ATHENS – Marlon Brown channeled his inner Allen Iverson this week.
For years, Brown has been known around the Georgia football team as one of its best offensive players … in practice. Every preseason, and every spring practice, the receiver from Memphis has drawn raves from teammates and coaches for how he has looked when the catches don’t count.
But when the season starts, Brown has struggled, whether it be with injuries or inconsistency. Mostly, it was injuries. So when Brown – after yet another preseason of hype – sat out Georgia’s opener with a minor injury, eyes began to roll.
Then came the Missouri game: The senior erupted with eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. His 11-yard touchdown grab, caught with two Missouri players converging in the end zone, put Georgia ahead for good in the fourth quarter.
Brown was asked on Monday how good it felt to finally have a game like that – rather than just in practice.
“Practice is cool. It’s cool to do it in practice,” Brown said. “But it’s way cooler to do it in the game.”
OK, so it's not exactly how Iverson handled the notion of practice in his infamous ramble. In Brown's case, Georgia players and coaches have to be relieved Brown can now talk about more than just big catches in practice.
Quarterback Aaron Murray called the 6-foot-5 Brown is a “quarterback’s dream” because of his height. That, combined with athletic ability and pass-catching skills, is what made Brown a five-star recruit coming out of high school.
But entering this season, Brown’s career number were pedestrian: 28 catches for 382 yards and four touchdowns. The injuries have always tended to be of the nagging variety, as he’s still played in 33 games in four years.
Fellow receiver Michael Bennett was asked if hearing the doubts about him were frustrating for Brown.
“Yeah, I’d say so. Coming out of high school so highly-recruited, and hasn’t I guess lived up to everyone else’s hype,” Bennett said. “But he’s just been hit by injuries. It’s good to know that he’s finally back.”
And what everyone saw at Missouri – as well as the Vanderbilt game last year – are what the Bulldogs have seen for four years … in practice.
“We expect games like that from him, game in and game out,” Bennett said. “It’s just all part of getting those opportunities and making the most of them. And he does that when he gets those opportunities.”
Perhaps another factor? Georgia head coach Mark Richt thinks Brown has also gotten better in his conditioning.
“Marlon is a big, physical receiver and he’s faster than he used to be,” Richt said. “He’s trained, he’s trimmed his body down, he’s worked hard with our strength staff — Sherman Armstrong especially — with his speed. It’s paid off for him. He’s quicker, he’s more flexible and he’s always had real strong hands.”
Brown wasn’t downplaying the importance of his showing at Missouri.
“It was real big, actually,” Brown said. “I had a good time doing it, doing it for the fans really, and doing it for my teammates. …
“I have confidence now after that game. It was a pretty big game for me. It was a pretty close game too. I feel I’m gonna be able to build on that game.”