March 6, 2008

Spring preview: Brown eager for second chance

Safety Steve Brown was, perhaps, Michigan's top spring performer a year ago, but he enters this spring with much to prove after a rocky sophomore campaign. The former four-star safety is eager to demonstrate his worth to U-M coaches, so eager in fact, he's willing to switch positions …

"From what I hear, the new coaches have talked to Steve a little bit about playing on both sides of the ball," Columbus East High School coach Bob Gaddis said. "He was a running back for us, and all kids, when they run the ball and score touchdowns, like that. When the coaching change came about he talked to me about how he was willing to do whatever he had to get on the field. If they asked him to change sides of the ball, he would."

Brown isn't Michigan's answer at the quarterback position and it's very unlikely he'll see more than a few snaps (if any) offensively this spring because his true potential still lies on the defensive size of the ball.

A freak athlete, with 4.4 speed on a 6-0, 205-pound frame, Brown earned a starting role at safety in the Wolverines' 2007 home opener against Appalachian State. Brown struggled terribly, however, demonstrating that talent could not overcome his lack of experience. He was benched in Week Two and didn't make another start all year.

To his credit, Brown didn't sulk on the Michigan bench. In mop-up duty against Notre Dame, he recorded his first career interception, and he gradually worked his way back into good favor with the coaches, earning meaningful snaps against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Florida.

"He had such a good offseason, went into the year No. 1 on the depth chart and because of one bad performance he really had to start all over in the coaches' eyes," Gaddis said. "That was hard for him, but he volunteered for special teams again just so he could prove he was a team player. The good news is that he has such a great work ethic and attitude you knew he'd bounce back."

Though he was credited with only one official tackle in U-M's bowl victory over the Gators, Brown played extremely well in extensive minutes. The performance was the perfect fuel for the junior entering winter conditioning and spring practice.

"I know he felt really good about the game," Gaddis said. "He probably played with more confidence than we have ever seen since he's been at Michigan. It was the type of game that reignited that spark within him. I think you'll hear about him a lot more this spring."

With Jamar Adams and Brandent Englemon both departing, the Maize and Blue must fill two starting roles at safety. Brown will receive competition from sophomore Artis Chambers, fifth-year senior Charles Stewart, redshirt freshman Michael Williams (if healthy) and true freshman Brandon Smith.

"Everybody here in Columbus hopes he gets another chance and hopes he has a great year," Gaddis said. "He's obviously had some disappointments in his career. He missed his entire senior year in high school because of an injury, and then last year was hard too. I just hope he experiences that breakthrough season and does what he's capable of because he still has the potential to be great."

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