How good has Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown been? Not only has he been the best player on the team this season, but he's playing at a level worthy of an adjective I wasn't sure I'd ever have the opportunity to invoke: Hampton-esque.
As in, Casey Hampton. You remember him, don't you?
I've always considered there to be three important legacies from the John Mackovic era: Ricky Williams, Roll Left, and Hampton, aka Big Snack. Mackovic wouldn't last long enough to see most of it, but by the time Hampton's four years in Austin drew to a close, he had joined Leo Baldwin, Scott Appleton, Brad Shearer, Steve McMichael and teammate Shaun Rogers on the short list of the best defensive tackles in the history of Texas football.
The Texas DT Mt. Rushmore:
Ndamukong Suh saw that chart and blushed. Those numbers are absolutely bonkers.
Is Malcom Brown really deserving of discussion in the context of these legendary performances? It's not much of a stretch. Consider Brown's production through 4 games this season, coupled with the season totals across 12 games at his current pace:
Those numbers are perhaps a slight notch below that top tier of all-time great single seasons, but there's no question that Malcom Brown's production through the first third of the year has been elite. The numbers help to illuminate the point, but it's been easy to see with your own eyes, too. Brown has been an absolute menace to opposing offenses -- his play as disruptive as anything we've seen in the last 20 years of Texas football. Brown is dominating with strength, quickness, technique, and an uncanny understanding of the position that, ultimately, separates the greatest in school history from the merely great.
Much like offensive linemen, defensive tackles can be easy to overlook and/or take for granted -- many of their most valuable contributions involve forcing incompletions, occupying blockers, or otherwise directing the ball carrier into a tackle that registers in the stat book with somebody else. With Des Jackson out for the year and Texas' weaknesses at linebacker being the limiting factor that it is, that may wind up the case with a good bit of Malcom Brown's value now that he's being forced to take on a modified role from the one he occupied to begin the year.
Even if his production does take a bit of a dip, however, continue to pay close attention to what he's doing on the football field during his junior campaign. He's elevated his strong play from a year ago to an All-American level this season. Best-player-on-the-team level. Casey Hampton level.
Enjoy it while you can, Longhorns fans, because Brown is playing at a level that's going to make it awfully difficult to pass on turning pro after season's end.