Notre Dame 2012: The Time Has Come for Jalen Brown to Answer the Bell

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 21, 2012

Apr. 21, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back George Atkinson III (4) is tackled by cornerback Lo Wood (23) and cornerback Josh Atkinson (43) in the second quarter of the spring game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

News of the Lo Wood injury in South Bend came as a devastating blow to the Fighting Irish's tangible experience in the secondary.

As the Chicago Tribune reported, the experienced cornerback will miss the 2012 season with an Achilles injury. Brian Kelly confirmed that Wood ruptured his Achilles' tendon and will miss the year, as Brian Hamilton reported:

#NotreDame HC Brian Kelly confirms Lo Wood ruptured Achilles tendon, out for season. Surgery Wednesday.

— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) August 21, 2012

The loss of Wood reopens the biggest issue for Brain Kelly and his staff on the defensive side of the ball, the cornerback position.

Here at Your Best 11, we hit on the cornerback battle back in May:

Now, with Lo Wood gone, the time has come for the most interesting player in the Notre Dame secondary to step to the front. Jalen Brown, the tall, long, rangy, physically imposing cornerback who spent a season on the scout team last year, is going to get his number called for the Fighting Irish.

While there are other names with an opportunity to grab the spot, KeiVarea Russell, Elijah Shumate and Josh Atkinson will have a shot, Brown is the name folks should get excited about.

Physically, Brown is ready to be the man. He's got those traits that coaches are looking for in their new cornerbacks. Long, rangy athletes that have the fluidity to handle receivers changing directions and the size to be a force on the line of scrimmage and a player in the run game.

2012 was supposed to be about Brown transitioning and growing into the role through some spot play and an increasing role as the season progressed.

Now, with Lo Wood out, the process is accelerated. Brown has to be ready to play now because the Fighting Irish definitely need him. Brown's a high-ceiling player, a guy that will be pressed into action and someone the Irish most certainly need to succeed. As Brian Kelly told the News-Sentinel:

“They are getting better,” Kelly said. “They are playing the ball, they are assignment-correct, they are graded every day after practice and they are grading out higher.”

Brown developed through last season after having to cover All-American wide receiver Michael Floyd each day in practice.

“We're getting Jalen a lot more reps,” Kelly said. “These guys have to mature and develop, and they are getting the opportunity to.”

There is promise there for the Fighting Irish. It is up to Jalen Brown to walk through that window of opportunity and he most certainly has the talent to capitalize.