Brown solid at safety

Cringing would be the common occurrence when an experienced player goes down and turns over his position to a freshman. But Johnny Brown has eased the worries and picked up the slack left behind by Jamarca Sanford's absence.

The plan was to spot play Brown and ease him into the college game, but that idea went out the window when Sanford was injured at Georgia. Instead, the Charleston product has started the past two contests and put up 22 tackles on the season, including a career-high seven Saturday against Alabama.

"It has been fun," Brown said. "Nothing like being out there playing Division-I ball. The game is much faster than high school, but I have been able to adjust. "We practice at game speed, so that helps me out a lot."

Speed hasn't been an issue as he also picked up two quarterback hurries on Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson last weekend. The highly touted prep running back has transitioned into an SEC defender pretty well. Brown is just happy to be playing.

"I came in to play wherever they needed me, no certain position," Brown said. "Defense is cool. I would rather hit than be hit."

After overcoming a wait for eligibility thanks to the NCAA Clearinghouse, Brown quickly moved into the two-deep and gained snaps in the rotation.

"They have had me in the rotation for a while, so starting was just another step," he noted. "It isn't like I went from not playing to being in almost every play."

The mental aspect of playing has been more grueling than anything else for Brown. Sanford has educated the freshman when possible, but when he is on field, others have guided him. Kendrick Lewis has been the biggest help to Brown during game action.

"I ask a lot of questions," Brown said. "There isn't such thing as a stupid question. You have to ask questions to learn. I have a few things to learn, like the rest of the defense. I want to learn all the positions."

One thing has hasn't been difficult for Brown is tackling at the SEC level. He has been one of the reliable ones on a tackle-poor defense. Brown credits coaching and also his mentality.

"Coach Rippon really coaches up tackling and works on tackling drills. We have to come up and tackle as a team. It is all about confidence. It doesn't matter how you bring them down, as long as they are on the ground."

Sanford is still questionable for the upcoming Saturday against Arkansas as the team tries to overcome the controversial game-ending call versus Alabama. Brown feels the pain but knows it can't be dwelled on.

"It was heartbreaking, but you have to deal with it and go back to work."

Working as the starting strong safety that is.

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