When the Longhorns hit the field Saturday, a few things will be different for junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown.
Starting time and playing time are nothing new; the junior has played in 26 career games, starting in all 13 last season. The heat and hits won’t faze him either, thanks to a series of brutal two-a-days head coach Charlie Strong has instituted. But the standard to which Brown will be held will likely be at a much higher level.
“The leaders on defense: They start leading by example, and they become more vocal because that’s what the coaches wanted,” Brown said. “You can’t do anything wrong because, if you mess up, the younger ones are going to follow you.”
Brown knows he, senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and senior cornerback Quandre Diggs need to step up as defensive leaders. He’s taken the initiative to bring his own game to the next level, finishing 2013 as third on the team with passes broken up, tackles for loss and QB pressures. His accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed when he shared the team’s Joseph W. Moore Tenacity Award for Defense with former Longhorns Jackson Jeffcoat and Chris Whaley. But, as an upperclassman, he now hopes to pass on his strategies to younger players.
“We always back up each other,” Brown said. “You have players that can follow what you do, always come up to you and ask you when they don’t know what to do. That’s when you become a leader — because they respect you enough they know you know what you’re talking about.”
Among those players whom Brown has under his wing is freshman defensive back Jason Hall. Strong said Hall, an AP All-State 5A honorable-mention, will likely see playing time in his first career game Saturday. Strong attributes Hall’s readiness to impressive performances in fall camp, but Brown thinks it’s more than just skill that Hall offers.
“He gets in. He’ll learn. He’ll listen to everybody else,” Brown said. “He’s not one of those guys who will be like, ‘I’m good enough. I can do whatever I want. You can talk to me, but I’m not going to listen to you.’ He’ll talk to us about what he has to do and just make sure he knows everything. When you have a player like that, who’s willing to learn everything, that’s real good out there on the field.”
It doesn’t hurt that Hall has strong mentors, such as Brown, to approach. With years of experience battling the hype before season openers, Brown keeps a steady head. He said it’s easy to get tired both physically and mentally when coaches repeat themselves, and players take repeated hard hits in practice. That’s why keeping everything in perspective is crucial.
“We’ve been hitting a lot,” Brown said. “Just how everybody is — they’ve just changed, and they’re real focused on what they need to do: learning everybody else’s position and why they’re doing it and everything. They want us to put so much into it before practice that, when we get inside a game, you already know what to do.”
Come Saturday, the defensive line will have the chance to show its improvement, and Brown will be right in front to lead them.