Making a name for himself hasn’t come easily for Derrian Brown.
As it relates to his high school football career, the Buford, Georgia product is ready for a breakout season after splitting carries last year with two running backs who combined to hold 50 offers.
Now that Anthony Grant is off to Florida State and Christian Turner is at Michigan, Brown is finally ready to become the feature back for the Wolves.
As it relates to the Texas Longhorns, Brown was offered by position coach Stan Drayton back in early May. Given that the offer came relatively late in the process, it was both something of a surprise and not particularly telling that Brown included the Horns in his top 10 just a little more than a month later.
Now, all of the sudden, Brown is trending towards Texas in the 247Sports Crystal Ball.
So what’s going on? What appears to be increased interest in Brown is largely a result of circumstances — the Horns are struggling to find a feature-quality running back in the 2019 class.
Louisiana native Noah Cain starred at Denton Guyer before moving to IMG Academy in Florida to play with Sanders, raising hopes that Cain might be the take. Early in his recruitment, Ohio State loomed as a contender with Texas, but LSU recently became the apparent favorite when the nation’s No. 2 running back, John Emery Jr., committed to Georgia.
The Crystal Ball moved slightly in response, but the impact is probably more significant behind the scenes as Cain takes over as the top Tigers target. And, as recruiting in Louisiana has indicated for a long time, it’s extremely difficult to convince native sons not to play in Baton Rouge, especially those who are born in the shadow of Tiger Stadium.
The Longhorns managed to get Sanders on campus in early June, but Alabama is once again the favorite for the former Crimson Tide pledge.
So the eyes of Texas have turned towards Brown, who hasn’t yet visited Austin.
When Director of Recruiting Bryan Carrington tweeted his signature emoji to indicate a silent commitment on Saturday, much of the speculation about the recruit behind that silent pledge revolved around Hawaiian linebacker Maninoa Tufono. Unfortunately, that never seemed like a legitimate possibility, as Tufono was trending towards the Trojans and committed to USC on Monday.
Brown’s timeline on Saturday provided a more enduring possibility:
At the least, it seems like only a matter of time until Drayton can get Brown on campus, at which point he could become the leading target at running back. In June, Brown said that he planned on making his decision after his senior season.
Brown’s trajectory is certainly compelling, especially if he chooses to play for Drayton, who has a well-earned reputation as one of the top running back coaches in the country.
“He’s just becoming a complete back,” Ford told Gwinnett Prep Sports in June. “He can run with power, he can run with vision. He can run with patience. He’s doing some things in the passing game where he’ll be a threat in that, too.”
As a junior, Brown unquestionably took advantage of his relatively limited opportunities, averaging 9.0 yards per carry by gaining 844 yards on 94 attempts.
As an athlete, Brown’s testing numbers are good — he ran a verified 4.62 40-yard dash, 4.28 shuttle, and posted a 35-inch vertical. Of all those numbers, the vertical leap is the best pure measure of athleticism because it doesn’t require the same refined techniques as sprinting and running a shuttle. And Brown’s vertical is the most impressive test result there.
At 5’10, 179 pounds, Brown has some upside with his long speed and shows a willingness to put his pads down and drive into and through defenders. However, he doesn’t have a naturally power build. Brown makes up for that by showing good body lean through the line of scrimmage and the aforementioned toughness to maximize his physical strength.
Brown hasn’t shown the ability to jump cut to make defenders miss, but he can slide through traffic at the line of scrimmage and shows the type of one-cut decisiveness that will help him excel in zone schemes at the college level.
Seeing Brown make some plays on special teams as a kick returner and punt returner is also heartening given that two of his teammates are now running backs at top national programs. Brown also has some experience catching passes out of the backfield and showing more physicality as a defensive back.
As a senior, Brown will have the opportunity to get a better rhythm as a runner by getting more carries, so from a projection standpoint, it’s exciting to see what he can do as a senior. From that perspective, the evaluation by Drayton surely takes into account that upside.
If Brown does exhibit the growth expected by his high school coach, he could rise in the rankings from his current position as the No. 14 running back in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.
The bigger question is which school represents the biggest threat to the Horns. Auburn holds several Crystal Ball predictions, but the Tigers have already taken a commitment from an athlete who could play running back.
Based on the lack of tweets about visits and the absence of any visits recorded on Brown’s recruiting profile, it seems as if the recruitment process is still relatively early for him — the official visits he takes in the fall will be determinative.
At the end of his process, he might just become another out-of-state prospect to join #fUTure19. Much needed, as well.