Confident Brown emerging at WR this spring

Junior wide receiver Moe Brown, a spot contributor in his first two years, has been one of the biggest surprises of the Gamecocks' spring practice. The 6-foot, 186-pound speedster has shown big-play ability with the ball in his hands while also developing the knack to adjust to balls in the air and make the difficult catches.

"It's obvious that I've kind of underachieved my first two years and people are expecting a lot of me. I just told myself coming into the spring, 'Just be confident. Take it back to high school when people used to be scared to cover me,'" Brown said. "I've just been having fun this spring, and I guess my play has been showing it."

Things have not always been that way for the newly-confident Brown. The Westside HS graduate originally signed with the Gamecocks in the class of 2006 over schools such as Tennessee and Maryland. While the former three-star athlete was not very highly-recruited, he was coveted by the USC coaching staff, who was impressed after seeing him in person.

After a freshman season that was partially interrupted by an injured ankle, Brown was poised for a breakout season prior to his sophomore campaign. It was not to be, though, as the Anderson, SC native struggled with dropped passes, a lack of confidence, and some plain old bad luck. Brown finished the season with a disappointing 13 catches for 168 yards.

"I think I had lost a little bit of confidence. You want to come here, and a lot of people expect a lot from you, especially being from a small town. It's kind of a lot on your shoulders, especially when you're not used to being on the bench or coming off the bench or anything like that."

Brown says his own disappointment in his performance started to get to him at times, but he was able to fight through that.

"Yeah, naturally when you come in the season as a starter looking at 40-something snaps a game and you drop it to 13, you always get mad at yourself. And I'm the type of person that doesn't get mad at anyone else. I'm going to bring it on me, what I'm doing wrong, and try to analyze what I'm doing (in order) to get better. There were some times I got down on myself."

Rather than feel sorry for himself and quit, Brown decided to look within, and see how he could better himself. Near the end of last season, Brown's changes began paying off.

"I think it started right before the Florida game," Brown said. "Just go out there and have fun (I told myself). And I just started having fun. The game slowed down for me again, and I started enjoying what I was doing and I wanted to make plays for the team and make us better."

After catching just five balls in nine games, Brown caught eight in the final three, including tying a career-high with four receptions for 34-yards against Florida. Brown followed that up with a career-high 37-yards receiving against Clemson.

"Towards the end of the season I started with me and my relationship with God, started looking at that and reading my Bible and getting back where I'm supposed to be. Then I started going back, my comfort level started getting back up, started catching a couple of balls, and here we are."

Brown has been gleaming with confidence all spring, and it has shown in his play at every practice. Just as the bad things piled on last year and one bad thing led to another, now confidence is breeding good play for Brown which is only breeding more confidence.

"I just told myself, ‘Moe, you're an athlete. It's natural for you; let it come natural.' And it's been coming natural for me this spring; towards the end of the season it had started coming natural for me. I think that's the difference right there."

Others around the program have noticed that Brown's hard work has paid off, too. After Monday's scrimmage USC head coach Steve Spurrier made it a point to mention how pleased he was with Brown's big day. Working with the first string receivers again, Brown hauled in five passes for 63 yards.

The performance did not go unnoticed by USC quarterback Chris Smelley either.

"Moe Brown looked good today. He was getting open. He was making some smart adjustments to what the defense was doing. He did a great job," Smelley said.

According to Brown, reading the defense and adjusting to it is something else that he has worked on a lot.

"That's something coming into the offseason I was trying to do, understanding the defense better and exactly what they're doing. The game has slowed down for me and when you have an understanding for what the defense is doing and where they're rolling to, you get open a lot easier, and it makes it a whole lot easier for your quarterbacks."

Brown believes his new understanding will help him tremendously in the future.

"I think once you come to a D1 level at any school it comes to understanding the defense. Because it's so complex; they run so much, you can't just go out there and say ‘you run this.' They roll and shift, and you have to shift with the defense."

Fresh off his best performance ever in Williams-Brice Stadium Monday, Brown smiles like he almost always does, and says something you probably wouldn't have heard from him a year ago.

"I just feel like nobody can cover me right now. Just throw me out there, give me a route. I feel like with my patience and speed, I can get open against anyone."

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