Brown all in on UA red

The fourth in a se­ries pro­fil­ing new­com­ers to the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs foot­ball team.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - ERICK TAY­LOR

There are a lot of de­tails for high school ath­letes to con­sider when they be­gin the process of choos­ing the right col­lege, but for Mon­taric Brown, he knew ex­actly where he wanted to be.

For him, it was Ra­zor­backs red from the get-go, and he wasn’t about to sub­sti­tute it for any other color on his spec­trum.

“Home i s wh e re the heart is,” Brown said af­ter he of­fi­cially signed his na­tional let­ter of in­tent with the Ra­zor­backs on Feb. 1, “and I’m ex­tremely happy that I am fi­nally a Ra­zor­back.”

The for­mer Ash­down safety, who was con­sid­ered the state’s top over­all re­cruit in the Class of 2017 by Ri­vals.com and 247Sports, said the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville has been his “dream school” from as long as he can re­mem­ber, so it wasn’t a huge shock when he com­mit­ted to the Ra­zor­backs prior to his se­nior sea­son.

The fact that he never re­ally wa­vered from his de­ci­sion to sign with Arkansas might come as a sur­prise de­spite the num­ber of the big-name schools that came af­ter him, not to men­tion changes that took place within the Ra­zor­backs pro­gram af­ter Brown gave an oral pledge in July 2016.

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Mon­day at SEC me­dia days that Brown is work­ing this sum­mer to

be­come el­i­gi­ble for the 2017 sea­son and that there is a chance for him to join the team for fall camp, but, “at worst-case sce­nario, I think he could start with us in Jan­uary.”

Brown had of­fers from sev­eral top- tier pro­grams like Alabama, LSU, Bay­lor, Ok­la­homa and Ok­la­homa State and ad­mit­ted he was in­trigued when vis­it­ing other schools, but po­ten­tial deal-break­ers cen­tered around the Ra­zor­backs de­fense.

Arkansas’ al­ter­ations on de­fense be­gan with Paul Rhoads be­ing pro­moted from de­fen­sive backs coach to de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor af­ter Robb Smith re­signed to take over the de­fense at Min­nesota. The Ra­zor­backs also made the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base, with the hope that it’ll help give them a chance to get dif­fer­ent play­ers on the field who are ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing more sup­port against the run and in pass cov­er­age.

The Ra­zor­backs also are hop­ing that the move will al­low for more play­ers to get out in space, par­tic­u­larly against teams with dual-threat quar­ter­backs, but the changes are more de­signed to im­prove a de­fen­sive unit that fin­ished 76th na­tion­ally in to­tal de­fense last sea­son (426.6 yards per game), in­clud­ing 94th against the run (205.5) and 58th in passing yards al­lowed (221.2).

The ad­just­ments, how­ever, didn’t sway Brown. In fact, it might have even made Arkansas that much more at­trac­tive, though he of­fered spe­cific rea­sons why he stuck with the Ra­zor­backs.

“Arkansas wants to keep in-state guys home,” he said. “I’m re­ally big on that. And then, the fan base. … The at­mos­phere with the fans and ev­ery­thing dur­ing games sticks with you. It’s just a great feel­ing, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”

If el­i­gi­ble, Brown is ex­pected to be in the mix for play­ing time, es­pe­cially with Arkansas lack­ing es­tab­lished depth at strong safety, but there was ex­ten­sive com­pe­ti­tion at the po­si­tion dur­ing spring work­outs. With the Ra­zor­backs shift­ing to a 3-4, there are added re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the safeties rang­ing from more in­volve­ment in run sup­port to rec­og­niz­ing cov­er­ages off var­i­ous for­ma­tions and calls.

But Brown isn’t con­cerned. In­stead, he’s em­brac­ing the chal­lenge and is rel­ish­ing the chance to show the team what he can do.

“The change [on de­fense] won’t hurt me at all,” Brown said. “I want to go right in and play im­me­di­ately. That’s the big­gest thing for me. I want to start learn­ing the play­book and earn a spot. There’s go­ing to be some tough com­pe­ti­tion, but hope­fully I can go in there, work hard and do the things that need to be done.”

The 6-1, 185-pounder, who runs a 4.4 in the 40- yard dash, was a first- team Arkansas Demo­crat- Gazette All-Arkansas Preps se­lec­tion at de­fen­sive back as a se­nior at Ash­down af­ter rack­ing up 110 tack­les and grab­bing 7 in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing one that he re­turned 71 yards for a score. He also played a piv­otal

role on of­fense, catch­ing 52 passes for 813 yards and 7 touch­downs for a Pan­thers team that fin­ished 7-4 and third in the 7-4A be­fore los­ing to Ozark 23-22 in the open­ing round of the state play­offs.

As a ju­nior, Brown had 122 tack­les, 1 forced fum­ble 8 passes de­flected and 5 in­ter­cep­tions, 3 of which he re­turned for touch­downs. He’s one of sev­eral play­ers from Ash­down who have re­ceived Divi­sion I in­ter­est re­cently, with Ta­jh­nick Bishop sign­ing with Louisiana-Mon­roe last sea­son and se­niors Tre Green, LaDar­rius Bishop and Jaden Hill re­ceiv­ing of­fers from other pro­grams.

Brown has taken his na­tional at­ten­tion in stride, ac­cord­ing to Ash­down Coach Matt Richard­son.

“He’s such a good kid, but he’s not a rah- rah type of guy,” Richard­son said. “He’s not go­ing to be the one giv­ing the pre-game speeches or any of that be­cause we have other guys that do, but he’s go­ing to lead by ex­am­ple.

“He’s go­ing to lead by go­ing out there, play­ing hard and knock­ing some­body’s head off.”

Brown con­ceded that he has a few things to do be­fore he can live up to Richard­son’s as­ser­tions.

“Just got to im­prove my skills over­all, im­prove my weight and size,” he said. “I’ve got­ten a lit­tle big­ger, and that’s ac­tu­ally helped with my speed. But I’m go­ing to work hard and do the things that I’m sup­pose to do.”

“The change [on de­fense] won’t hurt me at all. I want to go right in and play im­me­di­ately. That’s the big­gest thing for me. I want to start learn­ing the play­book and earn a spot.”

— Mon­taric Brown on his pos­si­ble move to a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion in the se­condary

Brown

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