AUBURN, Ala. — Looking at Auburn football’s Derrick Brown, it’s easy to forget he is only a sophomore.
The 6-foot-5, 316-pound defensive tackle towers above those around him and carries himself with a confidence belying his age and experience.
Now, after Brown’s standout freshman season in 2016, Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner is looking for more.
“He can do whatever Derrick wants to do,” Garner said in praising the Sugar Hill, Ga., native. “So we really need him to embrace that role more and let that come out in his personality.”
Garner said he recognizes that Brown isn’t quite as outgoing or aggressive as his teammates on the defense, Marlon Davidson or Jeff Holland. He’s more like veteran Dontavius Russell — and that’s not a bad thing.
“You got Dontavius Russell, you got Derrick Brown,” offensive lineman Mike Horton said. “I would say those are the two strongest guys that we have right now that I feel like I’ve had to work really to block.”
Russell, one of the only three-year starters on the defensive side of the ball, has earned a reputation as one of the most dependable players on the line even though he’s not extremely outspoken. Brown’s demeanor resembles that of Russell, often drawing comparisons from teammates and coaches.
Still, Brown didn’t waste any time before making booming statements on the field. Such as when he recovered a fumble against Clemson in Auburn’s home opener last season — his first-ever college game.
“Derrick’s having a good camp,” Garner said. “Derrick is such a great young man. … We’ve got to keep accelerating Derrick. He’s a physical specimen. Derrick is a young kid. People forget that because he’s so doggone big. They think he’s a grown man, but he’s still finding his way, too.”
Brown often could be seen last year walking alongside Garner in the Auburn Athletic Complex and asking about ways to improve. He has embraced his coach’s advice on pad level, for example, and made the necessary adjustments.
“He used to stand up like a tree,” Davidson said. “I mean, he is, though. He’s like 6-foot-6. I’m proud of Derrick for making that transition at D-tackle, because he was at end last year. The way he gets down low now, man.”
And Brown’s confidence is increasing, too, even though he’s switching between tackle and end. More importantly, he’s eager to keep growing.
“It takes a special guy to handle double teams,” Brown said. “But, I mean, I think I can compete with that type of caliber inside. Like Coach G says all the time: Once you play in games, you’re not a rookie anymore. You’ve got to step it up. I want to be able to take my game to the next level as well as bring other people with me.”