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Mike Brown: Potential Upsides, Downsides, and Looking Forward

Written by Connor Regan|Writer|Twitter/X: @ConnorReganIT

Photo via Wisonsin Athletics

After parting ways with Chansi Stuckey and losing 4 wide receivers to the busier-than-ever transfer portal, head coach Marcus Freeman seems to have found his next wide receivers coach in relatively short order. Although nothing has been confirmed, reports point to current Wisconsin Badgers assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Mike Brown.

Connor D'Aquila of The Irish Tribune reported Mike Brown as a potential option for the coaching vacancy days before any substantive rumors leaked. Brown was also considered for the position two years ago, before Chansi Stuckey was ultimately hired. If all goes to plan and Brown does indeed join the Irish, it's unclear when he would formally assume the role. It's plausible Brown will coach for Wisconsin in their bowl matchup against Brian Kelly's #13 LSU Tigers and only leave the team once their season has concluded.

Let's examine what Mike Brown would bring to the Irish offensive coaching staff and the kind of situation he would inherit.

Mike Brown's Timeline

  • 2008-2011 - Brown had a solid collegiate career, playing all four years at Liberty University from 2008-2011, where he played both QB and WR. He finished his college career with 6,072 passing yards, 45 touchdown passes, 1,875 rushing yards, and 29 rushing touchdowns, earning him 2 Big South Offensive Player of The Year awards.

  • 2012-2015 - Despite not being drafted, Brown went on to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he converted to wide receiver and posted 39 catches for 534 receiving yards and two touchdowns between 2012-2014. Brown was ultimately released by the Carolina Panthers in 2015, concluding his professional career.

  • 2016 - Brown begins his coaching career at The University of Michigan as a graduate assistant.

  • 2017 - Brown then moved to The University of Delaware as a graduate assistant.

  • 2018 - Brown became the running backs coach at his alma mater, Liberty University.

  • 2019-2022 - The University of Cincinnati

    • In his biggest move yet, Brown took the wide receivers coaching position alongside head coach Luke Fickell at Cincinnati in 2019.

    • During the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Brown worked alongside then defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Marcus Freeman.

    • While at Cincinnati, Brown also worked alongside current Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugil.

    • Guidugil was the quarterbacks coach in 2019 and was promoted to passing game coordinator in 2020. Once Guidugil was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2022, Luke Fickell promoted Brown to passing game coordinator alongside his wide receivers coach role.

    • In 2021, Brown joined the Bearcats on a trip to South Bend, where they upset the Irish 24-13 and ultimately secured their first-ever trip to the College Football Playoff.

    • By the end of his 4 years with Cincinnati, the Bearcats won 42 games, and Brown sent 3 wide receivers to the NFL, 2nd round pick Alec Pierce in 2022, 3rd round pick Tre Tucker in 2023, and 4th round pick Tyler Scott in 2023.

  • 2023 - The University of Wisconsin

    • Brown followed Luke Fickell to Wisconsin and assumed the titles of assistant head coach and wide receivers coach.

    • The Badgers started strong with a 5-2 record but finished the season with a disappointing 7-5 record. They currently await the LSU Tigers in the ReliaQuest Bowl on January 1st 2024.

    • Wisconsin's passing offense was noticeably weak in 2023, using two different QBs and finishing 88th in the country at 207 passing yards per game, worse than Notre Dame's underwhelming 50th-ranked passing offense with 248 yards per game.

    • The Badgers also posted a woeful passing efficiency of 113.98, which ranked 115 of 130 teams.

What Mike Brown Stands To Inherit

As of this moment, Notre Dame has lost 12 players to the transfer portal, 4 of which were wide receivers;

  1. Senior - Chris Tyree

  2. Sophomore - Tobias Merriweather

  3. Freshman - Braylon James

  4. Freshman - Rico Flores Jr.

For what it's worth, the biggest hit the existing wide receivers core took was the loss of the freshman claass leading Rico Flores Jr. Despite this loss, the Irish retain a solid core of young talent, along with some returning experience and incoming potential.

  1. Experience

    1. Jayden Thomas - Junior - 4 Star

    2. Deion Colzie - Junior - 4 Star

  2. 2023 Freshman Class

    1. Jaden Greathouse - 4 Star

    2. Jordan Faison - Walk-On

    3. KK Smith- 3 Star

  3. 2024 Incoming Class

    1. Cam Williams - 5 Star

    2. Micah Gilbert - 4 Star

    3. Logan Saldate - 4 Star

Despite not yet being confirmed, incoming Freshman talents Cam Williams and Logan Saldate have both reiterated their intent to join the Irish next season in the face of Mike Brown's rumored arrival, providing a level of encouragement all Notre Dame fans could appreciate.

In addition to the primary 5 existing receivers and the 3 incoming freshmen, the Irish will need to make some serious waves in the transfer pool to make up for their departing receivers. Realistically, Notre Dame will look to bring in 2-4 more receivers with as much experience as possible to give Brown something to work with early on in 2024. Thankfully, the Irish have already had 3 wide receivers visit campus, one of which has already committed.

  • Kris Mitchell - FIU - 6'1 - Committed

    • 2023 Stats

      • 64 Receptions

      • 1,118 Yards

      • 7 TD's

  • Josh Kelly - WSU - 6'1 - Visited

    • 2023 Stats

      • 61 Receptions

      • 923 Yards

      • 8 TDs

  • Beaux Collins - Clemson - 6'3 - Visited

    • 2023 Stats

      • 38 Receptions

      • 510 Yards

      • 3 TDs

The Potential Downsides

There are 4 main concerns about Mike Brown potentially becoming the new wide receiver coach:

  1. What some see as the biggest downside of bringing in Brown, others see as a plus: the Cincinnati pedigree. It's well known that the Brian Kelly and Luke Fickell Cincinnati coaching trees are, without a doubt, two of the most prolific in the last decade and a half, and Notre Dame is filled to the brim with products of this system. Some critics see hiring another "friend" of Marcus Freeman as a potential issue due to the struggles of the underwhelming 2023 offense led by former Cincinnati staff Gered Parker and quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli.

  2. Wisconsin's rough offensive performance in 2023 and Brown's substantial role in that system pose a concern and calls into question his ability to thrive in a passing coordinator role in addition to a wide receiver coach position at a major program.

  3. One of Marcus Freeman's hallmark attributes is his excellent recruiting, and this commitment to recruiting extends to his staff, mainly his position coaches. With this in mind, many have pointed out that Brown isn't necessarily considered a recruiting wizard like Freeman, and in his 3 complete recruiting cycles with Cincinnati, Brown only managed to help bring in one 4-star receiver and five 3-star receivers. Additionally, while at Wisconsin, the Badgers only had one 4-star receiver commit in its 2024 class, Kyan Berry-Johnson.

  4. In a situation where receivers are leaving, there's currently no coach, and several transfers are needed, bringing in a big-name candidate would be the best move to prevent any further bleeding in the wide receiver room, to attract some big names or even steal a key receiver or two from another school should their coach leave. Some believe Brown doesn't have a big enough name at the moment to accomplish this.

The Potential Upsides

There are many reasons to see this potential hire as a positive thing.

  1. Brown stands to inherit a solid remaining core of receivers who want to be at Notre Dame and have made a conscious decision not to transfer.

  2. The incoming freshman receivers class of Cam Williams, Micah Gilbert, and Logan Saldate are excited and committed to the team and playing for Brown if he is indeed picked to succeed Stuckey.

  3. If the Irish continue at their current pace, they'll bring in several experienced transfer receivers who can partner with rising seniors Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas to lead the young Irish receiving core.

  4. Brown would already be quite familiar with the 8 members of Notre Dame's staff who have roots in the Cincinnati coaching tree (Freeman, Parker, Guidugli, McCullough, Mickens, Washington, Bowen, & Bullough).

  5. Brown has helped to put 3 receivers into the NFL in his 5 years as a wide receiver coach, all three coming from Cincinnati, proving his ability to take talent from a smaller caliber school to both the heights of college football and ultimately, the highest level. Imagine what he can do at a place like Notre Dame with blue-chip talent at his fingertips from day one.

  6. Marcus Freeman had already looked to bring Brown onto his Notre Dame staff before ultimately hiring Chansi Stuckey for the 2022 season. Having seen him perform in Cincinnati as both a position coach and a recruiter, Freeman trusts Brown and seems to want to work with him again.

  7. Brown has displayed his ability to easily incorporate transfers into the pass game and rotation while at Wisconsin, using 4 in his first season with the Badgers. Transfer Will Pauling led the team in catches with 66 for 694 yards and 4 touchdowns. Brown should have no issues fully utilizing the likes of Kris Mitchell and whoever else rounds out Notre Dame's receiver transfer class.

  8. Brown's successful wide receivers have primarily been speedsters, including Pauling at the slot, and this could bode particularly well for the Irish, who may have a glut of speedy talent at the slot in 2024.

  9. Judging Brown on his single season with Wisconsin would be a mistake. He inherited a particularly tough situation, and the Badgers struggled with injury, two quarterbacks, and a transition to a new air raid offense. Notre Dame is currently an objectively better situation than Wisconsin, and Brown would undoubtedly perform better with the Irish's comparatively stacked wide receiver room.

Moving Forward

If Mike Brown is added to Marcus Freeman's coaching staff for the 2024 season, it could signal a sizable change for both the wide receiver room's culture and the offense as a whole. Brown's current role at Wisconsin as a "pass game coordinator" and "assistant head coach" shows he's one of the most respected young coaching talents in college football today at only 34 years old, and the possibility that Notre Dame may be bringing him on as more than just a wide receiver coach.

The move from a prominent program like Wisconsin to Notre Dame would be somewhat lateral, unless he was promised a significant role in the passing game or assistant head coach responsibilities. Due to the criticism levied at Gered Parker's offense and its underwhelming performance this year, Freeman may likely have Parker share some play-calling responsibilities with Brown to prevent another disappointing year. Despite the specifics, the most important thing now is making sure the Irish choose the right candidate, and if that ends up being Mike Brown, making that decision formal and announcing it as soon as possible is of the utmost importance.


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De Nolf's Instagram: 

1 Comment

Dec 09, 2023

1. Any word on whether Mike Brown has officially snagged the wide receivers coach gig at Notre Dame?

2. So, what's the scoop on Mike Brown's coaching journey? Curious how his time at Cincinnati and Wisconsin might shape up for the Irish.

3. Losing four wide receivers to the transfer portal sounds like a bummer. How do you think that's gonna shake things up for Notre Dame's offense next season?

4. Heard some chatter about concerns regarding Mike Brown's recruiting mojo. What's your take on that, considering his coaching track record?

5. Those potential upsides you mentioned for Mike Brown joining Notre Dame sound promising. What aspect of his coaching style do you think could really amp up the wide…

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