Watchung Hills (NJ) coach Jim Benedict knows talent when he sees it. The veteran field general was previously an assistant at Rutgers and understands what type of athlete it takes to be successful at the next level. In Columbus Indiana safety Steve Brown, Benedict feels Michigan has that kind of player.
“He’s really a good athlete,” the former Scarlet Knights coach said. “The only negative thing about Steve is he came in with an ankle and hasn’t played a lot, so he’s not real sure of himself. He is just getting over that. That ankle is probably one of the reasons that he isn’t starting for us. But he really looks to be a tremendous athlete. He is a playmaker. When he first came in he wasn’t feeling really good about his ankle so we just put him in a backup role. Now he has gravitated into being a corner, strong safety, and free safety. He’ll play a lot in the game. We’ll try to play him as much as the other guys. It depends on how it feels on Saturday. He’ll have to tell me.”
Brown’s workload steadily increased throughout the week in spite of the increase in soreness he experienced after the first day of practice. The 6-1, 200-pounder told GoBlueWolverine at that point that his ankle had totally healed and that the pain had to do more with inactivity and regaining his range of motion. Despite that outward assurance, though, he still seemed tentative. According to his coach, that apprehension began to decrease as the days went by.
“He was reluctant to even do some basic back pedaling drills early,” recalled Benedict. “Then as we slowly broke him into it, he started getting more confidence. I think his confidence in his ankle has improved a lot during the week. “
Had Brown’s comfort level not improved, the plan probably would have been to severely limit his playing time. Now that he is feeling better he seems intent on being there for his teammates since it’s clear that they really need him.
“We have five defensive backs,” explained Benedict. “That’s all we have. We have two corner-type guys and three safety-type guys. I think Steve, just from looking at him move the way he is right now with his ankle still bothering him, looks to be more of a safety. I really can’t tell because I haven’t seen him at 100%. His coverage of the deep pass would probably need some work if he wanted to play corner in college, but I think that’s more because he can’t turn of his backpedal quite as well since he has to protect himself with that injury. Regardless, we need him to be a backup at every position.”
Brown may get beat a time or two on Saturday, but his coach understands that
that wouldn’t be indicative of how the youngster normally plays the game.
Benedict knows that Brown’s best football is ahead of him. “He is
an outstanding athlete,” the East defensive backs coach said. “He
really has a nose for the football. The plays he makes are based on his own
ability rather than anything we’ve coached him to do, that’s for
sure. I think Michigan has gotten a good player.”