SUGAR HILL, Georgia — Derrick Brown is the crown jewel of Auburn’s incoming recruiting class, but he will not be at the top of the heap when he arrives on campus Sunday.
The five-star defensive tackle has high expectations, but he’s certainly not falling into the hype trap heading into his freshman season. He has realistic goals in mind and anything beyond seeing the field in some capacity is an added bonus in the fall.
“People who are seniors are already there,” Brown told SEC Country. “You’re already competing from the bottom of the pole, and you have to try to get up to the top.”
Brown is about as humble as they come for a blue-chip prospect. He’s reminded of Byron Cowart, the nation’s No. 1 recruit last season, failing to live up to the hype in 2015. He also sees the huge leap freshman Marlon Davidson made during spring practices at Auburn, where he exited April as a starter at defensive end.
Brown would be just fine finding a level of success somewhere between those two in 2016, especially with the deepest defensive line in Rodney Garner’s tenure as Auburn’s position coach.
“I’ve talked a little bit with him about it,” Lanier High coach Korey Mobbs said. “You definitely don’t want him to be disappointed if he’s not in there a lot. Do I think he has the ability to do that? I do. But sometimes you’ve got some really good players in front of you as well. He’s chosen a great program that has talent, especially on the defensive line, so I think it shows a little bit about him he’s not concerned about that. I think he’s more concerned about finding a great fit.”
Brown had a phenomenal senior season at Lanier High, recording 12 sacks, 11 pass breakups and an interception returned for a touchdown. He also had 17.5 sacks in 2014.
He was rated the nation’s No. 1 player in Georgia and the fourth-best defensive tackle in the country by 247Sports.
“I know he can contribute immediately,” said Martha Brown, Derrick Brown’s mother. “But I know and I keep explaining to him now you’re going to be at the bottom of the totem pole because you go from being known everywhere in your community to actually blending in with other guys, who are like you or three or four times better than you are because they’ve been there longer. But he understands that wherever he gets, he’s going to have to fight for it.”
Derrick Brown said he also needs to drop some weight this summer. Lowering pad level will be a focus in offseason workouts and when preseason camp arrives in August.
“Definitely the level of competition is going to be higher than I ever expected it to be in high school,” Derrick Brown said. “That’s just going to push me to want to do my best and just do us right so I can be able to play in the fall.”