The date was February 3, 2009. Mark Richt sat semi-poised, waiting for a phone call from one of the nation's top wide receivers—Marlon Brown.
Brown, the 6'5", 205 lb Parade All-American. He, of the 1,785 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns as a high school senior, was to be the cherry on top of a recruiting class that was already headed for a top 10 finish. He was to be the perfect compliment to A.J. Green.
Green had been the showstopping SEC Freshman of the Year for 2008 and was heading for a sophomore season that featured him with a target on his back. Marlon was going to be the guy who could replace the outgoing Mohammed Massaquoi as the Dawgs' No. 2 receiver.
Well, by that afternoon, Marlon was a Dawg and the Bulldog Nation was whistling Dixie because, not only had we won out over Florida and Ohio State, but we had lured him away from Tennessee as well.
Marlon was Tennessee's top prospect and would have been a coup for new coach Lane Kiffin's staff.
Below is the video of Marlon on signing day.
Well, between signing day and G-day, Marlon got held up in his SEC development. He did not become the player that the Dawgs hoped he would in 2009.
The knock on him even before he took his first snap in a red and black uniform was that he hadn't been challenged enough as a player. His level of competition at Harding Academy did not prepare him for the SEC.
But, he was supposed to be nearly as good as A.J., right?
Not exactly. A.J. played football at the Quad-A level while Marlon played at Double-A. The learning curve to Division I football between the latter and the former is significant—depending on what position you play—in my opinion.
A.J. may have been less physically imposing than Marlon, but he knew how to play a more physical brand of ball due to his exposure to tougher competition. He was more battle-tested and, therefore, better equipped to handle the transition.
By contrast, when Marlon arrived at Georgia, it wasn't long before he found out that he "wasn't in Kansas anymore". The SEC's defensive backs were not intimidated by his size or his speed, because many of them were just as fast and, what they lacked in height, they made up for in brute strength.
Marlon was no longer able to outrun or out jump his opponent, and he was not polished enough as a receiver to outsmart opposing defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. So, by the time the Dawgs faced Tennessee Tech, Marlon had a mere two catches for exactly 15-yards—he was a non-factor for the Dawgs.
Adding insult to it all was him suffering through an injury during the season. His recovery from a hip-pointer further slowed his development.
Honestly, considering how the season played out for Marlon, he likely would have been better off red-shirting than playing.
That said, 2010 brings forth a new reason to be excited with the possibility that Marlon will be a more important cog this season.
The change at the quarterback position promises a little more diversity in the passing game as Aaron Murray will bring more mobility than Cox.
Why is that a good thing?
For one, Aaron Murray is as good on the roll-out as he is standing strong in the pocket. He loves to chuck it on the run and, with SEC defenses still likely keying in on A.J. early, that will leave a lot more room for guys like Brown, Wooten, Troupe, and even the returning Kris Durham to be more productive on the field.
Second, Brown will have some experience in understanding how coverages work, and how he can best use his physical abilities to gain separation in press coverage. He has great speed, but simply seemed to lack the understanding of how to use that to his advantage (his height alone gives him a nice advantage in the SEC).
Lastly, it's personal with Marlon at this point. His one showing last season was a sub-par effort against his home-state Tennessee Vols—a game in which none of his Georgia teammates appeared to show up, and they got beat 45-19. Not exactly the homecoming he was looking for.
With the Dawgs coming in thin at wide receiver, the opportunity for Marlon Brown to make his mark is there for the taking. The only question at this point will be if he can seize it.
Returning Receivers and 2009 Stats:
A.J. Green: 53 catches, 808 yards, 6 TDs
Kris Durham: Medical red-shirt in 2009—expected to be back and healthy in 2010
Israel Troupe: 4 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD
Tavarres King: 18 catches, 377 yards, 1 TD
Marlon Brown: 2 catches, 15 yards, 0 TD
Rantavious Wooten: 10 catches, 197 yards, 2 TDs
Michael Bennett: Class of 2010 Signee