2009 Breakout Performers? Tim "Duce" Brown

Picture it: Jersey City, New Jersey…January 2006. Rutgers just came off of their 1st bowl appearance in decades and the announcement of a new recruiting class was coming. There at the top of the list was a 5'8" 165lb wide receiver named Tim Brown (aka Duce, Touchdown, or my favorite TD2B). The thought that many Rutgers fans might have had was…I hope he's fast because he's not a big dude.

Blessed with uncanny 4.3 speed, the jumping ability to go up for the ball against bigger defenders, and extremely accurate eye-hand coordination to make some great catches, Brown has turned into one of the best wide receiver prospects in the Big East for 2009. In addition, he has added more muscle and has become a player that opposing teams keep an eye on because one catch can change a game. He has had his issues with dropped passes in the past, but after seeing some of the catches he made during last year's 7 game win streak; it's easy to see why he's becoming a go to guy for 2009.

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Fast forward: West Virginia…December 2006. Rutgers was nearing the Orange Bowl when we had one team standing in their way…their arch nemesis West Virginia. With Shawn Tucker sidelined, Kenny Britt just breaking out, and Tiquan Underwood banged up earlier in the game…Rutgers fans might have considered the game over. West Virginia just scored again and was now up 10 on Rutgers. Rutgers was on the 28 yard line after the kickoff was returned and we were hoping for something. Teel drops back, throws deep down the right sideline, #2 catches the ball, 20, 10, 5, touchdown. On the TV screen, the caption reads…Rutgers, 72 yard TD. The newscasters start talking about the receiver #2 being Tim Brown.

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The stats over the past few years say it all. An astounding 18.6 percent of Brown's catches go for touchdowns. When a big play was needed, he was always ready to deliver and was consistently open. His separation ability is uncanny and with the right chemistry between he and any quarterback, there's no reason why each long throw can't be a touchdown. In addition, he's showcased the ability to take a screen pass and find the hole that will lead him to the end zone making him even more dangerous. It's easy to see why fans gave him the nickname "Touchdown" because he has a nose for the end zone. Touchdown Tim Brown sounds just as fluid as how he breaks away from defenders to put 6 on the board.

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It was quite a breaking out party those next few weeks for Tim Brown. He finished the season with 8 catches for 202 yards and 3 TDs. Rutgers fans now knew his name and greatly looked forward to hearing it called many more times in the future. After 2 touchdowns in the Texas Bowl, Tim went on to provide Rutgers' history making passing attack a triple threat option with possession receiver Tiquan Underwood, physical receiver Kenny Britt, and deep threat Touchdown Timmy Brown. While there were struggles, it was apparent that this group of wide outs was special. It made for quite a combo in 2007 registering the highest yard gaining offense in Rutgers and Big East history. Brown finished the season with 24 catches for 340 yards and 2 TDs. It appeared that Touchdown and the passing game was in for another big year the following year.

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Leadership is something that doesn't come easy to some. With all the changes at the receiver position for Rutgers, with Underwood and Britt going to the NFL and Campbell not being with the team any longer, Brown will need to take on a leadership role. Brown appears to be more than a model citizen making sure he gets to class, makes the grades, and gets to practices. He's leading by example and it's starting to show with Devin McCourty coming out and saying how much the receivers have improved over the summer. It's really something that needs to happen to show the young Scarlet Knights receiving corps that there is more to it that going out to run routes. Brown now understands that and is working hard to show everyone that he's ready for 2009.

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In 2008, it was apparent that Brown was working through some issues with the team and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, but by the Kickoff Celebration it appeared that Coach Schiano and Touchdown had reached an understanding. For the first few games of the season, Touchdown saw limited action, but eventually came on after a rough start to the season in the Cincinnati game. He made several crucial 3rd down catches and was open for a few other big plays in the game. Rutgers fans knew that Brown was going to have a huge game at some point and that happened against Pitt and Louisville with Touchdown scoring 2 times each and logging over 300 total yards. After the Louisville game, the 2 fingers started going up and everyone knew…Touchdown Tim Brown just became "the Duce." He finished the season with 27 catches for 565 yards and 6 TDs, to go with 6 rushes for 36 yards and 1 TD. It was a fitting change to shed the old image and come in with a new image to show that he's "working to be great, not good."

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So what should we look for from Tim in 2009? Being that he's the most senior receiver on the team and has the most experience, Rutgers fans might look for him to become what was expected of him in 2008…a "go to" guy. He has a firm understanding of the offense and it's apparent he's taken on a leadership role within the team to guide these young receivers in their development. There is a very good possibility that Rutgers' success will hinge on the passing game stretching the defense to let the running game have more space, so Brown will be a crucial part of Rutgers' success this year and Rutgers needs him to step up. All the assets he has and the chemistry he's developed between he and Rutgers QB Don Natale has been a positive indication that the passing game shouldn't be a worry. With the work he's showcasing to the other younger receivers, it's starting to show that help is on the way for him. The relationship and communication the passing game showed at the spring game was a very good sign that Duce is ready to be a Breakout Performer in 2009.

If Brown could live up to expectations, there will be some kid watching an NFL game next year after Brown's first 72 yard touchdown asking his friends, "Who the heck is that guy?" With the response, "That's the rookie we drafted…they call him Duce."

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