But if he has the senior season forecast for him, this Dog will see microphones and cameras in his face a lot more often in 2015. Not to mention hear his name called next spring during the National Football League draft. Those are just some reasons why Coach Dan Mullen selected Ryan Brown to represent Mississippi State on the three-man team with Prescott and Taveze Calhoun.
Did press corps attention go to his helmet? Nahhh, no more than the senior defensive end takes offense at modest predictions for his program in 2015. Just the opposite, in fact.
“I think I like it that way. Because I feel as if I’d rather be underrated than overrated,” Brown said. “I like being a Bulldog and better than that an underdog to prove ourselves and have that motivation.”
There’s a nice continuity to that idea. Ever since arriving at Mississippi State in 2012, Brown has been easy to overlook. When he was activated immediately as a true freshman, skeptics saw it as a comment on lack of defensive end depth. When Brown had four tackles in his very first game, well hey that was just against Jackson State. Then last season when he got in on 3.5 sacks with 39 tackles, eyes were always turned to the other end of the Dog d-line where Preston Smith played. And on and on.
If fans and media weren’t paying attention, teammates and coaches and soon pro scouts were. Now word is getting around. And Brown had his own words to speak Tuesday in Hoover.
Did he talk about stats, big plays, rising scout status? Of course not.
Brown talked team, and his non-stat sheet priorities as the elder Dog on the defensive front.
“I’ve had to step into that leadership role,” Brown said. Then, in keeping with character, he shared that role too. “Me and A.J. Jefferson, who did a great job relating to our players.”
Brown and Jefferson, who naturally gets more fan attention as the perceived pass-rush specialist. Perceived is no slur on the junior by the way; just a way of noting that blockers who assume Brown is only adept stuffing the run are going to get shown-up on protection plays this fall. Still if the light shines more on Jefferson’s end, that only opens more opportunity for Brown to lead in other ways.
Both these veterans have pups to lead, too, according to Brown after reviewing spring ball. “Some younger guys who really impressed me,” he said, not confining the praise simply to d-ends.
(Tackles) “Cory Thomas and Braxton Hoyette, I’m ready to see them flourishing,” said Brown. “Those guys are competitive and one guy will have a great day, the next day it switches. They try to push each other not knowing they push each other. But the competitive juices are flowing and that’s making them really great.”
Out on the end of things, “And some jucos like Jonathan Calvin and Will Coleman. I’m excited to see those guys play and ball-out. And Torrey Dale, that’s my home boy I came here with. It’s going to be great to see him on the field beside me some plays.”
Hmmm, did Brown just hint that there are packages where an extra end is on the field? Or that an end could slide inside as a third tackle? Maybe, maybe not. What Brown will be clear on, is that things are changing for the entire Bulldog defense under new 2015 management.
Brown was not signed by 2010 coordinator Manny Diaz of course. He has heard how that one season allowed the whole squad to blossom as Diaz took both old and new personnel and schemed-up a system that played to everyone’s strengths. Naturally Brown expects the same sort of results here in 2015. Better, even.
Yes, everyone liked Geoff Collins, he said. But “I love Coach Diaz. The difference between those two, one tries to be more lively, he acts like a little kid. Coach Diaz makes us feel like adults. We have different plays and upgraded our plays we had last year.”
By no means was 2014’s defense bad. It was just how things broke-down in a fatal first half at Alabama, or everyone seemed out-of-synch in the Egg and Orange Bowls that showed more progress and production is required if this defense is to exceed last year’s results.
Which holds for the whole team, really. “Our mentality was we did not finish strong,” Brown said. “Not like we wanted to. To focus on those losses because we’re nowhere near perfect and are trying to focus on finishing strong. We have to make sure we let those losses be our motivation.”
Brown said this with calm and poise, but just enough emphasis, that one would think he has been sitting amid media mobs all his career. Not so. Yet maybe along the 2015 way SEC reporters will cross his path again in post-victory pressers. Then Brown can set aside the underdog identity speaking for his fellow over-Dogs.