Malcom Brown

Malcom Brown, a former Texas defensive tackle, speaks at a press conference Thursday night after the New England Patriots selected him as the 32nd overall pick of the NFL Draft.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

It took every ounce of patience Malcom Brown had — but by the end of the night, the former Texas defensive tackle had finally been drafted.

“It was just a great feeling,” said Brown, who was eating barbecue when he got the call. “Your heart starts pounding real fast; you just got to take a deep breath.” 

With the last pick of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots drafted the former Longhorn, making him the No. 32 pick overall. Brown, who had been predicted to be a top pick in the draft’s first round, said he started to feel a sense of disappointment as pick after pick went by without his name being called.

“[My emotions were] a little bit here and there,” Brown said. “I really thought I was going to be a real high draft pick.”

The Patriots lost a significant number of defensive players during the offseason, including defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, leaving a hole in the team’s defensive line. Brown said he would not let his late selection cast a shadow on his
new opportunity.

“I’m just going, and I’m going to work, and I’m just going to compete for the job as if it’s mine,” Brown said.

Brown is the first Longhorn drafted since the Arizona Cardinals drafted defensive end Alex Okafor in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. No player from Texas was drafted last year.

Brown played three seasons at Texas and was a two-year starter on the defensive line. He emerged as one of the best defensive tackles in the nation during his junior campaign at Texas.

“This is a good player,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. “He can shed, get off blocks and make tackles … and he has some pass rush.”

As a backup in his freshman year, Brown didn’t have much of an impact on the defensive end. But he improved in the following years, starting all 13 games in his final season, and was recognized as a consensus first team All-American.

“Production over the last three years improved every year in the program,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “I thought he was the 12th best player in this draft.”

Draft experts predicted Brown would be drafted by the Detroit Lions, who had the 23rd overall pick, but, instead, he will be headed to the defending Super Bowl champions and to a team that has been to seven Super Bowls since 2001.

“He’ll be a success because of his work ethic,” head coach Charlie Strong said in a statement. “He works hard and comes to work each and every day. It doesn’t matter who he’s going against; he’s always looking to get better.”

Brown said he doesn’t feel any added pressure, despite heading to the Patriots.

“I’m just going to go in there and contribute whatever I have to give,” Brown said.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

While no Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the one-year drought is likely to end this weekend. 

Texas has five prospects who are projected to hear their names called at the draft, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks,     cornerback Quandre Diggs, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.

“It feels like just yesterday I was walking on this campus as a young, 220-pound freshman not knowing anything,” Hicks said. “After five years, just to be here and to be going through this process, it’s really rewarding for all of us.” 

Malcom Brown may be the first Longhorn picked after he shot up draft boards while racking up 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. His 6-foot-2, 319-pound frame is ideal for the NFL, and he’s the No. 20-ranked prospect, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. 

“Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long,” Mayock said on NFL.com. “He’s a low-risk investment and a really good football player.” 

While Malcom Brown will find his new home early, Hicks is also a standout prospect. 

Hicks came to Texas as a five-star prospect but battled injuries, causing him to fly under the radar as a pro prospect. He impressed scouts, however, during his senior year and in pre-draft workouts, which was enough for him to earn a fourth-round grade, according to NFL.com. 

While Malcom Brown and Hicks are highly touted prospects, Diggs and Reed will likely find more modest roles in the NFL despite being perennial mainstays in Texas’ defense. 

Diggs is undersized at 5 feet 9 inches and will most likely make his living on special teams, and Reed lacks the athleticism that NFL scouts desire. Both are projected to be picked during the fifth round or later.

The Longhorns’ main offensive prospect is Malcolm Brown, who led Texas in total rushing yards last season but still feels he has a lot to prove at the next level. 

“I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show these past couple of years due to injuries, and things didn’t go completely my way,” Malcolm Brown said. 

While NFL.com projects Malcolm Brown to be a late-round pick, several scouts think he has NFL-caliber skills. 

“[Malcolm Brown] possesses the size, toughness and ability to play on all three downs, and that will catch the eyes of teams looking for depth at running back,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on NFL.com. 

While these Longhorns were longtime contributors for the program, their chapters at Texas will come to a close as they find a new home and a new start this weekend. 

“It’s definitely a different feeling not being a student and not being a current athlete here,” Diggs said. “At the same time, it’s time for a new journey in life.”

Junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway has big shoes to fill.

With departing defensive tackle Malcom Brown projected to be taken in the NFL Draft’s first round, the Longhorns are looking to replicate the production and leadership Brown brought to the defensive front.

“Replacing Malcom? I don’t know,” Ridgeway said. “It’s not about replacing him. It’s about stepping up and doing the job.”

Although Ridgeway won’t necessarily be replacing Brown, the Longhorns will need him to play a similar role. Ridgeway burst onto the scene last season while filling in for injured senior Desmond Jackson, and he immediately became one of Texas’ biggest playmakers, finishing second to Brown in sacks with six while recording nine-and-a-half tackles for loss.

If he can replicate, or even improve upon, his production from last season, Texas’ defense will be in good shape.

“He’s so strong, so powerful, and he can get off blocks and make plays,” head coach Charlie Strong said last season.

While Ridgeway stood out as one of the Longhorns’ defensive staples in 2014, he’s still looking to improve upon his weaknesses. He has the skill set to become a force on Texas’ defensive line, but he said he can work on the technical aspects of his position. 

“This year, that’s the one thing that I’m trying to focus on — to get my fundamentals down and get better at the little things that I didn’t do right,” Ridgeway said. 

If spring play is any indication, Ridgeway seems to be doing his job. Strong has recently used words such as mainstay and great to describe Ridgeway and his play through the offseason.

In Saturday’s Orange-White scrimmage, Ridgeway made only three tackles, but he was still able to cause disruption in the backfield and get pressure on the quarterback. Ridgeway’s play helped the entire defensive line control the trenches, and that is something of which he is especially proud.

“The defensive line is the one that always has to stand up,” Ridgeway said. “It’s always been up front. If you’re not good up front, the whole defense collapses.”

Ridgeway has led the unit with his play, but the next step is stepping into a leadership role in the locker room.

“I see Hassan Ridgeway leading the D-Line room,” senior cornerback Duke Thomas said.

While his coaching staff and teammates have shown confidence in him as a leader, Ridgeway envisions the entire team stepping up.

“You can’t do it by yourself, so everybody has to grow a little bit,” Ridgeway said. “In our positions, everybody has to take a little bit of leadership and step up on their own. We’re going to obviously have somebody lead it, but everybody has to grow up.”

Ridgeway has been persistent about the Longhorns improving this season. And with over three months until the Longhorns travel to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Notre Dame in the season opener, he and his teammates still have time to restore the defense’s dominant presence from last season with the same determination Ridgeway has shown so far. 

“We might be tired and barely making it, but we’re still going to keep going,” Ridgeway said. “We aren’t going to give up, and we aren’t going to bow down to anybody.”

Junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown has announced he will be entering the NFL Draft. Brown is one of several players leaving big shoes for head coach Charlie Strong to fill.
Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Head coach Charlie Strong’s inaugural football season is behind him, but the challenges he faces are only beginning. As he looks toward 2015, Strong finds himself losing upwards of 15 key contributors from last season’s team — primarily graduating seniors, but also a handful of players who intend to declare for the NFL Draft or transfer schools. Strong and his staff will have to prioritize finding replacements for key players as the new season draws closer.

Beyond the players who graduated in December and those who plan to graduate this May, three of Strong’s underclassmen players have also declared their intention to leave, even before their Longhorn eligibility ends. Star defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who has a wife and two children, decided the best plan for his family was to forego his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. His decision will likely pay off — Brown, who is an All-American, is expected to go early in the draft, with most analysts predicting his name will be called late in the first round.

Brown isn’t the only player leaving the 40 Acres early. Earlier this month, Horns Digest reported that a few players were considering transferring after Strong’s first season. Sure enough, junior tight end M.J. McFarland announced early Friday that he would transfer to UTEP for his senior year. McFarland, a native El Pasoan, decided to head back home to play for the Miners in an offensive scheme more suited to tight ends.

A day after McFarland’s announcement, sophomore offensive lineman Curtis Riser announced on Instagram he would be transferring to Sam Houston State. Riser saw limited action under offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, even though the offensive line was the thinnest unit of 2014.

Despite the vacancies he must fill, Strong does have a promising pool of talent coming in the next few years. Next season’s seniors have the chance to be a major factor in Texas’ success in 2015, as many have already had valuable playing time, giving Strong a much more experienced team than he had in a 2014 team hampered by dismissals and injuries. 

The offense will see the most returners of this group, with junior running backs Johnathan Gray and Daje Johnson joining junior wide receiver Marcus Johnson as playmakers for the Longhorns. Junior offensive guard Sedrick Flowers will once again be the most experienced player in the trenches, and junior center Taylor Doyle looks to cement his role as a starter when spring practices start.

The other side of the ball will also see valuable upperclassmen return, although they’re experiencing a much bigger loss than the offense. With Brown, Cedric Reed, Jordan Hicks, Quandre Diggs and others departing, the defense, which was arguably the best in recent years, might struggle to find solid replacements. Strong and his staff are expected to be looking at junior defensive end Shiro Davis to step up during camp after having an inconsistent junior year, and junior cornerback Duke Thomas will need to be more consistent to keep his spot in the secondary. Junior linebackers Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos also have the opportunity and ability to play a vital role in defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s defense.

Texas junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown announced Thursday that he has opted to forgo his senior year and enter the 2015 NFL Draft. Brown, a consensus first-team All-American, is expected to be a late first-round selection.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Texas junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown announced Thursday that he has opted to forgo his senior year and enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

“Coach [Chris] Rumph talked to me right after the [Texas Bowl], and I talked to my wife about it,” Brown said. “Then I saw Coach [Charlie] Strong yesterday, and we had a good talk about it. I decided to enter the 2015 Draft, and that’s what everyone thinks is best.

Brown, a consensus first-team All-American and finalist for the Nagurski and Outland trophies in 2014, which honor the nation’s top defensive player and interior lineman, respectively, is expected to be a late first-round selection.

“It wasn’t an easy decision because a lot went into it,” Brown said. “My wife has school; I have school and moving the kids around. I got everyone’s input on it, but, at the end of the day, it’s my decision, and that’s what I came to.”

In claiming first-team honors from the Football Writers Association of American, the Associated Press and Sporting News , Brown joined Rodrique Wright (2005), Casey Hampton (2000), Tony Degrate (1984), Kenneth Sims (1980-1981), and Brand Shearer (1977) as the only defensive tackles to be consensus selections.

“I’m going to miss everyone here — that’s the hardest part about leaving,” said Brown, who is also the team leader in tackles for loss (15), forced fumbles (2) and sacks (6.5).

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Over the years, Texas fans have grown accustomed to gaudy statistics from the team’s pass rushers. In 2008, defensive end Brian Orakpo led the team with 11.5 sacks. In 2012, defensive end Alex Okafor recorded 12.5 sacks, and, last season, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat led the team with 13 sacks.

The above examples blow sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who leads Texas with five, out of the water. Despite the lack of individual production, the Longhorns are averaging three sacks per game — their highest average over the first 10 games of a season since 2008.

This is largely a result of consistency and depth along the defensive front, as seven different players have dropped the quarterback at least twice.

Despite none of the players recording elite numbers, the Longhorns have proven they have an abundance of talent leading the way on the defensive side of the ball this season.

Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is finally healthy and has acted as the quarterback of the defense.

“Just think about the term linebacker,” said Vance Bedford, defensive coordinator and secondary coach. “It means he is half of a lineman and half of a defensive back. He’s in the middle of our defense and controls our defense.”

With 110 tackles on the year, Hicks is tied for the most by a player in a power-five conference. He has also picked off two passes and has recorded 1.5 sacks.

But Hicks does not lead strictly by example. He is extremely vocal, which is a very important characteristic of a linebacker.

“You need a guy who can do it by example but also a person who’s vocal,” Bedford said. “Jordan Hicks has been that guy for us this year.”

Despite receiving many accolades, such as being named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, Hicks is quick to tell you his success is not all his own doing.

“I haven’t had a perfect game out there, never will, but I feel like I’m playing my best ball, and, obviously, I have a lot of confidence right now and a lot of credit to the guys in front of me,” Hicks said. “Having Hassan Ridgeway and Malcom Brown ahead of me is kind of nice.”

Brown, a junior defensive tackle, has arguably been Texas’ best player this year, and the coaches have taken notice of his performance.

“I think he’s at an All-American level,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “The way he’s playing, it’s amazing. It’s fun to watch.”

Brown is tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks, but his impact on the field goes beyond his personal stats. Brown often draws double teams from the opposing offensive linemen, which helps explain why his numbers are not as dominant as his talent might suggest.

He also has the potential to become a top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and have a long, successful NFL career.

“If you ask me right now, I think the young man is a first round pick,” Bedford says.

Other players, such as senior defensive end Cedric Reed, have also made their presence felt on the unit. Reed is coming off the best game of his career, during which he tripled his sack total for the season.

Reed and the defense’s ability to pressure the quarterback could be on display again in Stillwater, Oklahoma, this weekend against a Cowboy offensive line that allows three sacks a game to conference foes, most in the conference. That’s something worth remembering as, since sacks became an official stat, the Longhorns have not lost to Oklahoma State when they win the sack battle.

Before the season, those who had been around Hassan Ridgeway knew that the redshirt sophomore defensive tackle had the talent to be a special player. His teammates often spoke about the flashes of brilliance they had seen in practice, but, to some, it appeared that a poor work ethic prevented him from reaching his full potential.

Nicknamed the “Green Mile” by his teammates, Ridgeway’s challenge for 2014 was to “bring it” on every single play. As the season grew near, junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown saw Ridgeway putting in the extra effort.

“He’s grown up a lot,” Brown said. “Sometimes Hassan just goes. And when he really goes, you’re like, ‘Man, just do that every play.’ But he’s grown up a lot, I feel like his mind has gotten better, and he’s going to be a great player for us.”

In Texas’ season opener against North Texas, Ridgeway immediately demonstrated that potential, accumulating two sacks, the first two of his collegiate career. 

“I hadn’t gotten a sack since high school, so that was a big moment for me,” Ridgeway said. “That was my first college sack, I was pretty emotional for that one.”

In Texas’ two game since, Ridgeway has continued to make an impact in the defensive line rotation. 

In the second half of Texas’ loss to UCLA, senior defensive tackle Desmond “Tank” Jackson suffered a season-ending foot injury. Ridgeway played well in relief of Jackson but will now be tasked with the added pressure of replacing him as a starter.  

Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford expects Ridgeway to be able to handle the added playing time but knows it will be tough to replace Jackson’s leadership presence. 

“Hassan Ridgeway was backing up Malcom [Brown]. Now he has to go to nose [tackle],” Bedford says. “As far as a physical presence, I think we will be good there. But, as far as the excitement, the enthusiasm [and] the emotional leader, you can’t replace that. “

Head coach Charlie Strong really likes what he’s been seeing from Ridgeway, who now will need to continue to play at a very high level to make up for the loss of Jackson.

“Without a doubt, [he’s been] playing very well,“ Strong said. “Now, he gets an opportunity to go start. He’s so strong, so powerful and he can get off blocks and make plays. And you just see him go at people and just throwing back and just reach over to get sacks. He’s playing very well — just love his whole attitude.”

After Jackson left the game in the third quarter, the Longhorns struggled to consistently stop the UCLA offense and running game. Given the success the Bruins had, it’s safe to assume that Big 12 opponents are going to try to take advantage of Ridgeway’s lack of experience in the middle.

“I would run at Hassan Ridgeway,” Bedford said. “One of these days, Hassan is going to actually get mad. He is one of the nicest young people I’ve ever been around. If he ever gets mad I’m going to be the first one to leave the room because he will hurt somebody. My man could be a beast. I think he has ability to be a special talent.”

Ridgeway’s coaches and teammates clearly believe he will develop into a great player. Now, it’s up to him to prove them right and make an impact as the Longhorns try to turn their season around.

Junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown hopes to increase his leadership role and continues to improve this year after a promising 2013 season. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

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.

Junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown chases down quarterback Miles Onyegbule during Saturday's Orange-White game. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

In large part because of monster seasons by defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and senior Cedric Reed, the defensive line was a clear area of strength for the Longhorns last year. With Jeffcoat now gone and Reed surely to garner extra attention from offensive lines, junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown has the chance to emerge as the latest standout along this Texas line.

Brown was a force in Saturday’s spring game, maintaining a constant presence in the backfield and preventing sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes from feeling comfortable in the pocket. Swoopes finished the day being tackled five times, hurried once and tackled for a loss once in the first glimpse at the beginnings of the Charlie Strong era.

This kind of production should be expected out of Brown. At 6-foot-4-inches and 320 pounds, he was ranked the second-best defensive tackle in the country when he came to Austin.

After a solid season last year in which he helped clog the middle of Texas’ defense, he appears primed to make the leap into a more dominant role this year.

On Saturday, Brown embarrassed the interior offensive linemen on several plays, looking every bit like a player on the cusp of a breakout season, which will only be bolstered by Strong’s reputation for molding great defensive players.

The offense looked anemic and disoriented at times Saturday, and, while defenders typically play better in these games anyway, it still is clear that this defense will be the dynamic, playmaking unit for this team.

If Brown wasn’t excited about Strong taking over before, he is now. Texas fans know that Jeffcoat and Reed combined for 23 sacks last year, which was the second highest number of sacks by two players on the same team in all of Division I in 2013. The only players to beat out the Jeffcoat-Reed duo were Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin, who had none other than Strong as their coach at Louisville.

And, although Brown is unlikely to have a double-digit sack season because of the position he plays, he has the potential to emerge as the poster boy of the defensive-minded Strong era.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Fans scurried to the exits at the end of the third quarter as though the cloudy sky would momentarily release its frustration on the masses. 

But the weather remained stable. 

Instead, fans bounded away from the stadium in fear of the scoreboard, reading 38-13 Oklahoma State as the #TurnUpDKR theme blared from the stadium speakers.

It was a moment rich in irony and particularly representative of the Longhorns’ season. Texas had reeled off six straight wins to place them back into the Big 12 title hunt. But if the way the Longhorns performed Saturday is any indication, that hope — and the fans’ belief — is fleeting.

“The atmosphere here was dead,” sophomore defensive tackle Malcom Brown said. “In the third quarter, you look up and [see] gaps in the stands. [You’ve] got to wonder what people are thinking. That’s how you can tell who’s on the bandwagon or not.”

Texas-Oklahoma State was one of the most consequential games at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium since the older McCoy roamed the sidelines in Austin. But the beacon of hope Texas presented during its streak didn’t matter much to fans.

They showed up late, left early and the decibel level in the stadium failed to roar, topping out at a mere snarl from a wounded animal.

But perhaps that’s the situation Texas faithful have been placed in. Years of 10-win seasons and BCS success spoiled the fan base. Now, after four years of apathetic results, they don’t believe anymore. Fewer than 100,000 people attended Saturday’s game, failing to procure a sellout for the biggest game of the season.

It’s hard to chastise the fans for that lack of faith. The Longhorns, part of one of the most prominent programs in the country, have slipped under the leadership of head coach Mack Brown.  

Brown led Texas to soaring highs in his first 12 seasons, but the team’s 29-19 record over the past four campaigns placed a damper on any buzz around the program.

The lull affects players, students, recruiting and the overall health of Texas athletics — which is still the most financially lucrative in college sports. But money no longer purchases success.

Brown still believes in his team’s chances — his glossy eyes and hoarse voice after Saturday’s game made that clear. Brown also brushes off the rumors about his job like a winter swirl would the last leaves of fall.  

But the winds of change in Austin continue to blow. New men’s head athletic director Steve Patterson made a number of alterations at Arizona State when he arrived a little less than two years ago, and he wasn’t hired in Austin to allow the old regime to continue producing mediocre results. Patterson will want to install his own people.

A Big 12 championship — the outside shot the Longhorns have at it — may extend Brown’s tenure by a year. But that’s no longer certain.

The fans have given up and despite the team’s string of success, the bandwagon remains empty. But their support is always transitory. This team may still rally, but at this point — no matter the outcome — this looks like Brown’s last hurrah.