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Countdown to UVA Football: Will Andrew Brown Finally Break Through?

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The junior defensive end has a new lease on life under Bronco Mendenhall.

Virginia Media Relations

Position: DE

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 290

Year: Junior

Hometown: Chesapeake, Va

Twitter: @DrizoBeats

If you’re reading this article, you probably already know who Andrew Brown is. He was a consensus 5 star recruit in 2014. He was the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Previous winners of that award include familiar names like Emmitt Smith, Peyton Manning, and former Hoo Terry Kirby.

As you might expect, Brown could’ve gone anywhere he wanted for college. He had offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, and just about every school in between. But Brown hit it off with Mike London and wanted to stay close to home. He ultimately decided to come to UVA — it was one of the school’s biggest recruiting coups in years.

Brown played both OL and DL in HS, but was recruited solely as a DL for college. He had also played both inside and out in HS, but was coveted as a DT at the college level. Brown’s ability to be disruptive inside is what drew recruiters to him. He has above average strength at the point of attack along with incredible quickness. He also has a very active motor.

Perhaps the only knock on Brown out of high school was that his technique needed work. His size and athleticism gave him such a big advantage that he didn’t really need great footwork or hands to beat his man. He sometimes let blockers get into him, and then had trouble shedding the block. He also had a tendency to go for the big hit rather than wrapping up. These are both problems that often plague young players and are easily correctable with good coaching.

Of course, therein lies the problem. Good coaches take players like Andrew Brown and turn them into great players and great NFL prospects. Bad coaches take players like Andrew Brown and shoehorn them into roles they don’t fit and then park them on the bench. This is what happened during Brown’s first two seasons at Virginia.

Brown is a playmaking DT, but under former defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta he was put into a defense that relied on LBs and DEs to make the plays. Brown was counted on to take up blocks, stuff the run, and allow others to make tackles. That role didn’t fit his skills, and he was benched. Injuries also played a large role in his struggles, and there is speculation that Brown and Tenuta did not get along.

Below is Brown’s high school highlight reel.

<EMBED> http://www.hudl.com/v/dzEtQ <EMBED>

It’s a highlight reel, so you don’t expect to see plays where Brown is shut down, but it seems that he’s beating a double-team on every play. He repeatedly collapses the pocket from the inside. His pursuit once after disengaging from the blockers is exceptional. His biggest advantage is his initial burst, which is where he beats his man most of the time. Beating your man is one thing, but Brown is also able to diagnose plays and make the tackle in the backfield, which is a separate skill and a rare one for a young big man.

In short, Andrew Brown was a tremendous prospect, with a lot of room to grow. The fact that he’s entering his third year in college and hasn’t yet developed as a player is disappointing. It’s disappointing to Wahoo fans, disappointing to NFL scouts and perhaps most of all, disappointing to Brown himself.

That may well change this year, as he moves into a 3-4 defense. Though Brown has never (to our knowledge) played in a 3-4, he’s perfect for it His quickness off the snap will make it tough to double-team him. His strength and speed will get him into the backfield. And his vision will help him make plays once he gets there. The 3-4 defense is at its best when the DEs are in the backfield making plays. Andrew Brown has the ability to be that type of player this year for Coach Mendenhall and the Hoos.

I say this without hyperbole: A big year from Andrew Brown could be the difference between a successful 2016 season and an unsuccessful one.