“It’s really just film study and knowing when it’s coming.”
To be sure, Mississippi State has a dog-goned clear idea of what is coming to Scott Field. There is little about Arkansas which fans and media would regard as flashy, much less deceptive beyond that well-publicized special teams feat against UAB.
But that’s the point to Brown. Simplicity and execution make the Razorbacks a bunch to watch this weekend. Watch out for, that is, and most especially the true trump card a power running ball club will throw at an unprepared defense. The play-action pass.
This is what Mississippi State’s outside linebacker has focused on, maybe even obsessed for four days. Because, said Brown, it is so dangerously simple.
“Certain formations they do the play action; they do the same formation and won’t play-action. So it’s looking at certain things and prepare for to know when it’s play-action. But it’s hard, they do a good job of covering it up. It’s just really film study and knowing when it’s coming.”
More simply said than done of course. Arkansas runs so often and generally well, netting almost 260 rushing yards each week and 5.9 per ground play, that coordinators spend all week stressing run-fits and supports and such. Then quarterback Brandon Allen will pull the ball back out and float it out to a back, a tight end, anyone who got past a linebacker or safety who’d rushed up to the line sure the action was there.
By all rights sophomore Brown should be worried about facing a straight-ahead attack. Wrong.
“It’s exciting,” he said. The last time we played a down-hill team was at LSU. Other than that we’ve been playing spread teams, tempo type teams. So coming in this game it’s basically just being physical all game, making plays.”
Brown certainly is making plays in his first season at starter. Only middle-man Benardrick McKinney has more tackles, 45 to 38. Brown is right behind in stops for losses (6.0 to 5.5) and sacks (3.0 to 2.0) too. His impact goes beyond the stat sheet, too. Even all-American candidate McKinney has ceded a sizable portion of play-calling duties to the younger ‘backer.
It’s a responsibility Brown has accepted without fear. Or fuss. He thrives on reading, recognizing, and re-organizing the front seven with a poise beyond his years. “Trying to see where they’re going, just trying to get a head-start,” Brown said. And know what? Up to last weekend, the kid had been right. Not usually, but almost entirely.
“I think my first time being wrong was last week or so. I think I called out pass. But it was run. They did something different than I thought was coming.” Fortunately, Brown grinned, few knew about the mistake. “It was bad enough on me because I thought about it, dang, I shouldn’t have said anything. But I wasn’t sure.”
“But other than that I try to be right. And if I’m not 100% I won’t tell them because I don’t want to get them in the wrong idea, get away with the pass when they can be up with the run-fits. Unless I’m 100% I won’t say anything. But normally if you see me saying something I’ll be 100% sure.”
As sure as scouting can make a Dog. And where the whole team talks about intense study, Brown takes it to stratospheric levels. Campus citizens have learned, this Bulldog isn’t being rude or tuning-out the world when face-deep into that iPad…
“A lot. Spare time, right before class. Any time I really get a chance to look at and pick up the little things that can help me and I can help my teammates out.” Yes, and college class time? “Yeah, sometimes! I try not to, I really lock-in on schoolwork. But sometimes, if we’re watching a movie or something in class I’ll pop it on and watch a couple of plays and try to get a head-start.”
Or maybe it is making up for lost time. Serious study was not Brown’s thing before coming to college, and nothing to do with technology.
“In high school I just went out there and played. Coming here, Cam Lawrence (linebacker 2009-12) taught me my first year going into film study with him. And now with all the rest of the linebackers, me and B-Mac watch film together. Or we might send a text to each other at night what we saw on film. We help each other out and it’s just fun watching film and knowing what’s coming. They don’t think you know, but you do.”
Or you hope so. Again, compared to spread schemes which provide more blatant tips of what is coming, reading a power-run team working from the same base depends on the subtle clues. All the more so in Arkansas’ case. Through SEC season the Razorbacks have thrown almost as many passes as they’ve called for runs. Obviously having to play catch-up in the four league losses is a factor. But that forced practice has paid off with a more efficient air game State now must really respect.
“That’s why I’ve been watching film a lot this week,” Brown said. “Because what they do is hard, the play-action will get to you. Because they run, run, run and throw a little pass.” Or a big pass. To a big guy even. When working outside, Brown is inevitably going to end up covering guard-sized tight end Hunter Henry. It would be a 30-pound mismatch but again, the Bulldog is not worried.
He’s still excited. “Just play technique. We have some of the best tight ends in the country here. Guarding guys like Malcolm Johnson and Darrion Hutcherson they give you a good look every day. So use technique and do what I have to do.”
As for Mississippi State, tops on the to-do list is walk off Scott Field still unbeaten. That would also likely keep the Bulldogs first in both the national rankings and College Football Playoff standings. It isn’t the immediate priority though. Staying first in the SEC standings through November matters much, much more.
So, excuse Brown while he turns the iPad back on. This Dog has homework.
“We really study film hard this week to try to help get a head-start on what they’re doing.”