ATHENS – It is Tennessee week, so Georgia’s Marlon Brown knows exactly what that means for him. It means he will be the subject of multiple media interviews.
“What a surprise,” he said sarcastically when surrounded by reporters after a recent practice.
It has become routine for the junior receiver from Memphis. When it comes time to play the Vols, everybody wants to know how he feels his decision to choose Georgia over the home state university and when he might finally have that breakout season.
And when the Bulldogs are heading to Knoxville as they are this year, Brown knows he’ll be booed every time his name is announced over the public address system.
“I already knew the day I committed [to Georgia] when I was sitting there chilling with my family and friends, I was like, ‘every time we play Tennessee I’m going to get booed. I know I am,’” he said. “So I’m ready for it. It doesn’t matter to me.”
And he did. In his first game at Neyland Stadium two years ago, the 6-foot-5, 222-pound split end was booed mercilessly after hauling in his first reception. “It was pretty loud,” he said with a laugh.
The reason Brown draws such ire from Tennessee fans is the same reason Georgia fans get after Da’Rick Rogers so badly. Like Rogers, Brown was a five-star prospect and the No. 1-rated recruit in the state when he chose to sign with the Bulldogs.
Unlike Rogers, who was a UGA commitment for seven months, Brown never committed to the Vols. But Brown was generally considered a UT lock when former head coach Phil Fulmer was there.
“I guess they just felt like I should have gone there,” Brown said of Vols’ fans. “Whatever.”
That would seem to make Brown and Rogers kindred spirits, if not friends. But they’re not really.
“I met him a few times on his visits here and I’ve talked to him via Twitter and Facebook,” Brown said. “But I don’t really know him too well.”
Brown has had his own concerns in Athens. While Rogers is having his breakout season as a sophomore, Brown is still waiting for his. He toiled in the shadows behind A.J. Green his first two seasons and has battled injuries in this one.
Brown was the toast of preseason practice, drawing profuse praise from coaches and teammates alike. But then he suffered a serious ankle sprain on the last play of the last day of camp. He tried to wrap it up and play on it in games against Boise State and South Carolina before finally succumbing to the pain.
He came back for spot duty against Mississippi State but hopes to be “full go” against the Vols on Saturday.
“I’m a lot better than I was the first few games of the season when I played on it,” Brown said. Even last game when I played on it I felt a lot better.”
Fortunately for Georgia true freshman Malcolm Mitchell has stepped up and carried the torch nicely. Mitchell leads the Bulldogs with 22 catches for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
Brown’s happy about that, too. But he’s still eager to prove that he was worthy of fuss he caused with his signing 3½ years ago.
” I’m just trying to get back in the groove of things and get back to 100 percent so I can earn my spot back,” said Brown, who has just 17 catches for 182 yards and TD in his career. “That’s what I’m trying to do right now. Definitely I feel an urgency. I have this year and next year and that’s it.”
He figures there’s no better time to make a big splash than Saturday. “It’ll be awesome to do it any game, but probably even better to do it in this game.”
Junior linebacker Christian Robinson came back from an ankle injury and played about 25 snaps against Mississippi State last week. He expects to play more at Tennessee on Saturday.
“I think they feel more confident after seeing me get some reps in the last game,” Robinson said. ” I think they want me out there to help us communicate and get everybody on the same page. That’s the biggest thing for us. Whatever I get I’ll take. I know Coach O [Kirk Olivadotti] has been telling everybody it’s on our shoulders. He expects a lot out of our group.”
The question is how the Bulldogs might look with Robinson taking most of the reps at “Mike” linebacker. Junior Michael Gilliard has led the Bulldogs in tackles starting there in each of the last three games while freshman Amarlo Herrera started at the “Mo” position.
Georgia coaches and players declined to discuss it other than to say “they’ll all play.”
There are 17 players on the Tennessee roster who call Georgia home, including several that are in the starting lineup.
In addition to Rogers, right tackle Ja’Wuan James of Suwanee, tailback Tauren Poole of Toccoa, and inside linebacker A.J. Johnson of Gainesville are all expected to start against the Bulldogs on Saturday and several other Georgians are expected to play frontline roles.
“It’s an important state for us in recruiting,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. “But it’s an important state for about five other schools in recruiting who are close by. Not only does the home-state school depend on all that talent — they’re going to make up probably 80 to 90 percent of their clas — but then you have Alabama and Auburn and Florida and Florida State and Clemson and South Carolina who are all are just as close or really closer than Tennessee.”
Etc. . . .
Jim Booz has been named Georgia’s new senior associate athletic director for compliance. He comes from Virginia to replace Eric Baumgartner, who left to UGA to take the same job at Virginia. . . . Senior flanker Israel Troupe is expected to return from a leg injury on Saturday. . . . Georgia held a closed “dress-rehearsal” scrimmage at Sanford Stadium on Thursday. The Bulldogs will depart for Knoxville Friday evening.