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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 12 DJ Brown, sophomore cornerback-turned-safety

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 13 Notre Dame Spring Game

SOUTH BEND, IN - APRIL 13: Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive back DJ Brown (12) battles with in action during the Notre Dame Football Blue and Gold Spring game on April 13, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Listed Measurements: 6-foot-⅜, 192 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Brown has four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: A springtime move from cornerback to safety left Brown in the two-deep … for now. Notre Dame has its starters in seniors Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott. Behind them, only Brown and sophomore Derrik Allen were on the roster until freshmen Kyle Hamilton and Litchfield Ajavon arrived in the summer.Recruiting: Indecision prolonged Brown’s cycle and led to an eventual flip. The consensus three-star prospect had long been committed to Virginia, but he did not put figurative pen to technological paper during the early signing period. That led to the Under Armour All-American cornerback reopening his recruitment and eventually picking the Irish over Cal and Northwestern while holding offers from Clemson, Ohio State and South Carolina.

Brown appeared only in the Wake Forest blowout as a freshman. Entering the spring, he was prepped for a shift to safety partly because Irish head coach Brian Kelly considered Brown a safety possibility during his recruitment and partly because Notre Dame expected safety Devin Studstill to transfer. That foresight and Studstill’s departure led to Brown’s cross-training at both defensive backfield positions becoming a safety-specific spring.

Brown finished up the spring with five tackles in the Blue-Gold Game.

The move from cornerback to safety may not seem a complex one, but Brown will have plenty of time to settle into his new position while Gilman and Elliott headline the backline.

“Brown has made a lot of strides since we’ve made him a safety,” Kelly said in mid-March. “He really stands out with his athletic ability. We have to see how the other part of his game comes together when we fit him into our run fits and start to play 11-on-11 football, but when we talk about 7-on-7, 1-on-1, the individual drills, he looks really good, looks fluid.

“... We feel really good about him on the hash as a pass defender. Now we have to see where he fits in the run game when things get to 11-on-11. He has stood out for us.”

“It would take a disastrous preseason from junior Donte Vaughn to otherwise vault Brown (or any of the freshmen corners) into a consistent contributing role.

“Brown will inevitably see some time on special teams, the question being if it is in only four games and preserves a year of eligibility or if it is season-long. Only time will tell how Notre Dame handles such situations moving forward with the new possibilities presented by this NCAA change.”

In some ways, Brown’s shift to safety lessens his chances of making an immediate impact. Notre Dame has questions at cornerback — who lines up opposite senior Troy Pride; who becomes the starting nickel back — while Gilman and Elliott very much have things stable at safety.

That said, the Irish need support behind the two seniors, support that did not exist a year ago. They played nearly every meaningful snap last season. There simply was no trusted relief. Nick Coleman was needed to work at nickel; Studstill was not seen as viable. Allen, Brown and perhaps Hamilton are expected to change that by Labor Day (48 days).

If Brown can remain a second-stringer this preseason, most notably holding off Hamilton, then those reserve snaps could be his despite moving to a new role in March.

Elliott will use up his eligibility this year while Gilman is likely to head to the NFL, as well. That will open up two starting roles for Brown, Allen, Hamilton and Ajavon to compete for beginning next spring. Of the group, Brown was the lowest-rated recruit, but he has a headstart in strength and conditioning on the freshman duo, giving him a chance.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver
No. 16: K.J. Wallace, freshman defensive back, three-star
No. 15 Isaiah Rutherford, freshman defensive back, consensus four-star
No. 15: Phil Jurkovec, sophomore quarterback
No. 14: Kyle Hamilton, freshman safety, consensus four-star
No. 13: Lawrence Keys, sophomore receiver
No. 13: Paul Moala, sophomore safety-turned-linebacker