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March 27, 2008

Brown has one last chance at Texas A&M

With new coaches come new systems, new schemes and new opportunities.

Texas A&M's Pierre Brown is most enthused about the idea of new opportunities or perhaps just more opportunities.

The arrival of new coach Mike Sherman has to pique the interest and stir the imagination of Aggies receivers the Maytag repairmen of college football who surely are excited about the possibilities of well, receiving.

In the option offense of former coach Dennis Franchione, A&M receivers must have felt like linemen in receivers' numbers. With a mere 19 receptions last season, Brown had more catches than any other returning A&M wide receiver. No A&M wide receiver had more than 27 receptions a year ago. In fact, of the 214 passes completed by Aggies quarterbacks in 2007, only 85 (39.7 percent) were to wide receivers.

But that should change.

"There are a lot of passes in our script," Brown said Tuesday after the Aggies' first spring practice session. "We'll have the opportunity to make a play. I think this year is going to be good for us. It looks like we're going to be more balanced.

"We're going to be a much better team. You're going to see more players get the ball more instead of just two or three guys."

There were some extenuating circumstances other than a run-oriented offense working against A&M wide receivers last season. Tight end Martellus Bennett, who led the team with 49 catches, was their first receiving option. In addition, quarterback Stephen McGee played with a sore shoulder that eventually required surgery, which is keeping him out of live action this spring.

But Sherman, who worked with Brett Favre as the Green Bay Packers' coach from 2000-05, likes a pro-style offense and figures to see value in getting the ball downfield to wide receivers.

"It's a totally different thing for me," Brown said. "Luckily for me, I have one more year with an NFL coach. A lot of us have a lot of talent that we haven't been able to display on game day."

In 2004, Brown was a three-star prospect with offers from Kansas State, LSU and Oklahoma. He originally committed to OU before changing his mind late in the process. He enters his senior season with just 39 career receptions.

"There was some frustration," Brown said. "But I just try to think positively and keep my mind right. I don't think negatively. I was just working harder and harder. I know we ran the ball a lot last year, but I just mainly tried to stay focused and positive.

"No receiver comes wanting (the amount of receptions) I've got. I want as many as they will throw it to me."

Brown said he has been working hard on technique and routes, in the hopes that a strong spring showing will lead to many more passes coming his way next fall. He hopes he can better his career total of 39 catches.

"I have to get more than that," he said. "I've got to double that at least. I think I can, and I know I can. When you get the opportunity, you have to make the most of it."

Trivia question

What was the last team to be named AP national champion a year after a losing season? (Answer at the end of the column.)

Harvin hurt

A recurring heel injury has recurred again and may force Florida junior wide receiver Percy Harvin to miss the rest of spring practice.

"He's had this now for over a year and a half," Florida coach Urban Meyer told GatorBait.com. "We treated it as tendinitis and I think it might be something more than that."

Injuries have plagued Harvin, who is one of the nation's most explosive players when healthy, throughout his career. Last season, he led Florida with 59 receptions for 858 yards and was second with 764 rushing yards.

Quick hitters

  • The Big East Conference has named Terry McAulay coordinator of football officiating. McAulay, an NFL official for 11 years, succeeds John Soffey, who retired after last season.

  • Florida is staging a series of contests in connection with its "Orange & Blue Debut" on April 12. Students who are not athletes will be timed in 40-yard dashes on March 27 and April 3 to qualify for a chance to race Florida football players. Those posting the five fastest times will go to the finals April 12.

  • Navy senior Ricky Moore started spring practice as the starting center, but he'll likely move to tackle if someone else can distinguish himself at center this spring. That could be junior Andy Lark, who was a backup at nose guard in '07.

  • Oklahoma freshman wide receiver Ryan Broyles has suffered a broken collarbone and will miss the rest of spring practice.

  • Michigan junior tailback Carlos Brown broke a finger while weightlifting and will be out until at least the end of spring practice.

  • With Alabama in need at linebacker, Jimmy Johns is learning the position after moving from running back.

  • Georgia sophomore wide receiver Tony Wilson suffered a broken leg in a scrimmage last week and will miss the rest of spring practice, but should be back in the fall. Also, redshirt freshman tailback Caleb King hurt a knee, but that injury isn't thought to be serious.

  • Kentucky junior cornerback Paul Warford, who was suspended a month ago for violating team rules, has been reinstated. Warford started 11 games in 2007. Also, sophomore linebacker Brandon Thurmond will miss spring practice because of an injured knee.

  • Missouri, Auburn and Clemson are teaming on "Tigers for Tigers,'' a project to save and protect wild tigers. The universities, whose mascots are Tigers, are taking donations for the World Wildlife Fund.

    Trivia answer

    USC was named national champion in 1962. The previous season, the Trojans finished 4-5-1. In 1965, Michigan State won the UPI version of the national championship after finishing 4-5 in '64. The UPI championship was awarded before bowl games, and Michigan State lost the Rose Bowl to UCLA after the '65 season.

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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