Fred Brown was moving into an outside receiver position for a specific passing play call. But about as soon as #2 quarterback Nick Fitzgerald counted off the cadence Brown found changed circumstances. And, took advantage of it.
“The DB was kind of sitting,” Brown said. “I was supposed to run a come-back but I got up on him kind of fast and threw my hand up. (Fitzgerald) saw me and we had a good connection on the play. He threw it up, I went to go get it; touchdown.”
Put this way it sounds simple, right? Of course not. Brown’s description says much about how both he and a redshirt freshman quarterback were able to recognize something, adapt on the fly, and make a great big offensive play happen. It all reflects well on how the kids have been coached on both ends of the throw-and-catch equation, too.
More personally for Brown, though, it was one play showing his own maturing as a Mississippi State receiver. The season is still most of three weeks away and starting lineup for September 5’s kickoff at Southern Mississippi won’t be set for a while yet. At the same time, here is Brown making a genuine push for a bigger part in 2015 gameplans.
“I’ve been practicing pretty good,” Brown said. “Last scrimmage I graded out as a champion, I had a couple of good plays. Some plays I’ve still got to get better as an overall player. But I think that I had a pretty good scrimmage.”
Here’s a twist to the tale. Brown’s review did not even mention that scoring play. No, he referred to other positives. “Just running good routes, getting open. Mainly getting better releases and better routes, and just getting open.” Only when asked specifically did Brown talk touchdown.
That’s wise. His place in the outside receiver pecking order will be won on consistency in all aspects. Then again, Brown goes into the junior year with increased expectations.
Last season he came away with 18 catches in the 13 games, averaging over 16 yards per grab with a couple of touchdowns. Brown even started twice, against Southern Mississippi and South Alabama. So he has been building a nice underclassman resume so far.
Still as August grinds on Brown is in a three-way scramble for first-team status at the ‘Z’ receiver spot. Or, “The other outside receiver across the field from Bear (De’Runnya Wilson).” When preseason opened senior Joe Morrow was more often #1 at the Z, but realistically snaps were even with Brown.
Now, “I’ve been working with the ones with the Z position,” Brown reported, adding “I’ve also been working at the X, too, in and out. But I think I’m with the ones at the Z right now.”
Whichever sideline Brown runs along, or for that matter when routes take him towards hash-land, State has ways of delivering the ball. Means, too, with All-SEC Dak Prescott directing the traffic. As Brown likes to point out, though, when another quarterback is taking turns the air game doesn’t get grounded.
Not with four others able to fling it or bring it, or both.
“All of them got great arms. Dak is going to give you the leadership, he’s going to come out there every day and make you feel better. D-Will (Damian Williams) has a nice deep ball. Fitzgerald is going to squeeze it in tight places. Even Nick Tiano has a nice arm. I know Eli (Elijah Staley), he can launch it now! He can throw it about 60 yards.”
Of course only one arm can throw at a time once the lights come on and clock is running. That arm will have plenty potential targets to pick from based both on spring scrimmaging and preseason practicing. Brown’s own maturing at Mississippi State has paralleled an expansion of Dan Mullen’s spread offensive ideas. Oh, and the ever-increasing corps of quality receivers.
“Basically the offense gives you a chance to do everything,” Brown said. “Mainly with this offense you learn the concepts and you make plays, you’ll find yourself in different, varied positions. And just knowing different things, you’ll play a lot of positions and they’ll get you the ball.”
For the mid-August moment though, Brown’s ambition is staying a step ahead not of any defender but his cohorts. Morrow wants to pick up here in ’15 where he left off on the last day of ’14 in the Orange Bowl, and take first turn in this rotation.
Brown, well, meaning no disrespect to his elder but…
“This camp, this season it’s been a great competition between me and Joe to come out there every day and get better. I’m coming with competition each day, I know he’s coming. So I hope it will be a great battle and end up I’m on top.”