“I didn’t really want to but that’s OK,” Brown said, still a little amused at being summoned to the studio. “It’s just not my thing being cocky and the front of the show, which is what they want from these pictures. But it’s good.”
Richie Brown had best get used to such attention and seeing his image on poster calendars and cards. Because 2015 is when the Bulldog linebacker should step to the forefront of Mississippi State’s defense. After two seasons as first backup and then alternate at the primo position of middle linebacker, the job is Brown’s for the taking.
Not, Brown says, that going from sharing ‘mike ‘backer’ with NFL-bound Benardrick McKinney to the spring first-team is that much of a transition in his case. For all the late-season criticisms of the ‘1A/1B’ script used in 2014, it did have one clear benefit for the future. Practically every ‘open’ position on the 2015 lineup has somebody with lots of experience. Winning experience, at that.
“I mean we split, it’s not a huge difference,” Brown said. “I’m probably going to get the upper hand of snap count as of right now. But that’s about the only difference.”
Well, there is one obvious ’15 difference. After three seasons, redshirt and varsity Brown has new position coach who also happens to coordinate the entire defense. Brown would have been a high school junior in 2010 when making any visits to campus, so contact with then-Bulldog coach Manny Diaz was brief.
“I think I talked to him one time but that was about it. So I’m really getting to know him now. He’s a good guy, I like him a lot.” Even better, Brown and fellow linebacker like Diaz’ style. No, they love it.
“He had a good reputation, I heard about him at Louisiana Tech. He’s good, aggressive, a lot of turnovers. I love turnovers, those are great! And he’s a player’s coach. I love it.”
If Brown wasn’t around for Diaz’ first tour at Mississippi State, he has heard how that one season took a lot of quality defensive Dogs and turned their potential into production. Sure, before 2010 people thought Chris White, K.J. Wright, Pernell McPhee, etc., could play football. After 2010, all knew it.
Now, it’s a 2015 roster that actually has a better and more successful resume’. Yet there is even more Diaz can bring out of this bunch, Brown believes.
“I see a great potential with this team. I think he’s going to change the mindset around here again. It’s going to be a new type of defense that we’re running and I think it’s going to be good.”
It’s clearly time for Brown to be very good. Despite taking second-turn to McKinney, he finished with 50 tackles vs. 71 for the starter. McKinney did get more sacks and hurries but proportionally Brown was on a pretty good pace himself. And he had three interceptions to zero for B-Mac, even if all three picks came in the Texas A&M game.
Now Brown steps up and steps in. He also is united on the first team, at last, with ‘brother’ Beniquez Brown, a signing class-mate who already has a whole season starting at outside linebacker to his credit.
“We finally get to play full-time together,” said Richie. “That’s how the stars kind of lined up, with Deontae (Skinner) being a year above and leaving. And of course I have a 6-5 freak (McKinney) in front of me! But we get to play together as starters this year.”
However, don’t expect R.Brown to take every middle linebacker snap this season. Because speaking of freaks, look at that redshirt freshman taking second-team snaps this spring. Gerri Green might not be as patient as his elders, either.
Brown welcomes the challenge. “He’s a big guy with a lot of potential, he’s long and what every coach likes. He’s a hard worker and he wants to learn that’s the most important thing.”
What fans should take from this is A) Bulldog linebacker depth is again outstanding even with the losses of McKinney and Matt Wells; and B) this depth is beautifully balanced in ages and experiences. In ’15 it falls to Brown, Brown, and senior Zach Jackson to set the theme for everyone.
After all, “We’re all getting old, our class is the old heads around here now. It’s good. We’re working hard and getting better. You’ve got to make sure you replace all the leadership. So we really have to step our game up.”
If, no when they do, linebacking will do its part within the context of a defense that looks just plain loaded. Maybe there are a few spring and preseason questions to answer about sheer depth on the line, as well as seeing if some young safeties rise to the opportunity. But on the whole?
“All the pieces are there,” Brown said. “Everybody here has played before, it’s looking really good. I don’t have any doubt about this team at all, I think we’re going to be great.” So, the 2015 season can’t get here fast enough so Bulldog defenders can show just how great.
But first… Brown has some truly serious business to take care off once spring ball and the spring semester conclude. Richie and Erin—OK, more the other way around—have set their wedding date. “May 15,” Richie said. said. “5-15-15! “It’s coming up quick.” If any wonder, the date wasn’t set for ease of memory.
“It’s really the only free month I have. So we’ve got the wedding, the honeymoon, everything scheduled. It’s all going good.”
Also fortunately the soon-to-be Mrs. Brown is a Bulldog football fanatic in her own right. So working around athletic and academic calendars was no problem. Besides, Richie pointed out, “May is a good month for us to have an anniversary for years to come!” Which speaks to the Mister’s ambitions for a football career past college, of course.
That is a couple of successful seasons away, happily for both Mississippi State and the new Brown family-to-be. By the way, Richie Brown did recognize one long-term benefit to his Tuesday studio stint. In several week’s he’ll be posing in another sort of uniform.
“It’s good practice for wedding photos, I guess. A little less intense!”