Rocky Top Tennessee

By: Tom Witherspoon, VYPE Email
By: Tom Witherspoon, VYPE Email

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March 16

Bryce Brown is headed for one of college football's most spectacular and august venues, Neyland Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee.

After psyching out a packed room in the northwest wing of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame by pulling out a Miami University hat -- the school to which Brown originally committed last year -- Brown pulled an orange Tennessee hat out from the guts of the podium at which he stood to announce his decision. He put on a Tennesse hat Monday afternoon.

Brown, who in the 37 games of his four-year prep career rushed for 7,114 yards, said his decision-making process which he extended over a month past National Signing Day on Feb. 4 was a difficult one. He said he and his mother had butted heads over the issue of his decision and that his father, Arthur, Sr., had acted as the peacemaker in the home. Brown's mother wanted him to go to college at Miami with his brother, Arthur, Jr., who is in the midst of his second season of spring football as a linebacker for the Hurricanes.

Bryce Brown, however, will not play ball with his brother, without whom he played his first season of football in the fall of 2008 at Wichita East High. Their reunification was assumed by all last fall when Bryce committed to Miami, but Bryce and his trainer and confidant, Brian Butler, left the process open following the commitment.

Rumors flew about throughout the fall football season and thereafter. Oregon seemed a possibility; K-State, with the re-introduction of Bill Snyder as head coach in November, also came back on the radar. Brown said during the press conference today that K-State had been the other school last on his list with Tennessee. Snyder's reputation in Kansas can be thanked for that.

Brown had also made a visit to LSU a couple of weeks ago, the same week the NCAA reportedly came to Wichita to make an inquiry into Brian Butler's recruiting organization, Potential Players. Neither Brown's situation nor Brian Butler's have been affected by that investigation.

Brown, who ended his prep career as the third-leading career rusher in Kansas preps history even while playing in only one playoff game his entire career, will play in college next season for first-year coach Lane Kiffin. Interestingly, both have made national recruiting news over the past couple of months for their unorthodoxy.

Kiffin has committed two recruiting gaffes. He accused Florida's Urban Meyer of calling a recruit while on a visit to Tennessee, which wasn't a violation as Kiffin implied. He also was accused by South Carolina's Steve Spurrier that he called a recruit who had de-committed from Tennessee after former Vols coach Phil Fulmer was fired before he became the new Tennessee coach. That is a violation.

Brown's recruiting ordeal was not illegal, just different. After some shake-ups on the Miami coaching staff, Brown delved back into the recruiting process so he could be sure about his choice. Brown said at his press conference today that he was persuaded to Tennessee in part because of the running backs coach there. Brown had made another visit to Tennessee last week -- his second, but first since Kiffin had taken over. Brown intimated that the entire feel of the program was radically different this spring than it was last fall under Fulmer's direction.

Kiffin's past in college football cannot be discounted as a factor in Brown's decision. Kiffin was an offensive assistant at USC from 2001-2004, before being promoted to passing game coordinator in 2004 and offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator in 2005 and 2006. USC perennially had the best talent in the country during those seasons, and Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush won Heisman trophies in 2004 and 2005. Kiffin, according to respected coaches in the NFL, has a brilliant football mind. USC had been high on both Arthur and Bryce Brown's list of schools in 2007, in the spring of which Butler head the now memorable one-day training camp at East High, attended by Carroll, Meyer and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

The legend of Bush, to whom Brown has drawn comparisons for his speed, strength and ability to get outside and up field, may have had an impact on Brown's decision. Before Brown becomes Bush, however, he'll have to garner some playing time. Also post-signing day, Tennessee signed David Oku, the nation's No. 1 all-purpose running back according to, out of Midwest City, Okla. Oku rushed for 5,802 yards and 72 touchdowns in his prep career. Memories of Lendale White and Reggie Bush, anyone?

If Kiffin's habits are akin to USC's Carroll's, Brown and Oku will be in the thick of it next season vying for playing time. We'll see how the Kansas football prodigy fares.

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