Next Wednesday is college football's National Signing Day, a huge event for fans in Bulldog Nation. Between now and then Dawg Sports will be profiling every single player in Georgia's 2014 signing class. We've already looked at kicker Will Ham, now we'll move over to the defensive side of the ball to look at defensive end/linebacker Keyon Brown.
One of the really interesting aspects of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's stewardship of the Bulldog defense will be his tendency to play multiple defensive fronts. Over the past 2-3 seasons "remaining multiple" has become a talisman for defensive strategy. The idea seems to be that it's not enough to be a 3-4 team or a 4-3 team or a 4-2-5 team. A real super-duper defensive genius lines his charges up in all sorts of different formations.
This is all drivel, of course. Every team in college football is "multiple" on defense in the sense that they play different sets based on down, distance, opponent tendency, and personnel. That's not to say that this "remaining multiple" business is a bad thing. It's not, it's a really good idea. But the truth is that to remain multiple what you really need are versatile players who allow you to switch formations without creating weaknesses exploitable by your opponents. If you have smallish linebackers and interior defensive linemen, lining up in the 3-4 may not be smart, no matter how good an idea it seems on paper. No, remaining multiple is about being able to switch alignments without skipping a beat.
Which brings us to Keyon Brown. The 6'3, 240 pounder from Wauchula, Florida's Hardee High School chose the Georgia Bulldogs over a variety of other offers, including tenders from Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. You can take a look at highlights from his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons on Hudl here.
My favorite thing about Keyon Brown is his first step. This guy gets off the ball very fast, especially for his size. Brown also showcases a variety of pass rush moves, something you don't always see from high schoolers, especially physically gifted ones like him. He's willing to go inside or outside, and uses his arms and hands to shed blockers with a minimum of effort, rarely losing sight of the target. That's one reason why you see so many batted balls in these highlights. Even when Keyon doesn't quite get to the QB, he's aware enough to remain disruptive.
If there's a knock on Brown it's probably that he doesn't have the elite height or arm length you'd want in a full-time defensive end at the college level. He's listed at 6'3 but that may be a little generous. He makes up for it though with enviable overall athletic ability, and a really strong lower body that allows him to power through blockers and ball carriers. Lower body strength correlates strongly with "stopping power" when tackling, and Brown definitely has it.
Keyon Brown plays defensive end in high school and could easily stay there in the right system, playing in the 255-260 pound range. On the other hand, he also plays well enough in space (even lining up at tight end and running back) that he could play outside linebacker in the 3-4. Keyon Brown, in other words, is one of those versatile defensive prospects who allow you to remain multiple.
If I had to compare Brown to a current Bulldog, I'd say he most closely correlates with Jordan Jenkins, who's perhaps a little longer, but has similar quickness. Brown may be a bit heavier in the lower body, which isn't a bad thing.
Georgia returns copious depth at both defensive end and linebacker in 2014, so I don't know that I'd expect Keyon Brown to make a huge impact in 2014. But he's a guy who looks physically ready to step in if necessary. Down the road, he has the potential to play a key role on the defense, especially as a disruptive pass rusher.
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