Sunday, July 16, 2017
The fourth in a series profiling newcomers to the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
There are a lot of details for high school athletes to consider when they begin the process of choosing the right college, but for Montaric Brown, he knew exactly where he wanted to be.
For him, it was Razorbacks red from the get-go, and he wasn't about to substitute it for any other color on his spectrum.
Montaric Brown at a glance
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-1, 185
HIGH SCHOOL Ashdown
NOTEWORTHY Considered the No. 1 player in Arkansas as a senior by Rivals, Scout and 247Sports recruiting services. … Ranked the No. 12 safety in the class of 2017 by 247Sports. … Had three tackles for the East team during the U.S. Army All-American game. … Had scholarship offers from other Division I programs including Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Auburn. … Son of Patrick Brown and Danica Richard, and stepson of Eddie Richard.
"Home is where the heart is," Brown said after he officially signed his national letter of intent with the Razorbacks on Feb. 1, "and I'm extremely happy that I am finally a Razorback."
The former Ashdown safety, who was considered the state's top overall recruit in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com and 247Sports, said the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, has been his "dream school" from as long as he can remember, so it wasn't a huge shock when he committed to the Razorbacks prior to his senior season.
The fact that he never really wavered from his decision to sign with Arkansas might come as a surprise despite the number of the big-name schools that came after him, not to mention changes that took place within the Razorbacks program after Brown gave an oral pledge in July 2016.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Monday at SEC media days that Brown is working this summer to become eligible for the 2017 season and that there is a chance for him to join the team for fall camp, but, "at worst-case scenario, I think he could start with us in January."
Brown had offers from several top-tier programs like Alabama, LSU, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and admitted he was intrigued when visiting other schools, but potential deal-breakers centered around the Razorbacks defense.
Arkansas' alterations on defense began with Paul Rhoads being promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator after Robb Smith resigned to take over the defense at Minnesota. The Razorbacks also made the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base, with the hope that it'll help give them a chance to get different players on the field who are capable of providing more support against the run and in pass coverage.
The Razorbacks also are hoping that the move will allow for more players to get out in space, particularly against teams with dual-threat quarterbacks, but the changes are more designed to improve a defensive unit that finished 76th nationally in total defense last season (426.6 yards per game), including 94th against the run (205.5) and 58th in passing yards allowed (221.2).
The adjustments, however, didn't sway Brown. In fact, it might have even made Arkansas that much more attractive, though he offered specific reasons why he stuck with the Razorbacks.
"Arkansas wants to keep in-state guys home," he said. "I'm really big on that. And then, the fan base. ... The atmosphere with the fans and everything during games sticks with you. It's just a great feeling, and I can't wait to be a part of that."
If eligible, Brown is expected to be in the mix for playing time, especially with Arkansas lacking established depth at strong safety, but there was extensive competition at the position during spring workouts. With the Razorbacks shifting to a 3-4, there are added responsibilities for the safeties ranging from more involvement in run support to recognizing coverages off various formations and calls.
But Brown isn't concerned. Instead, he's embracing the challenge and is relishing the chance to show the team what he can do.
"The change [on defense] won't hurt me at all," Brown said. "I want to go right in and play immediately. That's the biggest thing for me. I want to start learning the playbook and earn a spot. There's going to be some tough competition, but hopefully I can go in there, work hard and do the things that need to be done."
The 6-1, 185-pounder, who runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, was a first-team Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps selection at defensive back as a senior at Ashdown after racking up 110 tackles and grabbing 7 interceptions, including one that he returned 71 yards for a score. He also played a pivotal role on offense, catching 52 passes for 813 yards and 7 touchdowns for a Panthers team that finished 7-4 and third in the 7-4A before losing to Ozark 23-22 in the opening round of the state playoffs.
As a junior, Brown had 122 tackles, 1 forced fumble 8 passes deflected and 5 interceptions, 3 of which he returned for touchdowns. He's one of several players from Ashdown who have received Division I interest recently, with Tajhnick Bishop signing with Louisiana-Monroe last season and seniors Tre Green, LaDarrius Bishop and Jaden Hill receiving offers from other programs.
Brown has taken his national attention in stride, according to Ashdown Coach Matt Richardson.
"He's such a good kid, but he's not a rah-rah type of guy," Richardson said. "He's not going to be the one giving the pre-game speeches or any of that because we have other guys that do, but he's going to lead by example.
"He's going to lead by going out there, playing hard and knocking somebody's head off."
Brown conceded that he has a few things to do before he can live up to Richardson's assertions.
"Just got to improve my skills overall, improve my weight and size," he said. "I've gotten a little bigger, and that's actually helped with my speed. But I'm going to work hard and do the things that I'm suppose to do."
Sports on 07/16/2017
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