Archive for the ‘Gary Gray’ Category

The Curious Case of Sergio Brown

March 6, 2009

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.

Carolina… Reunited

July 30, 2008

Today’s installment of Wu Am I? brings two of the Carolina’s finest sons…

Raeshon McNeil #8
6′ 0″ 187 lbs.
Mocksville, North Carolina
Wu-Name: Shaolin The Ill Figure
McNeil came to Notre Dame with the very highly touted class of 2006 along with another prospect at that position by the name of Darrin Walls. Since then, McNeil has always been overshadowed by Walls despite having a great Army All-American game and being a 4 star prospect as well.
This year is shaping up to be a big one for Raeshon. Before the news that Walls was leaving Notre Dame for the 2008 season, McNeil was figuring into mix as a nickel and dime back and was particularly intriguing as a blitzer out of the secondary. Now, McNeil must take on an even bigger role as the main competitor for Walls’ slot opposite of Terrail Lambert. He will have a lot of competition as ND is looking to still be in good shape at corner, but McNeil is at that breakout age of “Junior” and should have a lot to prove for this season and for 2009 as well.

Gary Gray #4
5’11” 185 lbs.
Columbia, South Carolina
Wu-Name: Big Baby The Grym Reaper
Gary was a big catch for the Irish for their incoming class of 2007. He was at one time a South Carolina commit, but as soon as his momma and himself reached ND’s campus he was all Irish. That statement was even bolder as he showed up to the Army All-American game with a Leprechaun carved into his hair on the back of his head.
The high hopes of Gary playing as a true freshman came to a halt in the Spring of 2007. Gary was an early enrollee in the Spring but was injured and prior to the start of fall camp, he underwent season ending shoulder surgery. He did practice with at full speed with the team in the fall and during spring practice for 2008, he was whispered to be the Fighting Irish’s best cover corner.
Gray, like McNeil, is in position for a big season after the Walls fallout. As he competes with McNeil over the starting spot on the other side of Lambert keep in mind that no matter which one of these two eventually wins the job of “starter”, they both will see ample playing time and both will be valuable assets in the Brown/Tenuta defense.