Inside the Brown Derby

He's the most wanted man in Tennessee and one of the 10 most wanted in America; a smooth criminal in the seething arena of athletic competition, Marlon Brown has the cool to make a big heist and the wheels to make a clean getaway. Add his formidable 6-foot-6, 207-pound frame along with his mastery of gravity, artistry of escape and his high-caliber game clearly surpasses the lethal threshold.

The Memphis Harding Academy five-star wide receiver just may be THE standout in an outstanding crop of 2009 pass-catchers. Brown is ranked No. 2 at his position by Scout.com, but he is the undisputed No. 1 target on the Vols' prospect board. Keeping him in the Volunteer State could prove as difficult as keeping him out of the end zone, but the combined efforts of Phillip Fulmer and Bruce Pearl pack a potent one-two recruiting punch.

It will take something special to survive a field of 17 top contenders with no favorites for the two-sport star, and UT has several factors in its favor, including home-state advantage, elite basketball and football programs that finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the SEC. Finally, there are the first-class facilities, rich traditions, fervent fans and massive crowds that comprise the essence and infrastructure of Big Orange Country.

Marlon Brown took a few minutes Tuesday evening to update Inside Tennessee on his progress with the process and when he'll make his next set of cuts.

"It's wild, it's crazy," he said of the recruiting process. "The calls, the e-mails, coaches stopping by. It's good to get the attention but I wouldn't mind taking a break from it."

For sure he'll take a few fast breaks as a small forward for the AAU Memphis Wild this summer. Brown is as serious about basketball as he is football. He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game as a junior to pace Harding Academy to 22-10 mark and the state title. He won MVP honors in the championship contest.

"My basketball game is like my football game," he said when asked about his development. "Both are rising big time. My training schedule has been real difficult to keep, but I definitely want to play both sports in college. I've been playing both since the seventh grade and it's no big deal now."

Mere mortals might question how big a deal it is, after all, no one has successfully competed in both sports at the high Division I level since Charlie Ward of Florida State did it 16 years ago. Brown will get a chance to prove his point next month as he is taking part in the The Rising Star football camp at USC after which it's back to the gym and an exhausting AAU schedule. Then he returns to the gridiron for his senior season which overlaps the hardwood campaign. In January he is slated to take part in workouts leading up to the Under Armor High School All-Star game in Orlando. The week of football will precede the stretch run of Harding Academy's state title defense in basketball.

The drawback of such a demanding schedule is that in addition to leaving him little time for rest and recovery, it costs him in the weight room where he is looking to improve his current 220-pound bench press and 420 squat. Given time is in such short supply in Brown's young life, the fact he maintains a 3.2 GPA in his core curriculum is commendable. He plans to major in business and is being heavily pursued by Stanford, Notre Dame and Duke.

As a junior Brown had 99 touches from the line of scrimmage, as he caught 41 passes for 861 yards and six touchdowns. He also had 58 carries for 629 yards and 10 TDs pushing his totals to 1,490 yards and 16 scores. With a sterling 15.5-yard per touch average from 2007, Brown should get more opportunities this season. However his presence alone in the lineup boosts the offense even if he doesn't have a single touch, such is the game-breaking threat he poses.

"We're going to open up the offense some more this year," he said. "I'm looking forward to that. I am a receiver who is big and fast off the catch. I've got a height advantage. I can get deep or catch the ball in traffic. I pick up a lot of yards after the catch."

Whatever college is fortunate enough to secure Brown's scintillating services we'll have to overcome first-class competition and a protracted recruiting process.

"I've got 30 something scholarship offers," he said. "I really don't know because I haven't kept up with them. I have a top 17. How's that? I'm going to make the next cut in June down to 12 or 10 teams. Then I'll probably make another cut before the season starts."

Brown is expected to make unofficial visits over the summer to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame, Stanford and USC. He is expected to take his five official visits during the season. He is also considering Colorado, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Texas Tech, Kentucky, Ole Miss, LSU, Ohio State and Missouri.

It's too early to know if the Vols will make Brown's first cut much less his last. But with so many visits and locales to choose from in the end the familiarity and comfort with UT could be tough to top.

"Hands down Tennessee is definitely a very strong contender," Brown said. "It's the big home-state school. I've always followed Tennessee. I like their tradition and their coaches very much. I believe the offense will come together for them and they'll be better this year."

Better still with Marlon Brown in the starting lineup.


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