Vols Enter Brown Derby II

Bryce Brown

As valiant as the effort was by Coach Lane Kiffin to aggressively pursue elite prospects during the abridged 2009 recruiting campaign, there were more than a few big ones that got away from the Vols, but none bigger than Marlon Brown of Memphis Harding Academy, the nation's No. 2 wide receiver and the state's top football prospect.

Brown, who made matters worse by signing with Georgia, is the third top five receiver from the state the Vols have lost since 2005, following middle Tennessee prospects Patrick Turner (USC) and Golden Tate (Notre Dame). The fact wide receiver has been a position of need since 2001 at UT, makes the inability to connect with pass-catching talent particularly disappointing.

Before the focus shifts completely to 2010 when KIffin aims to make his biggest gains, there's still some unfinished business from 2009 that could reverberate into 2012 if the Vols are successful. Chief among these is the nation's No. 1 ranked running back Bryce Brown of Wichita, Kan., who according to several sources is due in Knoxville this weekend for an official visit.

Working at his own pace with a low profile modus operandi, Brown isn't expected to sign with anyone until March. He originally committed to Miami where his brother (Arthur Brown) is a senior linebacker, but continues to consider other destinations.

Brown visited Oregon and Clemson in November, and went to Missouri in October. Tennessee will be his fourth official visit. His final official visit will be to either USC, Miami or LSU on Feb. 28.

At 6-foot, 215 pounds with 4.4 speed Brown is the personification of a feature back. He was the only junior to be named to USA Today's Prep All-American team, after he rushed for over 1,800 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. He repeated that achievement as a senior at East High School, running for 1,872 yards and scoring 30 touchdowns in 203 carries. Brown captured co-MVP honors in the U.S. Army All-American game, running for 44 yards in six carries and catching two passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

A back of optimum diversity, Brown has the size, speed, strength and skill to pound the ball inside or bounce it to the outside and take it distance. He's a threat as a receiver and has rare vision, balance and cutback ability that distinguishes his game. Put the ball in his hands 20 times a game he'll likely give you 150 yards and a TD or two in return.

There's certainly no premiere football program more in need of offensive weaponry than Tennessee, virtually assuring Brown would get his touches in an offense largely built around his array of abilities and big play potential. He'd not only be the feature back, he'd be The Man for a Tennessee team lacking offensive identity following a season of wandering in the wilderness.

Such a scenario might appeal to Brown or he might prefer a stronger supporting cast and more dominating offensive line. Kiffin will likely pitch opportunity and potential in a program with a fan base, coaching staff and facilities that are second to none.

Brown may simply be Miami bound and playing out his hand, or perhaps — with apologies to Bono — he still hasn't found what he's looking for. In addition to early PT, rock star status and maximum exposure, Tennessee offers Brown an opportunity to play in the SEC, where national champions are forged in the furnace of red-hot rivalry and cold-blooded competition.

It may be a long shot, but so were Nu'keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague both of whom were committed to Florida before their official visits to Tennessee. If the Vols should be so fortunate with Bryce Brown it would eclipse the loss of Marlon and give UT a five-star talent to crown a four-star signing class.

It would also add to Kiffin's head coaching credentials, collateral and converts.

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