Donnie Ballgame: Brown makes most of opportunity
First impressions usually mean everything. But when you're the third-string tailback, a good first impression is little more than a nice place to start.
Donald Brown understands this.
As the third man behind incumbent starter Terry Caulley and bruising sophomore Lou Allen at tailback, Brown knows one good performance will do nothing but buy him another opportunity. Perhaps he'll get a few more carries Sept. 16 when the Huskies play Wake Forest at Rentschler Field. If he does well, maybe he gets a few more on the road at Indiana Sept. 23.
Such is the life of a young player on a team loaded with talent at tailback.
Brown, from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., showed a glimpse of his promise in a 52-7 stomping of Rhode Island. He averaged 13.1 yards per carry, going for 118 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns. The highlight was a 53-yard scoring scamper late in the game that showcased Brown's explosiveness and agility.
"The biggest part was making sure I was patient waiting for my number to be called," Brown said. "Once my number was called, I knew I had to make the most of the opportunity."
Randy Edsall wasn't about to annoint Brown as the program's next superstar. But he couldn't have asked for much more from Brown, a former second-team all-state pick and track star in New Jersey who was also recruited by Wisconsin, Virginia, Boston College and Iowa.
"He did very well," Edsall said. "He took advantage of the opportunities when he got them. I thought we had three guys we could count on, maybe more. But he came in, ran hard, executed when he needed to execute and showed some speed and power, too."
Brown spent last fall as a redshirt, and used the extra time to beef up in the weight room as well as learn the nuances of the offense. Now 210 pounds, he's 10 pounds heavier but managed to retain his speed, if not gain a little, Edsall said.
But the most valuable part of his redshirt season, Brown says, was the jump it gave him in the classroom. Brown was an All-American Scholar in high school, and plans to major in kinesiology.
"It really helped academically," Brown said. "I knew with football that I wasn't going in any time soon so I could really focus on academics. It also gave the non-travel team an extra lift every week. Overall it helped me get used to what life is like in college football."
As for playing time, well, that's a waiting game. A few more solid performances and it will be difficult to keep Brown from getting more touches. Until that happens, he says there's always something to work on, be it pass protection or improving his receiving skills.
Edsall said he will likely continue to use his running backs situationally. Caulley, the veteran, is still the main option. Allen, a former fullback, as a change of pace to Caulley and Brown's slashing style or in short yardage situations. Brown will spell the two.
"We're loaded at running back right now," Brown said. "But we're all different in our own ways."