Brewer steps up for UT

Brent Brewer isn't one to back away from a challenge. That's fortunate because he faced an imposing one - two imposing ones, actually - last Saturday night.

Seeing his first significant football action in five years, Tennessee's 22-year-old freshman safety drew the unenviable task of trying to tackle the NCAA's premier running tandem - Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson of Alabama.

Brent Brewer stepped up to meet the challenge, however, finishing the evening with 6 tackles and a quarterback hurry. For a guy who hadn't played a meaningful scrimmage snap since December of 2005, his work in helping contain Ingram (5-10, 215) and Richardson (5-11, 220) was fairly impressive.

"Those are two big guys," the 6-2, 205-pound Brewer said this week. "But you had to have that mindset that you can stop anything. That's how I was going into the game - trying to be physical with the tight ends and getting in there and stopping the run."

Ingram won the 2009 Heisman Trophy, and Richardson is considered by many to be his equal. Still, Brewer says he was not intimidated.

"Not at all," he said. "Not at all."

Brewer signed a football scholarship with Florida State after starring as a senior receiver/defensive back at Sandy Creek High of Tyrone, Ga., in the fall of 2005. He batted .497 as a shortstop the following spring, however, prompting the Milwaukee Brewers to select him in Round 2 of the June, 2006 Major League Baseball Draft.

Choosing the diamond over the gridiron, he appeared to be a rising star when he belted 11 home runs and stole 42 bases in 49 attempts for Class A West Virginia in 2007. Four-plus seasons of pro baseball ended on May 21, however, when he decided that his Major League dream had become a pipe dream. The next step was enrolling at Tennessee and resuming his football career.

"I always knew once I got drafted I could come back and play football," Brewer said. "I had a heck of a four years, made it to Double-A. But that fourth year I started second-guessing. I wasn't having much fun and I just wanted to come back to school, get my education and play football."

Brewer's return to football after a five-year absence was understandably difficult. Though older and stronger than the other Vol defensive backs, he had a lot of rust to be shed and a lot of change to be handled.

"Just the conditioning," he said. "You don't do as much running (in baseball). Also, there isn't all the pounding on the body and you don't really lift weights in baseball. I'm just getting back into the groove."

Brewer said he still feels "a little bit" of rust in terms of his "quickness and moving side to side, but it's all coming along."

With a power-running Alabama team across the field and slender first-team strong safety Prentiss Waggner (6-2, 181) hampered by injury, Tennessee coaches felt they needed more of a physical presence at the position Saturday night, so they gave Brewer roughly half of the snaps. He insists he wasn't surprised.

"Not really," he said. "Going through the week they let me know I needed to be ready, that I was going to get a lot of plays whenever they had two tight ends. I was prepared to play."

Apparently so. Brewer's performance, though understandably flawed, was pretty strong for a guy who hadn't played a meaningful snap on defense in five years. Perhaps he can be a partial answer to Tennessee's secondary woes.

"I wouldn't say I'm an answer," he said, "but I think I can help a lot. We'll just go out and work every day, get the game plan down and we'll see on Saturday."

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