Brown sets for first two roles at Georgia

ATHENS – With less than a week until Georgia plays Georgia Southern in the 2004 season opener, one freshman running back has impressed the coaching staff enough in different areas to earn playing time early.

"I feel pretty comfortable with playing the weekend. I think I got enough reps to be able to execute in the game," said freshman running back Thomas Brown. Many recruiting experts thought Brown might play cornerback at Georgia, but no it appears Brown will be at running back for the long term.

"I am trying to make certain I know what to do in each situation so Coach Richt does not have to worry about that when he puts me in the game," said Brown. The most difficult task for any running back in Richt's offense has been learning protection schemes. It's a perquisite to playing in Richt's offense

Brown admitted pass protection has been the most difficult transition to college football. "The defense lines up in different sets and it's hard to read sometimes."

Last season Georgia's running backs, with the exception of Tony Milton, had difficulty picking up blitzes. The result was David Greene being pressured early and often from defenders.

"Most of the time in high school ball we only blocked the defensive end or blocked one blitzing linebacker, or something like that. Now, there could be three options in terms of who I need to block," said Brown of the difference between high school and college blocking schemes.

Brown will likely play this season. He told the media he was probably starting at kickoff return, but he was uncertain how much he would play at running back. Richt said later Brown would return kickoffs with Fred Gibson, Bryan McClendon, and others, but that the freshman was not necessarily the "starting" kickoff return man. "I think he may have started a drill for us, but we want to see what Brown can do," said Richt.

Brown said he took "four or five" kickoffs back for touchdowns while at Tucker.

Still, it seems unlikely Richt would use up a year of Brown eligibility on simply returning the ball during kickoffs. Brown has looked good at times in the passing game during fall camp. But he will have to fight off several other running backs to show his stuff this season.

"I hope I am not just returning kicks all year because I don't want to waste a season on special teams," Brown said. Brown, like Tyson Browning, will be used in several sets this season in which the running back splits out wide in hopes of matching up against a linebacker. The scheme plays in the favor of the Bulldogs.

But Brown missed a few practices this fall camp due to his tender hamstring. He said, however, that he felt like the missed practices helped him get a difference perspective on getting ready for picking up blitzes.

"In hindsight I think it helped me out a lot," said Brown. "I got to sit on the sideline and just watch the other running backs. I was able to learn exactly what I was going to do when I went into the game. It was like a mental rep."

Brown said he is at 100% right now, but that he "goes in for maintenance just to keep (the hamstring) loose."

Brown's quick hitter: "I came to a few games last year and got to experience it a little bit, but it is going to be different playing in it."

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