Physically, Notre Dame freshman receiver Justin Brent looks ready to compete at the college level. But like any early-enrollee participating in his first spring practice, negotiating a steep learning curve is the most difficult hurdle to clear.
Notre Dame challenged Brent, rated as the No. 1 recruit from the state of Indiana, this spring by putting the greenhorn receiver up against 26-game starter KeiVarae Russell in practice. And offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said Brent embraced that challenge, even if the results weren't always good.
"You’ve heard the phrase before, drinking through a fire hose, he is literally drowning at times with information overload," Denbrock said. "I’ve done as much as I can to put him against KeiVarae Russell, to put him against the best we have to offer on defense and just continue to challenge him. There’s no challenge he’s backing down from, which is a positive sign.
"Even though he’s confused, he’s unclear about assignments and things he’s doing all the time he’s going hard, playing hard and he’s continuing to compete. That’s going to come along and he’s going to come along very nicely as we move forward."
Brent caught one pass for two years in Notre Dame's Blue-Gold game, though he narrowly missed a diving catch on a deep ball from Malik Zaire in the second half. Already at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds with top-level athleticism, the skillset is there. Much like Notre Dame did with freshman wideouts Corey Robinson and Will Fuller last year, it's just a matter of bringing Brent along in the offense as he grows comfortable in it.
"Justin has got all the tools necessary," Denbrock said. "It’s just a matter of him continuing to see it, continuing to learn from it."