Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Catching on

Brown leading WR corps

April 11, 2003

He's No. 1 on MSU's wide receiver depth chart, his coaches love his speed and his teammates are lauding his leadership - but he is yet to catch one pass in a game of college football.

After former Spartan standout Charles Rogers broke the MSU record books and entered the NFL Draft, MSU's depleted receiving corps is forced to look for a fresh start.

Enter Kyle Brown, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from West Bloomfield with a knee on the mend and a headstrong attitude toward turning the football program around.

"Right now, I'm just trying to bring the offense in and play to the best of my ability," Brown said of his spring practice efforts.

Brown is at the head of a class of receivers still struggling to master head coach John L. Smith's pass-first spread offense and that's trying to make themselves a name in the absence of Rogers.

Brown will slip into a position on the team that will benefit from the pass-first approach. He'll be an outer receiver on the line of scrimmage, patrolling the deep post in search of snagging the long ball, as well as moving to the slot in certain situations.

"Kyle Brown has done some really nice things," offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin said. "He has tremendous speed."

But it's speed that was almost a nonfactor in Brown's football career. A high school knee injury bogged Brown's chances of a scholarship to the point where some universities were disinterested. MSU stuck with him, though. Brown rehabilitated his knee last season while also contributing on kickoff returns. Brown's 195 yards on nine returns was second on the team.

Coaches and teammates say Brown's determination to get his knee to full strength and focus solely on receiver is the difference in him leading the pack for the starting nod next fall.

"He has a tremendous work ethic," Baldwin said. "He wants to become better. That's No. 1 - is to have the right attitude. He wants to learn and develop."

Junior tight end Jason Randall said Brown has the capability to project his determination into a leadership swagger further down the road.

"(Brown) loves to step up," Randall said. "When we're doing a drill, he loves to step up and be the first one. You'll feel his hand on your back saying, 'Let's go, let's go.'

"Next year, maybe a year after, he'll be one of the leaders."

And the knee that had troubled him his entire career since he signed with MSU.

"It's good," Brown said. "It's better than it was last year. Last year, I had a lot of pain, but this year I'm doing a lot more things than I could in the past."

Another thing Brown couldn't do in the past is counter praise from his coaches. In a selfless reply to Baldwin's praise, Brown deflected the compliment to his hard work, not his talent.

"If I standout that's good on my part, because I'm just going to bust my butt," he said. "It's good that they talk about me like that, but all I do is just play." If this fall brings the playing time Brown expects, his confident stride and his coaches' faith in him can expect to be tested. But before his stride can turn into a sprint, he'll have to get his first reception in college football.

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