The UK¿offensive coordinator also wants the tight end to be an active part of the passing game, something that has been missing at UK¿since the graduation of Jacob Tamme four years ago.
Excitement no surprise
Brown has sensed the excitement UK¿football fans have after the hiring of new coach Mark Stoops and the staff he has assembled even thought UK¿is coming off a 2-10 season, its third straight losing year.
“I am not surprised by the excitement. I grew up here. I watched when coach (Hal) Mumme came in here with (assistants) Mike Leach and Tony Franklin and Sonny Dykes and Chris Hatcher and those guys. I watched the state become football crazy,” Brown said. “Then the support when (coach Rich) Brooks got it going really strong here was great and the support at the (Music City) bowl game was unbelievable. So I am not surprised at all by the excitement.
“This is a state that likes football and supports football at the high school level and always supports UK. Look at the attendance all these years and you can tell that. We need to maintain that excitement and need to maintain it year round. We need to do a good job getting fans involved at the spring game.”
Brown isn’t worried about a schedule that will include Sugar Bowl winner Louisville, Western Kentucky and new coach Bobby Petrino, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and other SEC rivals.
“All the pressure is internal. We get so focused on the next thing whether it is recruiting, spring practice or something else that you really don’t have time to think about the pressure aspect,” Brown said. “There was some adjustment for me schedule-wise when I went from Troy to the Big 12. There will be some adjustments in other areas here but one thing I will not have to adjust to is that you have to come to play every game. If you do not come to play, you will not only get beat, you will get embarrassed. That aspect from the Big 12 to the SEC will not change. That’s a life I have been living the last few years.”
Brown said having a three-year contract — defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot does also — shows the commitment UK¿athletics director Mitch Barnhart and the administration has to football.
“They are committed to building a program and not making it just a quick fix. That is what the presentation of a three-year contract meant to me. It shows a long term commitment to everyone connected to the program,” Brown said.
Those connections include two coaches — Chad Scott and John Schlarman — who played at UK¿and will be coaching under Brown. Scott coached running backs at Troy and Texas Tech under Brown and Schlarman was offensive line coach at Troy under Brown.
“Chad and I have been together the last six years. The great thing about Chad first of all is his character and his loyalty,” Brown said. “He is also a dynamic guy on the field. He’s able to relate well with players and relate quickly with players. He believes in the system we are teaching and installing. He is a great recruiter, too. He can relate to any type of kid in any situation. He does a great job building relationships.
“John played in this offense (under Mumme). He is a great teacher, too.¿His roots go back to high school coaching and teaching. At the heart of who he is is a great teacher. He does a good job walking that fine line between being hard on guys but also being somebody they want to play for. That is of great importance at that position. Players respect him because he was a quality player. He has instant trust and credibility when he walks into a room because he was a great player. He is not ever asking anybody to do anything he did not do and that carries a lot of weight.”
Brown’s former high school coach, Chuck Smith of Boyle County, coached linebackers for eight years at UK¿under Rich Brooks and then Joker Phillips. Brown admitted he “touched base” with Smith as he contemplated making the move to Kentucky.
“We stay in good contact a lot. But my main question for him was how he handled being at UK. We talked a lot about recruiting in the state. We did not get into personnel or anything like that. It was more about the coaching situation,” Brown said. “He was very positive. He is a guy that cares a lot about this program. He invested time first as a player here and then as a coach. There is no question this is his school and he wants to see it do well. He’s a guy that ever since I¿got into this profession that I have always looked up to and any time I have a career decision to make I¿always bounce it off him to get his thoughts.”
While the move to UK¿has put Brown and his wife much closer to family and friends in the Danville area, there has been another plus for Brown.
“The biggest thing for me is that so many former players have reached out, even guys I did not play with,” Brown said. “They are just reaching out and are excited and enthused by Kentucky football. They are the people who have invested a lot personally in the program. They are people I¿grew up watching play or knew about. That’s been very, very rewarding and is just another reason why I know this program can be so good.”