In The Fire

Redshirt freshman Offensive Lineman Mike Brown got rushed into playing time against Tulane when Josh Tatum, in for dismissed Rishaw Johnson, went down with injury. He's a strong candidate to start against Vandy. Read his thoughts inside.

When the 2010 season began, the Ole Miss Rebels had a relatively young offensive line starting with three juniors and two sophomores in the lineup.

Suddenly, one of the juniors - Right Guard Rishaw Johnson - was kicked off the team and sophomore Josh Tatum was inserted at RG for the Tulane game, making the starting OL yet a year younger.

Then, late in the Tulane game, Tatum went down with an ankle injury and redshirt freshman Michael Brown, who is the backup left guard, was forced into action, making the OL even another year younger.

With Tatum out for the SEC opener with Vanderbilt, it looks as if Brown will get the first start of his career.

Michael Brown

"My playing time against Tulane was alright," said Brown, a low-key 6-5, 305-pounder who has been paying his learning dues for over a year. "I haven't been at right guard for about six months, so some things were new to me and I didn't remember everything, but I had to get the job done and not worry too much about all of that."

Moving from the left side to the right side doesn't sound like too big an adjustment to the layman, but Brown said it's more about the comfort you have with the guys next to you more than the schemes.

"I've been used to working with Emmanuel McCray and Bradley Sowell, the two left tackles, and now I'm working with Bobby (Massie) and Logan (Clair)," he explained. "You just have to get used to that difference in styles.

"There are some assignment issues, but I think I can pick up on those pretty quickly. I'll be studying my playbook hard this week for sure."

Mike doesn't seem overwhelmed by suddenly surfacing as a starter. He says he's worked hard to get where he is and is ready to test his skills on this level.

"We are grinding every day to get better. We are trying to come on as hard as we can. I think we are progressing each week, but we are a work in progress," he said. "We're taking baby steps and taking things one practice and one game at a time."

Brown says the development of the offensive line is kind of like a process of elimination.

Michael Brown

"You see something new, react to it, put it in your head and then when you see it again, you know what to do," he said. "As you are gaining experience, you are going to make mistakes. The key is to correct it, file it and not make the mistake again.

"We're not making the same mistakes twice and we are eliminating mistakes. I think we are getting better, but it's definitely a process and not something that happens quickly. I made mistakes against Tulane, but I won't make the same mistakes against Vanderbilt, I hope. I just tried to go hard against Tulane. Against Vandy, I believe I will have more of an idea of what to do."

Brown is cranking up his playing time against an SEC foe, one he respects.

"Vandy has a good defensive front. They come with a field blitz some and they mix things up, but I think we can get it done," he stated.

Individually, Brown said he's not sure where he is in the development process, but he understands the urgency.

"I have to get ready. I don't have a choice. It's do or die," he noted. "I will be accountable. I understand my teammates are counting on me to step it up and that's what I intend to do.

"I have to get it done. I know left guard inside and out, but I'll have to put in some overtime this week to get up to par at right guard. I'm sure I'll be a little nervous, but that's to be expected. Like I said, there will be only one thought on my might - get it done."


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