The Curious Case of Sergio Brown

It’s that time of year. Spring football is right around the corner and the message boards are a buzz with roster movement and depth chart speculation. People can’t help themselves. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and its all we got right now.

I generally try to stay away from printing out any type of depth chart or starter projection-type material. In this era of football, more players are playing due to both sides of the ball using many different formations and packages. So instead of pinpointing 22 guys as “starters”, I have instead pointed to 35-36 players of impact. These are players that will contribute heavily to the team. Sergio Brown is certainly one of those players, but could he be more?

If you ask around the Notre Dame locker room, “Who is the best athlete on the team?” More times than not, Sergio Brown would be the answer, and it has been for the last couple of years.

Last spring, Brown competed against Kyle McCarthy for the strong safety spot that opened up after the departure of 4 year starter Tom Zbikowski. McCarthy won that position battle and it bore fruit after Kyle led the team in tackles in 2008 with 110 and also had 2 interceptions. It was a very solid performance- that also had me yawning. Where were the big plays? Granted, Kyle did make some very big tackles that helped the team. However, it was done so quietly and 10-20 yards past the line of scrimmage, that it looked effortless.

After spring ball, the designated starters at defensive back were pretty much decided. These are the players that fell into the slots:

  • CB- Darrin Walls
  • CB- Terrail Lambert
  • FS- David Bruton
  • SS- Kyle McCarthy
  • Nickel- Raeshon McNeil
  • Dime- Gary Gray

Oh, how things change- and quickly at that. After Walls, the most talented defensive back on the roster, left school for personal reasons it opened up a huge hole. That hole got filled by Raeshon McNeil, but like a submarine taking on water, another hole opened up. The lineup soon looked like this:

  • CB- Raeshon McNeil
  • CB- Terrail Lambert
  • FS- David Bruton
  • SS- Kyle McCarthy
  • Nickel- Sergio Brown
  • Dime- Gary Gray

It didn’t take long for this lineup to get tampered with either. Robert Blanton started kicking down the door from the day he stepped on campus and he soon got a lot of playing time. At first it was Gary Gray rotating in with Lambert and occasionally McNeil. Then, Blanton took over the role that Gray was occupying as the season wore on.

As we roll into spring football for 2009, we see the same type of battles that must take place to decide the participants. With Walls back, and the emergence of Robert Blanton the lineup will definitely be shook up- but is it the right shake up. Enter Sergio Brown.

After playing on special teams in his first two seasons and racking up a colossal 11 tackles, Brown stepped onto the stage in a huge way for the Irish at the Nickel position from game one last year. He was an effective blitzer and terrific in coverage. He showed great athleticism and playmaking ability and in my opinion- he proved himself to be able to contend for the SS spot once again. He deserves it, and keep in mind that this is his last year of eligibility. (That last part sucks balls).

I just feel that Brown brings more to the table than McCarthy. I like Kyle, but I also like safeties that make big plays. I’m not sure if Kyle can do it or can’t do it, but I am sure that Sergio has more of the tools needed to make those big plays.

In today’s game, we see more and more defenses having to move towards using the nickel package as somewhat of a base defense against spread teams. Spread teams are multiplying. So, the nickel is just as important as the SS for the most part. My ideal setup for the defensive backs in a nickel formation looks like this:

  • CB- Darrin Walls
  • CB- Raeshon McNeil
  • FS- Harrison Smith
  • SS- Sergio Brown
  • Nickel- Robert Blanton

We can argue about the Blanton/McNeil battle at a later time. By now, the McCarthy brothers and fan club are ready to tear my ass apart, but we have to be honest with ourselves. You could at least pencil Kyle in as the Dime- but I keep hearing that the staff is very high on Jamoris Slaughter too. Uh, oh…

By now, if you’re still reading this, you are probably wondering if I am moving towards some type of point or closing argument. Perhaps. But I think I have made it clear already. Sergio Brown is an exciting and athletic player and in my opinion- he should be starting at the SS spot. This puts our defensive backfield in better situations to make the big play. McCarthy led the team in tackles last year with 110, so I can understand that some people may be hesitant to accept this fact, but we should. A safety shouldn’t be making that many tackles anyways.

This is the “Curious Case of Sergio Brown,” but in essence it is also the ” Curious Case of the Secondary.” What do we do with what is the most talented defensive backfield the Irish have had in a very long time? In my opinion, we go with the playmakers and let them make plays, and somehow that all revolves around Mr. Brown.

9 Responses to “The Curious Case of Sergio Brown”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t agree that Brown is better in coverage than McCarthy. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I would bet that McCarthy had more pics (granted he was probably on the field more) and I remember Brown getting burned for a td by SDSU and other blown coverages. However, he is a tremendous athlete. I wouldn’t mind seeing Harrison Smith stay with the linebackers and seeing Brown fill Bruton’s free safety spot. There’s no way you can bench McCarthy after the year he had.

    San Diego Irish

  2. SubwayDomer26 Says:

    McCarthy didn’t really cover anyone. Brown was used as a nickel and that falls into more one-on-one coverage. Kyle had more picks because of the 2-deep zone and the fact that he was on the field more. Every DB gets burned for a TD now and then- that’s the business. “Other blown coverages” doesn’t mean much to me. Neither you or i even know waht coverage would have been called.

    Brown has way more potential to make the big play, and Smith would fill the role of the safety rolling up.

    You wouldn’t be benching him, but his year wasn’t that great. Our linebackers didn’t tackle- so he did. It was a very good year though, but i think he has hit the ceiling and Brown still has his rocket boosters on.

    Thanks for your opinion. Keep in mind (everyone) that these are only that- opinions.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I didn’t mean blown coverage, as in he was covering the wrong part of the field or the wrong guy, I mean he got burned–poor choice of words on my part. As far as big plays go, they go both ways. Defensive players that make big plays, tend to give them up also. After the Zibby years (loved the big plays when they worked) I kind of like having someone safe and reliable in that position.

  4. Ted Says:

    SD, great to see some objective analysis. McCarthy is a liability in coverage. Can not tell you how many times he was late to get to the receiver. Added to his tackle total, but opponents picked up first downs. I really hope we upgrade SS position this year. It is the weakest spot in the secondary.

  5. Irish PB&K Says:

    I agree that Serg should be on the field more he is a TREMENDOUS athlete and plays with attitude,intensity and swagger from whistle to whistle (something the rest of the guys need to do ala miami ’88-’89)but could not help but notice Subway Domer you left Gary Gray off your ideal nickel package. This piece should be titled the curious case of Gary G. I believe he is the most underrated DB we got. He is a major ball hawk and spent 1/2 the time on the field that kyle and Serg did and managed to equal them in interceptions and he is clearly faster and better with the ball after the catch than both of them. Just watch his Int return againt 08Michigan and 08 USC. So Subway I ask you why can’t Gary Gray get any love from the Irish faithful? Why does a guy with 3 Ints in limited playtime get lost in the mix.

  6. SubwayDomer26 Says:

    Gray was passed on the depth chart by Robert Blanton. I agree that Gray could be a great cover corner, but he has turned himself into an everydown corner- yet. It will be hard for Gary to make up lost ground to Blanton, McNeil, and even Slaughter while missing the entire spring.

    This whole conversation is amazing. The depth in the defensive backfield for 2009 is one of the best in the country. 2010 may see a decline, especially as far as the safety spot goes.

  7. valpodoc Says:

    The best part is these guys were plugging holes in a leeking DL last year. I don’t think we ever saw them live up to potential as a result. Give us beefed up DL and a few good linebackers and the true potential will be revealed

  8. Whiskey Says:

    It is a nice problem to have. I expect Walls will reclaim his role as the primary corner. I also think Charlie has a tendency to play "his guys" and unfortunately for Sergio I think McCarthy falls into that category much like Crum did. McCarthy will be the starter as a 5th year. That leaves the rest of those guys in the mix for FS, the other corner position and Nickel back. I think Harrison Smith will end up being the starting FS and Blanton will end up claiming the 2nd corner spot. Sergio will spell McCarthy like McCarthy spelled Zibby in 07' as well as being the Nickel Back & special teams guru. McNeil and Gray (assuming he makes it back) will backup Walls & Blanton. Just my opinion but that's the way I see it shaking out.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Kyle should not be making so many tackles, but thank God his is because our front seven was weak. I like Sergio and I think he will share time with Harrison as he reacquaints himself to safety.

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