January 3, 2008

Offense-Defense East Notebook: Brown making waves

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla - Onlookers at the East squad practices for the Offense-Defense Bowl have asked about "the little guy" all week. At about 5-foot-6, the little guy doesn't appear to belong on the field with some of the nation's top high school recruits. A look at Matt Brown's list of scholarship offers, compared to most others on the team, also suggests he doesn't belong.

But through five practices leading up to Friday's game in the Orange Bowl, the smallest player on either team has shown he belongs where it matters most: between the whistles. The speedy athlete from Peddie School (N.J.) appears to have nailed down a starting spot at cornerback, having blanketed much bigger and more highly-regarded receivers all week. The wide outs don't all know his name, but they know he can cover.

"The little corner from Peddie, New Jersey has impressed me all week," said Oklahoma commitment DeJuan Miller.

With the large majority of the prospects playing in the O-D already committed to a major Division-I program, there is nothing to prove for any of them. For Brown, who has no scholarship offers, the game means everything.

"This is the biggest opportunity for me," said Brown. "Everybody here has a bunch of offers, they're going to this school and that school, and I can play with anybody out here. Right now I haven't been getting publicity. This is a chance to get some exposure."

Brown said he has been contacted by Temple, Akron, Villanova, Georgetown and other smaller schools, but none have said the magic 'O' word: offer. Brown said academics aren't a problem - only his size.

"The smaller schools have come and talked to me, but they say their piece and leave," said Brown. "They go back and talk about how tall I am and they're like, 'Nah'."

Both coordinators for the East squad have been impressed.

"I know he doesn't play on my side [of the ball], but he's really stood out to me working against some pretty good receivers," said East offensive coordinator Greg Carr.

"Matt Brown is a football player. He's a tremendous athlete," said defensive coordinator Pat Thomas. "Obviously he's limited by his height, but he's really big when it comes to his heart and his desire to be the best he can be. When I look at Matt, I see a kid who is going to make someone happy they've got him one day."

Along with a cornerback spot, Brown also appears to be set as the punt returner and one of two kickoff returners. One more chance to show he belongs, even if only the players and coaches believe it.


STARTING SPOTS

It wasn't exactly clear who the starters would be on Thursday, but if practice repetitions are any indication, it looks like the offensive backfield will open with QB D.C. Jefferson and RB Michael Shaw. The receiver spots will likely rotate heavily, but DeJuan Miller and Melvin Ray have been the most consistent pass catchers this week in difficult receiving conditions. In the secondary, look for Nick Moody and Makiri Pugh[/db] to hold down the safety spots, with Brandon Boykin and Brown at the corners.


ETC.

One of the matchups to watch Friday will be right in the middle of the action, where East defensive tackle Micanor Regis and others who have stood out in practice will square off against West center [/db]David Decastro[/db]. Reports from the West camp have had Decastro destroying all that has been in his way. ... Both squads shared a field for the first time Thursday when they bused to the Orange Bowl for a brief walk-through. There was plenty of chatter, and it's clear a certain measure of team pride has developed this week on both squads. ... The game will kick off at 8 p.m. Friday night, and is expected to be the final game played in the Orange Bowl stadium. ... The East squad has worked heavily on slip screens, slants, and shorter, quicker throws in practice due to high winds that have made deep passes nearly impossible. The tight ends also appear to be heavily involved in the plan. ... Head coach Cris Carter returned to oversee his team Thursday morning after being out of town on Wednesday.

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