UAB's Brown ready to return to Norman

A familiar face will roam the sidelines of Owen Field on September 2nd when former Sooners offensive coordinator Watson Brown takes the field with his UAB Blazers. Brown, who is also the older brother of Texas head coach Mack Brown, recently talked to about his return trip to Norman and the state of his 2006 squad.

Oklahoma will open the 2006 season September 2 against UAB and head coach Watson Brown. You remember Coach Brown, the older brother of UT head coach Mack Brown and the former offensive coordinator of the Sooners in 1993 and 1994.

Watson came very close to becoming the head coach at Oklahoma, and at once you learn that he finished to Howard Schnellenberger in 1995 you will be wishing the rest of the day that he had won the race.

Once Brown realized that he wasn't going to be the next coach of the Sooners, he took the head football job at the University of Alabama Birmingham and he has been there ever sense.

UAB didn't even have a football team in 2001 and when Brown took over the program they weren't using all of their allotted scholarships. They didn't have locker rooms or football office. But since UAB joined Conference USA seven years ago, they have been more than competitive in the conference at 28-23.

In 12 years at UAB, Brown is 59-65 and he runs an offense that the OU defensive coaches call one of the best designed they will coach against in years. UAB opened at Tennessee a year ago and lost a hard-fought 17 to 10 battle.

Since his days at OU, Brown has been a good friend to his reporter and just before he went on a two-week vacation he talked to OUInsider for the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Watson, how is it going?

WB: "James, it is great. I miss you and a lot of the folks in Norman, that is for sure. It was a great two years in Norman, I had a blast. Friends like you that have stayed friends now for the last 12 years are special, and I look forward to seeing you when we come back."

JH: September 2 is not that far down the road, so how did this game come together?

WB: "The AD (Watson Brown) put this together. And the football coach and the AD have not liked each other very well here for a while! We have always played very tough schedule. When you start a program from scratch you have to have image, and the only way to get image is to play good people. Then, hopefully, you can compete and win some of those. Money is another reason. It is a money issue with us too. We are coming to Norman for a lot of reasons, but I also think there was a little something personal to it. I would like to come back and see a lot of people myself too."

JH: I know you got very close to your players at OU during your time here. I am sure you keep up with a number of those players and coaches, who you were competing with at OU during those two years?

WB: "Oh yeah, I talk to a number of those guys or they send me a note. Most all of those guys are very successful, some in athletics and some not. I know that Milton Overton has a business that is going very well that we deal with a little bit in some different ways. Yeah, that was a special group of kids and a special time. We were getting through the probation times and the different issues. As they were coming through it, those kids had to be special kids to hang through that and be as successful as they were."

JH: Garrick McGee is the offensive coordinator at Northwestern, Cale Gundy is the running back coach at OU and he coached for you as well, and Chuck Langston is the head coach at UCO. Did you know you had so many future coaches on your team at that time?

WB: "No, I wouldn't go that far. That was just a great group of offensive kids, and even with some of the defensive kids we still talk. It was a bunch of good guys and that is why we had some good teams during that time."

JH: You had a good quarterback last year and at UAB you always seem to have a good quarterback. You lost a great one, but don't you have a two or three more waiting in the wings?

WB: "Last year we had Darrell Hackney, who is with the Cleveland Browns now. He was a four-year starter here. He broke every Conference USA record that there is, so that is not easy to replace. We have a weird team in that we are going to have right up to 30 seniors on this football team, yet a new quarterback and a new group of receivers. Everything else is back on this team and if we come through, especially at quarterback, I think we are going to be really good with this many experienced kids.

That position is so critical in college football now and I am sure Oklahoma will make him make pay for us to move the ball, and I don't blame them for that. I would do that to. I like our young man, Sam Hunt, who is a junior. He is different from Darrell. He is a 6-foot-3, 215 pounder and he can run and throw. Then Chris Williams is a fifth-year senior, who is the other young man that is back. He has played just a little bit, so I would think you would see both of those in the first game. And, in time, one of them will settle in and give us a chance to have a good team."

JH: You have always been considered a great offensive mind. You always seem to be a step ahead when it comes to offense, so what are you doing offensively and are you still calling your own plays?

WB: "Yeah, I am calling my own plays because that is still fun for me to do and I feel I am still pretty good at it. I think when I quit calling plays is when I will quit coaching. James, if you remember I used to talk to you and say that I believe that you do what your players can do. I don't believe in one offense. If you have players who are more I-formation oriented, then that is what you do and you work stuff around that. If you are an all-out spread team and can throw it every down, then you do that. I have had my hand in all of it. I don't believe that there is any offense that I haven't been associated with.

"I think this team will be a little different than last, but I am always a believer that you have got to run the ball and be successful at that. Defenses dictate so much now. If somebody wants to make you throw then you better be able to throw. If somebody wants to defend and make you run, you better be able to run. The old days of the pure one-dimension offense are gone. You just can't win consistently if you are a one-dimensional team. I would say that we better be able to do both, and I would say that Oklahoma will probably crowd us and make us throw some with a new quarterback."

JH: You have a wide receiver playing for you that you have recruited all your life. What is it like coach your son Steven?

WB: "Well, it is neat. He transferred from Auburn and sat out last year. He will be our starting inside receiver when we are in a three-wide receiver type set. I don't see him very often because he doesn't come home. I think I saw him more when he was at Auburn than I do now that he is back at UAB. He was a receiver his freshman year in high school and then a quarterback his last three years in high school. So, he has gone back and he is playing receiver now. We will see because his first time to play will be right there in Norman where he watched many games when he was about six, seven or eight years old. That will be a neat start for him."

JH: You return a number of players on your offensive line. Is that the strength of your team?

WB: "Yeah, all of our running backs and offensive linemen are back. That will be strength for us, and pretty much our defense is back intact. We have all of our punters and kickers, snappers and holders, all of that are back. We have a solid returning team, but we have the inexperience at two spots, which is a little bit at receiver and of course at quarterback."

JH: Do you have any freshmen that are going to play for you this year?

WB: "No, I don't think we will play a freshme. We might have one in a late back-up role or third string role. I don't see a freshmen today walking through the door and playing, because this is an experienced team coming back. I just don't think you will see that happen. There might be a wide receiver that is down on the depth chart a little bit who might help us or two. We do have to replace our punt returner and we signed a fantastic freshman punt returner that played in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game this weekend. He returned one for about 40-yards. So, that kid (Jared White) might have a shot.

JH: How do you see your conference race this year?

WB: Well, we were picked first or second last year and the team picked last won it and that was Central Florida. I think Tulsa was picked very close to last on the other side and won it. This is a league that I don't see the top team being much better than the 12th team. It is really a very balanced league. In the six years that we were in the other league, before this new league was formed, we had the third-best record overall in that league. Only Southern Miss and Louisville had a better record than us.

"We have been very competitive in Conference USA and we are hungry. We thought last year was a little bit of an underachieving year for us. It is the first year in my 11 years here that I thought the team should have had a better record than we were. We should have been in a bowl last year, but we blew some close games and ended up 5-6. With all this experience coming back, we are really hungry to get on the field and see if we can't get ourselves back in that bowl picture again."

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories