Malcolm Brown: 2011 Texas Recruiting Spotlight

2011 Texas commit Malcolm Brown, a running back from Cibolo Steele.

Vitals

Name: Malcolm Brown

Position: Running back

Height: 6-2

Weight: 220

Speed: 4.44 40-yard dash

High School: Cibolo Steele

Rating (Rivals): Five out of five (6.1)

Overview/Recruitment

At first there were three: Brown, SA Madison's Aaron Green, and Abilene's Herschel Sims. Then Brookshire Royal's Brandon Williams jumped into the fray. By the first Texas Junior Day in February of 2010, it was clear that all four were big-time talents and that the Longhorns had to land at least one of them in the class. If not, skepticism surrounding Major Applewhite's ability to recruit and the position would have come under intense scrutiny and a program with some high-profile misses at the running back position would have another empty year.

Several questions emerged. Which running back was the best fit for the Texas offense? Was there a back-up plan if Texas missed on Brown, the most highly-ranked of the four? How many of the four would Texas offer and what would happen if the class started running out of space and another back wanted to commit before Brown? No doubt it was a delicate situation for the coaching staff to maneuver and there was little margin for error.

Both Green and Brown received offers at the first Texas Junior Day, while Williams received a JD2 invite, but committed to Baylor before making it to campus. Sims apparently found out from the coaching staff that he wasn't going to receive an offer at JD2 and declined to make the trip, eventually committing to Oklahoma State.

As Scipio Tex wrote in April, Texas decided to go all in with Malcolm Brown and essentially not worry about the other backs. It was Malcolm Brown or bust, something that became more apparent as the Longhorns slow played Aaron Green, a heavy Nebraska lean because his older brother is a defensive back in Lincoln. Despite some talk of a Thunder and Lightning combination, especially after Brown's commitment, Green ended up, as expected, as a Nebraska commit.

Oklahoma was a threat early in the process, an ominous sign for Texas when recruiting a back wearing the same number in high school as his hero, Adrian Peterson, wore in the crimson and cream. The effects of Peterson spurning the Longhorns still lingered, it seemed. The Sooners, however, only had room for a small class after a large take in 2010 and shut down recruiting at the position after Brandon Williams switched his commitment from Baylor to Oklahoma. One major threat down.

The interest in Texas always remained strong, as Brown made it to a practice in the spring to get a look at the supposedly re-tooled Longhorn rushing attack, among several other visits. All along, Major Applewhite put in serious work staying in contact with Brown and letting him know that he was a major priority in the class.

In May, Brown revealed that he planned to make a decision before the start of his senior season to avoid the distractions that go hand in hand with such a high profile recruitment. As the summer drew on, only two names remained for Brown -- Alabama and Texas, with the Crimson Tide putting on a late push to claim his services.

And though Texas remained in a strong position, several elements were seemingly against the home-state 'Horns. For one, Brown comes from a military family and original hails from SEC country, moving to Texas in elementary school. As a result, Brown does not have the deep ties to the state that often result in recruits connecting their pride in Texas to their feelings for the flagship state university.

Add in the established success of Alabama on the ground with powerful backs like Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, as well as rumors that his father preferred the Tide and suddenly Texas appeared to have some serious competition in Brown's recruitment for the first time in months. During the summer, Brown made it out to Tuscaloosa and the time there clearly gave him something to think about.

The good news for Mack Brown and company was that the Longhorns had been in the driver's seat for so long with Brown and had the major advantage of proximity, which seemed to play heavily, as it often does, with Brown's mother. Numerous trips to Austin, including one in July amidst the surge by the Tide, helped establish a comfort level with the program Alabama could not achieve with one visit.

Then, with little warning and even less fanfare -- no public announcement, no hats on a table -- Brown announced his commitment to the University of Texas, ending his recruitment. It was a pledge that never wavered despite the 5-7 season, the departure of Greg Davis, and the turnover of several other offensive assistant coaches.

The Longhorns had landed the final piece of their running game puzzle, though Davis would not be around to put them together -- that task will fall to newly hired co-OC Bryan Harsin and the point man in Brown's recruitment, his position coach Major Applewhite.

For the program, landing Brown was a major step forward after failing to land a high-profile running back since Cedric Benson's commitment in the early part of the decade, as even though Jamaal Charles became a superstar on the 40 Acres, he wasn't considered among the best in the country at the time of his commitment. For Major Applewhite, it relieved the tremendous pressure building against him among those in the fanbase who believe either that he couldn't coach running backs or that top running backs didn't want to play for him, or some combination of the two.

For Texas fans, who finally had their impact back, it was a chance to breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Quotes:

On his commitment:

I was very comfortable up in Austin. The coaches were real down-to-earth, and I know it's the right fit.

On the impact of Austin's proximity:

I guess I got a chance to look at UT a little more, because they're right down the road.

On the difficulties surrounding making such a big decision:

You just have to know for sure, because you're going to spend the next four years of your life there. The hardest thing, I guess, is trying to figure out which coaches are sincere about what they're saying. All the coaches are convincing, and you have to figure out which coach really cares about you as a person.

Steele head coach Mike Jinks on Brown's commitment ($):

I think proximity played a big part. That and Texas' commitment to establishing a downhill running game played a huge part. Coach (Mack) Brown and coach (Major) Applewhite being who they are, I think coach Brown won Mrs. Brown (Malcolm's mother) over rather quickly. That never hurts any time you have mom won over. But we're excited for Malcolm. I think it's a good fit. All the people have seen the youtube video and things of that nature. But the people in Austin probably don't realize what kind of person they're getting. I think that's what separates him. I think (Texas fans) will enjoy him for the next four years.

Coach Jinks on the timing of the decision:

All along, he and his family have said they would make a decision before the season starts. We've been in camp for over a week, we're getting close to the first game, so people started to wonder when he's going to do it. When you've got people with his character, you just have to take him for his word. He and his family knew they would make a decision when it was right for them. He and his parents told me tonight, we called coach Brown, shared it with their staff and that was it.

Coach Jinks on the way Brown handled his decision:

I'll always remember how he handled himself, how he handles his business. Whatever he does at Texas or beyond, it's how handles himself that stands out. He's made a heck of an impact on the community and the people's lives he's touched.

Offers

  • Texas (committed 8/18/2010)
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Baylor
  • Florida State
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kansas State
  • Nebraska
  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma
  • Stanford
  • TCU
  • Texas A&M
  • Texas Tech
  • Tulsa

Scouting Report

Instant scouting report following his commitment:

Let's get this out of the way at the start -- this scouting report does not read like the unrequited love affair so many voices in this Longhorn bandbox have sounded for Brandon Williams (Mr. Physical Upside). Me included.

Instead, the toughest question is Brown's physical upside. And here the cynicism of the Texas S&C program rears it's head. A physical dominance that will exist to a much lesser degree in college. No surprise, but still a concern.

Worst case: Is Brown Bulldozer the Second? Vondrell McGee again? In the broken arm tackles perhaps, not in the overall expectations or the talent level but most particularly a fit in the offense moving forward. A fit in the offense never described McGee.

Now to the hype. National top-10 rankings in all the services. Consensus top running back in the country. All the accolades. Production.The ideal back moving forward for Texas moving more downhill. Like I said, I'm not going to mention that other back.

If Brown's not ready to run over a member of the opponents' second level, there is still enough explosiveness and good enough feet to solve the other problems in high school. I was about to mention that name again -- reminder, this is about Malcolm Brown. And all this discussion almost presupposes the worst case because otherwise Brown will be a star.

As Scipio Tex mentions, he's not a superstar at running behind his pads, but he's no Chris Whaley either. Sorry, Mack. It's mostly mass (210 pounds or more) times acceleration (top speed at the third step or so) and a strong core just behind the shoulders.

Balance -- related to that core strength. Like, elite balance.

Toughness, an aggressive mentality with the football.

Quick through the hole, no nonsense. No jukes, just downhill. Still, underrated feet.

A snug fit for the new scheme.

The question that Scipio Tex is posing is one of whether Brown has physically maximized his talent. The answer seems like no. It's hard to believe that there isn't a little bit more burst waiting for a college S&C program to realize itself. A stiff arm and more runs behind the pads.

In this case, the national rankings speak so strongly about Brown's value that the only criticisms are left for whether he will be able to outrun Iowa State's secondary versus being able to outrun Texas A&M's secondary. Not a big difference, but an important distinction.

Will it be the distinction between good and great? Good and average? Given the whole array of talent, that seems unlikely.

Scouting report from the SA Madison game:

The most noticeable thing about Brown on the evening was his conditioning -- the Texas commit was showing off a little bit of a gut and looked about 5-10 pounds overweight, evident late in the game when it looked like he ran out of gas, spending portions of the last drive down on his haunches trying to catch his breath.

However, Brown also showed why he is generally considered the top running back in the country on his 88-yard touchdown -- after breaking two tackles past the line of scrimmage, Brown showed his solid burst to the outside, and realizing that he couldn't beat a defender to the edge, squared up the overmatched Madison opponent and sent him to the ground with a stiff arm, heading up the sideline and breaking two more arm tackles on the way to the end zone, spinning away from the final defender and bringing his team back into the ballgame.

A no-nonsense runner, Brown got quickly upfield all night, picking up the maximum possible yardage on nearly every carry, which wasn't much for most of the night as Madison loaded the box in an attempt to slow him down. When he did find some openings, his feet looked solid and his burst through the was as expected -- good, but far from elite. At times, Brown ran well behind his pads and always finished his runs well, but looked like he could still work on his body lean.

Overall, Brown was as good as advertised, but his lack of fitness is a bit of a concern, especially since he's a player who has to work hard to maximize his speed. A player with the potential to be a good and possibly great collegiate back, it's still apparent that Brown will not be the savior of the Texas running game, but simply what Texas coaches hope is the final piece of a complex puzzle.

Scouting report from the Austin High game:

The source of much discussion after the Week O loss to SA Madison was Brown's conditioning. However, as generally expected, Brown has worked himself into better shape and now appears about 10 pounds lighter. About a shade over 6-0 and with long, lean arms, Brown is a player who could easily add a significant amount of mass to his upper body in college -- the question is how much weight he can again and still maintain his quickness, a major concern for a player who won't be running away from many collegiate defensive backs anyway.

It wasn't a heavy load night for Brown, who carried only 15 times, gaining 184 yards and scoring the two touchdowns in the process. Discounting a fumble directly after the exchange, Brown had only three running plays go for five yards or less, despite the fact that Austin High loaded up the box in an effort to stop him. The combination of his speed, power, and quick feet made him difficult to bring down without picking up significant positive yardage.

Though Brown doesn't run with particularly good body lean, his lower body strength and ability to drive his legs on contact allowed him to step through arm tackles, per usual. And while he didn't run over any defenders on this evening or show off his balance on spin moves, there's certainly enough evidence out there that Brown can do those things consistently.

The positives from Jeff Howe ($):

Brown’s body is built very similar to Cedric Benson’s at the same age. The only difference between the two is Brown has a tad more quickness and speed. Like Benson, Brown is tremendously gifted at keeping his feet moving on contact and can run around people just as easily as he can run them over.


One thing I like about Brown is that he has shown he can run from a variety of formations. He’s good in a single back, in a broken I, in a power set or even in the shotgun (although very seldom does he run out of the gun). Brown is the type of back who reads blocks well enough and understands his position well enough while having the athleticism to be able to play in any system.


For being a big back Brown has tremendous lateral quickness. He’s got great agility and balance as well and makes good, sharp cuts and is surprisingly good going east-to-west with the ball in hands and he does all of this while keeping his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage. Brown has very good straight line speed but the quickness brings an element to his game that most big backs don’t have.


He has patience and when he picks a hole and hits it he shows exceptional burst through the second level. He cuts off blocks well and has very good vision to see things develop in front of him and make plays off of his blocks. He is very shifty in the open field, which again shows that he brings so much to the table with his size/agility skill set. His speed is also a plus asset because not a lot of defensive backs have been able to catch him in the open field.


When contact is imminent Brown does a good job of not shying away from defenders and this is where his tough running style shows. He’s the type of guy that you want to have in your backfield in the fourth quarter to close out a game.

ESPN evaluation ($):

Brown defines the term load-back; his size to speed ratio is arguably the best in this class. This guy is a bruising downhill runner who can carry a team on his back as well as defenders. Perhaps the best projected true tailback or I-Formation back in 2011. Has ideal size with his compact, thickly-built frame. Very sturdy with a low center of gravity. Shows good urgency out of stance and very good quickness through the hole for a power-back. Is a prototypical plant-and-go runner who can decisively hit the cutback and flash good acceleration and burst through the second level. Hits the hole at full speed but can soundly see the play develop and follow his blocks. Shows the lateral quicks and perimeter burst needed to avoid initial penetration and bounce/stretch the play outside. Best asset though is his strength and yards after contact. Rarely see him go down on initial contact and he powers through arm-tackles at the high school level effortlessly. Combines a low running base with good explosiveness and determination. Possesses very strong, thicker thighs that consistently pull through lower-body arm tackles and allow him to remain balanced and sturdy. However, level of competition at times looks average and at times is the beneficiary of opposing defenses who simply do not want to step up and tackle this 210-pound bowling ball. He does lack elite game-breaker speed and is not overly elusive in space but if you're a team looking for an every-down, big-back to tote the rock 20-25 a game as soon as he steps on campus, this is your running back.

 

2011 Texas RB Commit Malcolm Brown v AHS (via ghostofbigroy)

RB Malcolm Brown #28 *COMMITTED TO TEXAS* Cibolo Steele HS (JR Highlights)...BEAST MODE (via CountdownCityPreps)

Malcolm Brown highlights (via 247SportsStudio)

Malcolm Brown's spectacular 88 yard TD run - Steele vs Madison Aug 28, 2010.flv (via pklausinva)


Strengths

  • No-nonsense running style -- More than anything, Brown recognizes what he is -- a downhill, one-cut runner. He doesn't waste time in the hole trying to shake defenders, as he would much rather run them over. At Texas, he should be a good fit both in the zone scheme and running downhill behind a lead blocker, providing some versatility for Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite.
  • Power -- At the high school level, Brown has the ability to run over and through defenders by lowering his shoulder. A large part of his success doing so is a result of his strong lower body.
  • Balance -- As evidenced by his long run against SA Madison and another highlight in which he spins twice along the sideline to score on a long touchdown, Brown can keep his feet after contact.
  • Patience -- Brown is willing to let his blockers win their battles before he presses the hole.
  • Feet -- For a back his size, Brown has good feet and change-of-direction ability, though both are above average rather than elite.

Weaknesses

  • Top-end speed -- Brown's coach may give him 4.44 in the 40, but it doesn't pass the eyeball test and the major criticism of Brown is his top-end speed, which is less than elite. Can he run away from quality defensive backs at the next level like Brandon Williams is capable of doing? The answer to that is probably no, at least right now.
  • Pad level -- Taller backs often have trouble running behind their pads and can be hurt by their low center of gravity. Backs like Brown present a greater tackling area because of their height and upright running style.
  • Height/high center of gravity -- This coincides with the previous comment. The ideal running is built low to the ground and has a low center of gravity, making it difficult for defenders to get low enough to rotate the back around their fulcrum and get them on the ground. Brown's height gives him a higher center of gravity than a smaller back like Johnathan Gray.
  • Receiving skills -- Brown didn't catch the ball much out of the backfield at Steele and though he doesn't obviously have bad hands, he will need to work on running routes.
  • Blitz pick-up -- Another area in which Brown did not get a lot of work at Steele. The good news is that he has the size to be effective in this area and should at least be serviceable taking on blitzers in college.

Target weight: 235 pounds. Brown has plenty of room on his frame to fill out, but he needs to be careful about doing it the right way. He's not a kid who has already had serious weight problems like Chris Whaley, which is a positive. Brown did work himself into shape during his senior season and needs to avoid doing the same thing at Texas.

Verdict

First, the instant analysis from Brown's commitment:

What if. What if. What if Major Applewhite can't coach running backs? What if the running of Alabama is an appeal to Cibolo Steele RB Malcolm Brown? What if Texas will never land another top tailback prospect in the history of ever? What if Brandon Williams is AD v. 2.0 and the love affair is again from afar? What if there are no native Texan roots to keep Brown in Texas?

Not if, now. Texas. Malcolm Brown to Texas. Gimme. Got.

Quiet the insecurities. Pacify the fanbase. Set aside the Chris Whaley fiasco, failed evaluation. If not five years of failure in recruiting at the running back position, something either closely approximating it or as yet unresolved, undecided.

A savior? No. An answer among many. Quarterback. Scheme. Westerman Flowers Greenlea Cochran Hutchins Doyle Espinosa Hopkins. Matthews and Bergeron. McFarland.

The ability to impose upon the opponent the will of the offensive line, the running back, the ticking clock and fatigue. Mack Brown football. Will Muschamp football, too.

So maybe not a savior, but what looks like the final piece of the puzzle in the narrative. An end to calls about Applewhite not being able to recruit the position. Of failures in scheme trickling down to the recruiting landscape. Of what happens in 2012 with Johnathan Gray supposing a failure with Brown.

There is no failure, no need for Plan B. Mack Brown and the staff were all in with Brown and it worked.

The bottom line is that Brown fills a major need for Texas and there's no question that he's extremely talented and has an opportunity to turn in a productive career in Austin. Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite should put him in a position to succeed schematically and Joe Bergeron will hopefully become Will Matthews to Brown's Cedric Benson.

All that remains is for Brown to maximize his speed, run behind his pads a bit better, and for Stacy Searels and Bennie Wylie to do some work with the offensive line. Not exactly a simple or easy task, but that's what has to happen.

Impact ETA: 2011. Okay, so not the savior, but Brown is still universally expected to come in and contribute. 'Nuff said.

Read past Texas recruiting spotlights.

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