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Irish A-to-Z: Jalen Brown

May 29, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT

Jalen Brown Carlo Calabrese

Signed out of one of the premiere high school football conferences in Texas, Notre Dame thought they had found a below-the-radar talent when they inked Jalen Brown. He had the length Brian Kelly and Bob Diaco coveted at cornerback. He ran a 10.8 100-meter dash, bringing in speed that the Irish desperately needed.

But entering his senior season, Brown has yet to make much of an impact for the Irish. Faced with a secondary filled with younger players that have passed him on the depth chart, Brown is a senior with a fifth year of eligibility remaining, though if he remains in the background it won’t happen in South Bend.

Let’s take a closer look at Jalen Brown:


6’0.5″, 202 lbs.
Senior, No. 21



Brown certainly garnered some impressive offers, with the Irish beating out Arizona, Kansas State, Nebraska and Texas A&M for his services. But Brown didn’t have offers from Oklahoma, Texas or TCU, maybe a predictor that he wasn’t quite as good as the Irish staff hoped.

But the Irish staff saw Brown as a terrific developmental prospect, and listening to their rationale it’s difficult to disagree.

Here’s Brian Kelly from Signing Day 2011:

“We love his length at the corner position,” Kelly said. “We believe he’s the guy that’s just going to continue to develop and grow and be stronger. He’s a 10.8 100 guy right now. And he really has not engaged in the weight room yet.
So a couple of things that are unique. We believe that this guy is destined for great things. And if you want to put a tag on anybody in a class, here’s a steal in our opinion.”

Kelly specifically mentioned Brown’s ability to be a Cover 2 corner, something the Irish were trying to collect to play in Diaco’s system. For a staff that recruited to a specific profile, Brown certainly checked a lot of the right boxes.



Freshman Season (2011): Did not see game action, redshirted.

Sophomore Season (2012): Saw the field in seven games. Made three total tackles, two unassisted. Chipped in one pass defended against Wake Forest.

Junior Season (2013): Played in two games, against Michigan and Air Force. Did not contribute statistically.



It’s hard to see much of it for Brown, with KeiVarae Russell, Cody Riggs, Cole Luke and Devin Butler all working ahead of him in the rotation. The shift of Matthias Farley to slot cornerback also doesn’t bode well for playing time either.

But Brown has been given a blank slate with the hiring of Brian VanGorder, and he spent spring practice working at a position that was missing two major contributors with Riggs still at Florida and Butler healing from shoulder surgery.

Brown joins Josh Atkinson as seniors just outside the two deep. It’s an enviable situation for the health of a program, and shows that a staff is recruiting better and better personnel.



There’s nothing that points to Brown being more than a reserve in his senior season at Notre Dame. And with a roster filled with fifth year dilemmas, I’d expect the Irish to recruit aggressively and take another commitment instead of keeping Brown as a fifth year backup (unless he makes an unseen leap forward).

Brown’s road to the field looks difficult, especially if he was recruited to play a Cover 2 scheme. It’s hard to project him as a special teams option, otherwise he’d have been one of the bodies helping a unit that badly needed it last year. I expect Brown to move on from Notre Dame after 2014, whether it be with his degree and into the real world or to a program like Chuck Martin’s at Miami (Ohio).

In our limited viewings of Brown, it’s tough to say what his ceiling is as a football player. But with one of the most talented cornerback depth charts we’ve seen in decades at Notre Dame, I doubt we’ll get to see much of it this fall.



The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown

  1. sfnd - May 29, 2014 at 3:31 PM


    Thank you for not sugar-coating your analysis of the players. The readers of this blog are ND fans and, I believe, wish each player success. We also appreciate honest assessments of their performances to date and likely contributions in the future. I am sure we would all celebrate Jalen B. having a breakout year with 4 INTs and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown but it seems unlikely.

  2. onward2victory - May 29, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    Strategically, I think the staff should try to get him some good playing time this year if at all possible. Just enough to keep him from transferring for his 5th year. With Riggs (and probably Russell) gone after this year, the corner position will be needing extra depth in 2015 and it could be nice to have a 5th year guy as a back up.

    • ibleedirish - May 29, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      You seem to be assigning more value to Jalen (as a football player) than any of the available data would indicate is appropriate. Any particular reason?

      It seems to me that keeping him on as a fifth year, just for supposed depth, at the expense of a young hungry freshman would be a disservice to the team and to Jalen himself.

      • onward2victory - May 29, 2014 at 9:31 PM

        Yah that’s a good point, I would rather have a freshman have his scholarship in 2015 too. But when was the last time we had 85 scholarships??

  3. yaketyyacc - May 30, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    good idea Keith, reviewing each player and doing so impartially.

  4. schuey73 - May 30, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    Keith. Just read that Josh Barajas decommitted from Penn State and committed to ND. Any truth to this?

    • simmel65 - May 30, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      Rivals just posted that too! Sweet!

    • dillonbigred - May 30, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      He is a great player, sounds like a good kid, and comes from a really good school. Andrean H.S. is 3 miles from me. The local paper reports that he changed his mind in part from family pressure. I sure hope he is really sold on ND, and not bowing to pressure, we’ll see.

  5. danirish - May 30, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Can he return punts/kickoffs?

  6. domerboyirish - May 30, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    We’re still on the letter B???!!!!!! Son of a B—-! I hate the off season!

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