ATHENS — Marlon Brown is left with no other choice.
Georgia’s sophomore receiver has to be ready to play, out of sheer numbers alone at the receiver position.
With only five other receivers, now, more than ever, Georgia needs Marlon Brown to be ready.
“I’ve come in with the mind-set of I’m going to play,” Brown said. “It’s not that I have to play. It’s that I’m going to play.”
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This spring is crucial for the 6-foot-5 Memphis product, after failing to produce in a freshman campaign that many thought would be a breakout season.
Put simply, Brown was not ready last season. He knows it, and he’s changing that this season.
“I’m on a whole different level than what I was last season,” Brown said. “I’m smarter, more mature, bigger and faster.
Brown arrived at Georgia with comparative hype to A.J. Green. Recruiting analysts said Brown had the perfect frame and speed to play as an elite receiver at the college level.
Despite the hype, five games rolled by without Brown making a catch. He finally grabbed two passes, for 15 yards, against Tennessee. That day in Knoxville marked the final time Brown touched the football.
Brown has disregarded last year’s lack of production, still taking positives from his limited time on the field.
“It was a real good experience,” he said. “I got to see how everybody plays. See how everybody moves. Got my blocking assignments, how the defense moves. It was real good.”
Brown entered the offseason with plans of studying the playbook and working on his route running and flexibility.
He and fellow sophomore receiver Rantavious Wooten both worked hard to increase their understanding of the offense.
Teammates say they noticed a difference when spring practice began.
“Both of them know the playbook almost inside and out right now,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “They know where they need to be, where they need to line up, what routes. When they’re running their routes, you can tell, because they’re not thinking as much. They’re letting their athleticism take over.”
Head coach Mark Richt said, “I thought he started out great. The mat drills gets everybody in good condition, but I thought his conditioning was good, his flexibility and agility had improved, and he knows what he’s doing. Of course, he’s never been shy when it comes to blocking.”
Less than a week into spring practice, Brown bruised his shoulder. Sitting out all of this week showed just how the dire Georgia’s situation is at receiver. With Israel Troupe also on the sidelines, the group has been left with four receivers. Individually speaking, the injury is costing Brown vital practice time.
“We’re missing him right now,” Richt said. “He needs the work. We need him. I’ll tell you, when I look out there it is a scary thing, when you’ve got four scholarship receivers right now. It’s just not very many. We need help.”
Brown expects to be back to full strength next week, still seeking to show he’s ready. In reality, he, and Georgia, have no other choice.