Truth be told, Greg Brown was too good to play last year for the Indiana Hoosiers.
Come again? How could a player be too good to play on a defense that yielded a Big Ten-worst 197 yards/game on the ground and a league-high 31.2 points per contest? What sort of twisted logic was Coach Gerry DiNardo and his staff using?
Actually, DiNardo deserves a bit of credit, not blame, for keeping the 6-2, 300-pound Brown on the sidelines in 2004. What the former coach saw was an athletic, run-stuffing defensive tackle who could have worked into the rotation a year ago, backing up seniors Jodie Clemons and Martin Lapostolle along with junior Russ Richardson.
But Brown showed signs of being more than a contributor – his play suggested he could potentially wreak havoc on opposing teams in the years to come. In DiNardo's mind, a little bit of short-term pain was worth the long-term gain.
Despite DiNardo's vision for the future, that didn't necessarily make it any easier for Brown to sit on the sidelines and watch in 2004.
"At first it was really tough because everything was going well and they kept telling me I was going to play," said Brown. "But it was one of those now or later things."
That logic finally began to make sense as last year's campaign was drawing to a close.
"Once I got toward the end of the season and into the off-season, I figured this was the best thing for me to do," said Brown. "Although I could have played last year, now I'm that much faster, that much stronger, and I have that much more knowledge of the system."
DiNardo won't be able to reap any of the rewards for his decision to preserve Brown's four years of eligibility after he and his staff were let go following last season's 3-8 mark. Now, first-year coach Terry Hoeppner and defensive line coach/co-defensive coordinator Brian George have the luxury of working with the Centerville, Ohio, product.
Brown is expected to start on the defensive line alongside three seniors – defensive ends Ben Ishola and Victor Adeyanju and defensive tackle Russ Richardson. That alone is a major accomplishment, according to George.
"He's worked hard in the off-season to get himself in a position where he can start at tackle in the Big Ten as a redshirt freshman, and there's a lot to be said for that," said George. "There aren't a whole of guys that can come in and play (that quickly), especially at a line position."
Brown, meanwhile, is excited about getting on the field. He also considers himself lucky to be playing alongside three veterans, all of whom can help him as he adjust to his new role.
"Those guys have been around the game, been playing for four years now," said Brown. "They know what to do and what not to do.
"That's helped a lot, because they've told me if I do this, that will happen. They've been a big part of me moving up the depth chart. They believe in me, and that makes me want to go so much harder knowing that they have faith in what I can do to help this team."
Brown will get his first opportunity to help the team on Friday, when the Hoosiers travel to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., to face Central Michigan in the 2005 season opener. Brown says he's ready to get the season underway, and to get the chance to go up against someone other than his Hoosier teammates.
"I can't wait to get a chance to hit someone else," said Brown. "I'm tired of looking at the same jersey."
Throughout fall camp, Brown has usually been lined up across from either Adam Hines or Brandon Joyce, a pair of Hoosier guards whom Brown enjoys off the field, but is a bit tired of seeing on the playing surface.
"I'm good friends with them, but after a while, it's like, ‘I don't like you,'" joked Brown. "I want to go against someone else."
He'll get that chance Friday, which might not be the best of news for the Chippewas' interior linemen.
It is good news for the Hoosiers, though, as the redshirt freshman makes his first start in what promises to be a very promising IU career.
"He can be as good as he wants to be," said George. "He has all the tools to be a very, very good player at this level."
Brown's Debut Worth The Wait
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