Marlon Brown’s breakout game against Vanderbilt brought a sigh of relief not only to himself, but to his teammates and coaches.
Brown’s strong offseason had been derailed by an ankle injury during preseason camp. But his performance against the Commodores might be a signal that he is back on track.
“I’m feeling a lot better health-wise, so I’m playing better,” Brown said. “When you’re not healthy all the way, you can’t do everything you want to. I’m not feeling 100 percent yet, but I’m getting there. I feel about 80 or 85 percent.”
Brown might not have felt completely fit against Vanderbilt. But he responded with a career game, catching four passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
“I guess it was a breakout game,” Brown said. “But I was just put in spots to make plays and I made them. I guess you could say it was a breakout game. But I just made plays.”
Brown’s two touchdowns, for 27 and 75 yards, came on the same play. It also happened to be a play that quarterback Aaron Murray had only become comfortable calling that week.
“I didn’t not like the play, I just wasn’t used to the concept of it yet,” Murray said. “It’s a pretty complex play. We talked about it and I finally got the grasp of it and felt comfortable with it. So I said, ‘Let’s do it’ to coach (Mike) Bobo and it worked. He said, ‘Yeah, that works pretty good, doesn’t it?’ ”
Brown reaped the benefits with a pair of scores and had a more down-to-earth opinion on whether they should run the play.
“(Murray) was talking about firing the play and I was like, no,” Brown said.
“It works in practice so let’s keep doing it. Then last Thursday ( Murray ) was saying, ‘I kind of like that play so let’s try it.’”
Brown’s return to frontline duty came at a good time for Georgia. The Bulldogs played without leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell against Vanderbilt because of an injured hamstring. The Bulldogs also missed backup Rantavious Wooten, who has been recovering from a concussion.
“It was good to get Marlon back,” Bobo said. “Every week he gets a little bit better and smoothed out a little more. I still don’t think he’s 100 percent, but he’s getting there. I was really excited about him in camp, the way he was moving and playing. He’d really smoothed out a lot. Hopefully those catches will give him some confidence to let it go a little more.”
Brown, a 6-foot-5, 222-pound junior from Memphis, Tenn., gives Georgia a size dimension similar to what it had with Kris Durham (6-5) and A.J. Green (6-4) last season. He has the physical presence to out-muscle defensive backs for jump balls and the speed to run past them.
“He’s a big kid,” Murray said. “He’s a big target and he looked fast. I told him that I hadn’t seen him run that fast since I saw him catch a slant in an All-American game in high school and took it 70 yards. He was moving. He’s looking good and I’m happy he’s feeling better so he can go out and fulfill his potential.”
The week off before Florida should benefit not just Brown, but the entire receiving corps. Mitchell and Wooten have missed games because of injuries but are expected to return to practice either this week or next week. Stalwarts like Tavarres King and Michael Bennett have needed to take up the slack, but have started to slow because of wear and tear.
“This is a perfect time,” Brown said. “Everybody is kind of sore and feeling a little worn out. It’s pretty good to come at this time. I feel pretty good health-wise, just trying to get this ankle back in shape.”