Brown Making Quick Impact

FAYETTEVILLE -- Defensive end Anthony Brown knows it's a good idea to listen to first-year defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.

After all, it was Herring who came up with the seemingly crazy plan to turn the 6-foot-6, 223-pound Brown into a defensive end even though he spent his entire career at wide receiver. And it was Herring who swore Brown would become a big-time player, gave him a shot against helpless offensive linemen last spring, then listed him as a first-teamer on the post-spring depth chart.

So when Herring told Brown he reminded him of N.C. State senior defensive end Manny Lawson and suggested he wear the same number -- 91 -- this season, the junior said it was an easy decision to follow his coach's advice.

"I feel pretty comfortable listening to him," said Brown, who wore No. 83 during his first year at Arkansas. "Whatever he tells me I need to do, I'm going to do it.

"I know that it will probably be better for me."

That policy has worked to perfection since Brown took the initial leap of faith, leaving his role with the offense to learn a new position late last spring.

Brown now has just nine full practices as a defensive end under his belt, but already is cementing his place as Herring's most talked about player.

"He's a great model for any football player in America," Herring said. "The game speed. The burst, the quickness, work habits. If he continues to improve on his assignments, he's going to be a major factor.

"He's got some special stuff and it starts with his work habits."

That's what Herring thought about Lawson, who is a lightning-quick player that leaned on his speed to record seven sacks last season.

The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder was named the Walter Camp Foundation's National Defensive Player of the Week after recording three sacks against Virginia Tech. He also won the Atlantic Coast Conference's indoor long jump title in 2003.

Those are impressive accomplishments.

But Herring believes Brown is a better all-around athlete.

"He's been a defensive player for (nine) days and he plays harder and practices harder than any defensive player we've got," Herring said. "It's natural. It's not hard to comprehend a receiver to defensive end transition when you see the kid work. He's just a natural, intensive football player that has a tremendous future.

"And it's untapped. He'll get better and better."

It's something that never crossed Brown's mind when he came to Arkansas last summer after playing at Mississippi Valley Community College. He caught 35 passes for 603 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, redshirted at Arkansas in 2004 and had high hopes as a pass catcher in 2005.

Arkansas thought his height would give the offense two big weapons -- joining teammate Marcus Monk -- this season. But Herring had other ideas, asking head coach Houston Nutt if he could pull Brown to the other side of the field.

"I never saw myself as a defensive end -- ever," Brown said. "But I figured as long as I'm on the field somewhere, it doesn't matter if it's offense or defense."

Now, his speed has been noticeable on the practice field.

He ran circles around offensive linemen during his first day at defensive end last spring, reaching the quarterback with ease. And Brown's speed hasn't wavered even though he added 13 pounds of muscle to his lanky frame this summer.

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said Brown is Arkansas' quickest lineman and has kept teammates -- both offensive and defensive -- on their toes.

"His speed is unbelievable," Rocker said. "He's going so fast that he runs some stunts and says, '(Tackle) Ernest (Mitchell) is in my way. So I have to tell Ernest he has to get out of the way. We have to run it faster.

"I've got a Porsche on the outside and a big SUV on the inside."

Said teammate Desmond Sims: "He's so fast off the ball they can't really put their hands on him. It's fun watching him play because he's getting better every day."

Rocker said Brown has had no trouble picking up the basics and has the natural instincts needed to make a smooth transition. He is outsmarting blockers, tackling ball carriers, stripping the ball and performing at full speed every snap.

Rocker said the work ethic he has seen from Brown is reminiscent of former Hog Jeb Huckeba, who was the Seattle Seahawks' fifth-round pick last April.

"He's 100 miles an hour," Rocker said. "If you told (Brown) to run through a wall, he's going to find a way to do it.

"I enjoy coaching him because he has such a positive attitude. He comes to practice, he works and he's not dreading it. He comes out there and gets it done."

Rocker's only concern is "over-coaching" Brown. He doesn't want the talented player to lose natural instincts by loading his head with too much information.

So Rocker said he'll take his time this preseason, making sure Brown first has a firm understanding of assignments. After that, he'll teach him different fundamentals and techniques that will be important in shaking 300-pound linemen.

Brown admitted his biggest weakness right now is playing against the run because he's not as big or strong as most defensive ends.

But he's learning to avoid the long arms of offensive lineman and doesn't mind sacrificing size for speed this season.

"I'm just getting more comfortable with the plays and I'm moving around more," Brown said. "I'm just understanding what we're trying to do with the defense. I'm just getting more of a feel for it and getting more comfortable with it.

"So far, I just have to keep on coming the same speed every play. That's what my job is right now and that's what I'm going to do."

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