First trip to Rocky Top first of many?

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Assuming the fax machine hasn't started humming, it's never too late to get better educated with a trip to a college campus.

Defensive end prospect Malik Brown and his father just finished an official visit, which was his first-ever trip to not only Knoxville but to Tennessee period.

"After I had seen the facilities and everything, I was kind of shocked," Brown said. "I didn't think it was going to be this nice, but it was pretty nice."

While he and his father's time on Rocky Top was certainly eye-opening, it wasn't enough to secure a verbal pledge. However, Tennessee is in the thick of the hunt alongside Syracuse and South Florida. The Orangemen have the inside track as Brown committed to them back on Dec. 19.

"Right now everybody is so close to each other. It's hard for me and my family. It's going to be a good decision no matter where I go. It's hard for us to see which one we want to do," he said.

"Right now, obviously I'm still committed to Syracuse. When I say I'm committed, I'm committed. But, I did open up my options and that's why I went on this visit. I'm just looking around and seeing what's going on. I think I made a good decision by looking around."

Presently, there is no declaration ceremony in place for Brown in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. It's even possible that it may be days after National Signing Day before the school of choice gets his Letter of Intent in its fax machine.

"Whatever God tells me to do, that's what I'll do," Brown said. "So, if God tells me to hold up, something might come in or something might tell me what should determine my decision, that's what I'll do. But, if He's telling me to sign on signing day, that's what I'll do as well."

Brown is among the southeast's greatest risers over the course of his senior season, right there with Alabama pledge Eddie Jackson and Alpharetta, Ga., native George Adeosun. The upcoming quiet time should provide Brown and those close to him some relief so a declaration can be made.

Tennessee ead coach Butch Jones and his staff greatly covet an athletic defensive end like Brown to round out the Class of 2013.
(Danny Parker/
"It's been very hectic," Brown said. "I have to turn my phone off sometimes just to do some homework, honestly. But, now that the Dead Period is coming, I can sit down and talk to my family, see what they're thinking, see what I'm thinking. It ultimately comes down to my decision but I would like to have my family involved with me. They've been a big part of this since I had one offer. They will be involved."

The talented edge rusher talked highly of east Tennessee and Knoxville itself.

"The city is amazing," Brown said. "The support of everybody in the city is amazing. I think this college has the most support that I've been to overall. I liked it a lot."

Former Dwyer (Fla.) High School teammate and current Vol linebacker Curt Maggitt hosted Brown.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and defensive line coach Steve Stripling are spearheading the pursuit of the 6-foot-3, 253-pound hybrid end. The pair joined coordinator John Jancek and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen in the Brown home on Jan. 27.

"The coaches in general, they're all great coaches," Brown said. "I like the way I got along with coach Strip and coach Jones. They made it feel like home, and they welcomed me with open arms. So, I liked it a lot."

Tennessee sees Brown playing the same defensive end/hybrid linebacker spot that Maggitt will play this fall, a role the Volunteers are calling the "Leo." It's a position that Brown says fits his skill set "perfectly" and his primary teacher would be Stripling.

"Coach Stripling is a nice dude, a great coach from what I've been hearing," Brown said. "The meeting that we went through today…I like his philosophies on a lot of things. If I do decide to come to Tennessee, I can't wait to work with him."

Under Jancek's leadership, the Vols are swapping their defensive scheme back from a 3-4 to a 4-3. That means P.T. for the Sunshine State rusher.

"They told me I do have a chance to play early because of them changing their defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3," Brown said. "They have big 300-pound defensive ends, and they don't have anybody that can fly to the ball as of now. So, that's why they recruited me."

While some Big Orange targets aren't a fan of all the attention that comes with a big-name school in the Southeastern Conference, Brown relishes in it.

"I don't have any concerns about Tennessee at all," he said. "The most thing that I'm at awe about is the fan support and facilities. The fan support is ridiculous. I tweeted right after I got off the phone with coach Jones that Tennessee offered me. I had 300 followers. I didn't keep up with Twitter like that. But, as of now I have 1,152 followers. I got all those in the span of a week. It's been kind of crazy. Tennessee fans love Tennessee, and they're very passionate."

Ironically, it was Jackson's Boyd Anderson team that eliminated Brown's Dwyer squad in the second round of the FHSAA Class 7A state playoffs 6-3 back on Nov. 23.

He led a defense that gave up just 113 yards and 6.83 points per game. Their final record for 2012 was 9-3.

He and his father took a look at the academic side of things while on The Hill also. He thinks he may enter business after his days on the gridiron are over.

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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