The Next in Line

He's 6 feet 6 inches, 260 pounds and runs very well for his size, insomuch that he has caught a few passes downfield in the early days of spring camp. This freshman tight end has a lot of upside to his abilities, and they'll be put to good use at multiple positions in the Cougar offense in the near future.

What makes tight end Braden Brown intriguing is the combination of size and athleticism that he possesses. It's not that common that an offense has an athlete his size catching passes downfield. However, Brown has put his size and athleticism to good use. He credits much of his early success to two tight ends already in the program.

"Dennis [Pitta] and Andrew [George] are great guys and have always been very helpful since first day I got here," said Brown. "If I ever have any questions they'll help me, which is surprising. You always have that idea that at the college level the veteran guys always pick on the rookies, but those guys are always there to help me."

Although Brown receives help from those players, he also receives a bit of good-natured ribbing from time to time.

"Yeah, [Pitta will] hold up his arm and say, ‘See this? This is a wing and you're under it,'" said Brown with a laugh. "We actually became really close friends and it's been really helpful playing with those guys because they're really great tight ends."

Brown shared some of the things that he's learned from Pitta and George, whether by talking with them or studying their film.

"I've gained a lot of knowledge just listening to those guys as far as going up to the line for the pre-snap reads of what the defense is doing," Brown said. "Also, [I've learned] how to adjust your route based on that and perfecting route running and perfecting the plays. It's really good to be able to go into the film room and watch these guys. When I go into the film room I watch what these guys did from last year and try to mimic what they do on the football field, so it's been really helpful to have them ahead of me."

On top of learning the tight end position, Brown has been selected by the coaching staff to also learn the fullback position. The extra responsibilities don't bother Brown in the least bit.

"I've also been practicing at the fullback position a lot," Brown said. "It's been a lot of fun and the first time I actually played fullback was on the scout team last fall. I really liked it because you get to run full speed and light dudes up, so it's been really fun playing the fullback position. I was told that I'm the number-one guy at fullback when the position is needed, so it's been fun getting some extra film time in learning two positions at once."

Brown admits it's been tough putting in the extra time learning a second position within the offense.

"Yeah, it's been kind of tough because we've made some changes to the regular offense in regards to the tight end stuff," said Brown. "They are things I can't really talk about but I'll go to the line and go, ‘Oh geez, what did I do,' and then it will all of a sudden click. So it's been interesting learning on the fly like that, but we've got guys like Bryan Kariya and Coach Reynolds who have been very helpful to me with learning what I need to know."

With no Fui Vakapuna or Manase Tonga to help him better understand the rigors of the fullback position, Brown has learned from other sources.

"I've been learning from Bryan Kariya and he's helped me out a lot," Brown said. "I've also been learning from Kelly Bills, who is working as a graduate assistant. He's played at that position and he's helped me out a lot, and so has Coach Reynolds. Those guys have helped me to keep my head on straight because I just want to go out there and hit people, but they help me to stay focused and not mess up."

Considering his size, it's easy to understand why Brown likes to go out and be physical with defenders. It's an aspect of the game he looks forward to.

"I'm a big basketball player and I always talked about how frustrating basketball can be because you can't hit people," said Brown. "When you play on the football field you can come out and knock someone in the mouth and that's perfectly fine. That's kind of the mentality that I've always had, just being the tough-nose guy that lays the wood on people. That's what I try to bring to the field every day: intensity and physical play."

Senior tight end Dennis Pitta talks about the young tight end prodigy Braden Brown in this edition of Cougar Conversations.


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