floyd. Where Brown can help Notre Dame most is providing another deep threat within an offense craving them. Brown has posted a 10.51 in the 100 meters and is arguably Notre Dame's fastest player.
Daniels has proven to be a big-play receiver in spots, but the season's biggest catch went to Brown when he hauled in a 50-yard bomb from Everett Golson at Oklahoma that helped Notre Dame put the game away.
"I just remember how silent it was afterwards," Brown said. "That's the feeling. I guess it was a good thing. I felt like once the DB turned his hip out (at the start of the play) like as if I was going to go outside, I felt like I had him beaten.
"It's been great, just coming in and working hard every day, it's been great."
Brown made just one other catch all season, a six-yard reception against Wake Forest.
Notre Dame's other two freshman receivers, Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson, combined for two catches for four yards.
That's not the rookie production many expected with an open receiver depth chart, but the three-man class should see its opportunities expand next season with John Goodman and Robby Toma gone, along with Eifert. That departing trio combined for 81 catches, 1,096 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Eifert departure could open the door for Neal as the slot receiver position steps forward and two tight end sets become less of a strength. Notre Dame started back-up tight end Troy Niklas more than Toma last season. The Irish also opened with three tight ends in the championship game.
Brown believes he'll enter spring practice both stronger physically and cleaner in his fundamentals after Notre Dame's long bowl layoff that let him sweat the small stuff in December.
"We were able to focus on more technique stuff and just getting better opposed to game plan stuff, so it was a good experience," Brown said. "Just becoming a complete all-around receiver, physically, all the things can improve.
"I'd say that's what the off-season's for and I'm going to take full advantage of it."
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