Vernell Brown: Small Corner With A Big Heart

At 5-8, 165, Vernell Brown is not your typical starting cornerback in the SEC yet as things stand at the end of spring practice, he will be Florida's starter opposite Dee Webb in the fall. Brown is the smallest scholarship player on the Gator roster but that didn't stop him from holding off a strong push by the more ideally-sized Reggie Lewis during spring practice.

Though he lacks prototypical size, Brown is hoping his combination of speed and smarts can allow him to be a big part of Florida's defense in the fall.

When you grow up in Gainesville and your last name is Brown, there are certain expectations, one of which is to excel in athletics. Vernell's dad, Vernell Sr., played for the Gators in the early 80's as did his uncle Johnell Brown. Like Vernell, they were Gainesville High products. Vernell's cousin, Val Brown, an Eastside grad, played for the Gators at the same time as his dad and uncle. It was as almost as if it was destined that Vernell Jr. would one day take his place in the Gator lineup at Florida Field to do battle in the SEC.

When Vernell was at GHS, he was a standout quarterback and defensive back on the football field, but it's in basketball that perhaps he was best known. He was the point guard on two straight state championship teams at GHS that were nationally ranked. The threesome of Orien Greene (former Gator and finished this year at Louisiana-Lafayette), Jerald Fields (All-Southern Conference power forward at East Tennessee State) and Brown were the heart and soul of those two great teams.

A lot of people thought Vernell, who can easily dunk a basketball despite his lack of stature, should walk on in basketball at Florida. Many scouts thought he could be an off the bench spark in basketball who could earn a scholarship through his hustle and full court defense.

Vernell Brown had excellent coverage on Dallas Baker here

However, it was football that earned him a scholarship to UF. Coach Steve Spurrier gave Vernell the final scholarship offered in 2001. Spurrier thought Vernell was just too much of an athlete to pass up, particularly since he was a Gator legacy. Affter redshirting his freshman year, he's seen the field the last three seasons as a wideout and as a defensive back. If there is one thing that defines Vernell Brown when he's on the field it's heart. Nobody hustles more and nobody plays with more heart and intensity.

He played in 228 plays last year and except for Webb, he returns as the cornerback with the most experience on the roster. Brown accepts the responsibility as a starter and knows it will take more than eleven guys to make the Florida defense what it needs to be.

"We are looking to come out and have a great year," Brown said. "We need some guys to step up and give us depth."

Although he doesn't have the size that coaches would like to see, one of the areas where Brown compensates is in fundamentals. He's worked extra hard to be fundamentally sound all three years, and this spring was no exception. The extra effort that he gave during the spring caught the eye of the coaches.

"I think I am more sound in my technique," Brown said. "Sometimes if you fall off in your technique it can cause you to be at a disadvantage when you are playing against receivers. Being a small guy, technique is my key. I feel like I got better on my techniques."

Of course one person who has helped him with the different techniques this spring is Coach Chuck Heater. Heater coaches the cornerbacks and is one of the more verbal staff members at practice this past spring. The cornerbacks will be asked to do a lot in the new defense and play a lot of man coverage. Heater is just what Brown needed to keep up with the talented receivers that were coming at him every day in practice and will be in the fall.

"Coach Heater is a good coach," Brown said. "He teaches us techniques to keep us ahead of the receivers and we work hard putting those techniques into effect. They work. He is a great coach."

Hollywood Bob's Take on Vernell Brown: The Orange and Blue Debut was a show for Gator fans to have a good time and get a glimpse of what to expect come the season ahead. Unfortunately for the defense, they were handicapped by some of the play calling and not allowed to use the full arsenal of blitz packages. Brown says there were "certain defenses, just base defenses." The cornerbacks specifically were left out on islands all day without even the threat of a blitz and it went well for the offense. This wasn't the norm at practice late in spring drills, as the defense usually had the offense's number.

The coaching staff really likes Brown, all the way from the weight room staff to his position coach to Coach Urban Meyer. Vernell is defined by effort. You can count on him giving more than 100% effort all day, every day, and he will not back down from anyone bigger. He has trouble with receivers that are much bigger, but that can be neutralized as long as a team doesn't throw out an all big receivers package. He is as quick as it gets and strong for his size. As much as they have tried to find someone bigger to unseat him, he just outplays the others to remain on the field.

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