ATHENS -- Marlon Brown might be the best practice player in the recent history of the Georgia football program.
For the past four years, the receiver has drawn raves during springs and preseasons. A breakthrough season is predicted. And then the season starts, and the breakthrough doesnt happen.
The disappointment usually starts with a minor injury, but one that lingers. Brown has never played a full season at Georgia.
So thats why at the start of this years spring practice, when Brown had a minor finger injury, he and fellow receiver Tavarres King joked about Brown needing to stay in bubble wrap between now and September.
Im healthy right now, and I hope I stay that way, Brown said this week.
The result has been -- wait for it -- yet another spring when Browns play draws raves from coaches and teammates.
King, the teams leader in receiving yards last year, said Brown has done as well as anybody on offense. Receivers coach Tony Ball has twice said that Brown has been the best of his group this spring.
To be fair, stardom is not a stretch for someone with Browns pedigree and athleticism. The 6-foot-5 former basketball player was an elite football prospect coming out of Memphis, Tenn. He was a Parade All-American and Tennessees Mr. Football. His signing was considered a coup by Georgia.
But, through three seasons, Brown has a total of 28 catches for 282 yards and four touchdowns.
Ive been very frustrating. Because its not been big injuries, its been little injuries thatve been holding me back, Brown said. But, right now, Im not even thinking about the past. Im thinking about the future.
Last year, Browns strong summer camp was derailed by a torn tendon in his right ring finger. He played with the injury, but head coach Mark Richt said Brown never seemed to hit his stride again after that. Brown had surgery on the finger in the offseason.
So what are the chances Brown will finally put it together this season? Why is this time different?
If he just continues on the path that hes on, I think hell be fine, Richt said. He looks great right now. If he doesnt have any setbacks, hes gonna do well.
Ball was asked the same question.
You hope that hes able to put it together. We play a physical, violent game, and the slightest thing can happen, Ball said, then recalled the preseason when a teammate fell on Browns ankle, causing another injury.
But hes always been prepared, hes always been in great shape over these past years. I hope he can. I hope he can come out of the preseason and go into the season at full speed. Itll be fun to watch.
Brown was asked if it was OK to believe in him this time around.
If yall didnt believe in me last time, then I dont know what to say you this time, he said. But Im healthy right now, and thats all Im worried about.