UMass safety Devin Brown enjoying strong spring
AMHERST — Devin Brown was on the path to being forgotten quickly in the University of Massachusetts football program.
Minuteman coach Charley Molnar has said on numerous occasions that he doesn’t plan on recruiting many junior college players. So when Brown, one of the few Molnar signed, struggled last year as a junior cornerback, Molnar was ready to move on.
“With junior college players you don’t have much time. They’ve got to figure it out quick. You recruit them because you feel like you have an immediate need,” Molnar said. “But if it takes them too long you move past them and on to the next guy because their clock is running out.”
But Brown, who appeared in 7-of-12 games last year and made two tackles on special teams, has been the surprise of spring practice since moving to safety.
“I feel a lot better this year. I switched positions which I think benefitted me,” said the 5-foot-10, 185-pound California native, who played at Contra Costa College. “Last year I transferred during the summer. Now I’ve had winter. I’ve got spring so I feel a lot more comfortable.”
Molnar said the difference has been apparent.
“He has made great strides. If you picked the most improved player, it would be Devin Brown. He’s a totally different man,” Molnar said. “He was a late signee from a junior college and probably didn’t have all the habits that you need. The season is much longer and harder than it is at the junior college level and he came in probably much closer to being a high school player than a junior in college. Now he really gets what it takes to be a Division I-A player.”
After his minimal impact last year, Brown was motivated not to let this chance elude him.
“I have only one more shot to get a lot of playing time. My parents watching at home in California, I want to let them see me play. I have siblings I want to have see me play. I didn’t play that much last year. This is my opportunity,” he said. “Last year was a real tough year. It was a tough transition in all phases. Being at home for 21 years, moving out across the country playing against better competition. It took me a while to adjust, but I feel adjusted now. Some people could have quit or said this isn’t for me and given up on the dream. I stuck with it thanks to myself, my family, my coaches and my teammates who are still supporting me.”
The position switch has proved especially valuable.
“He’s done a nice job. He’s moved into the safety position rather quickly and made progress at a faster rate than we even thought he would,” UMass safeties coach Ted Daisher said. “It’s the best position for him. He’s a tough, hard-nosed, physical guy. Those qualities show a little more at safety than they do at corner. He’s going to do a good job for us.”
Brown, who has been in the mix with freshman Joe Colton and Khary Bailey-Smith, feels more suited to his new spot.
“Safety gives me an opportunity to be more aggressive and play a little more free out there,” he said. “At corner you have to stick to your man. Playing corner is more athletic ability, skill and technique. At safety I can use my intelligence to benefit me.”
“He’s very smart. He’s an excellent student. He grasps football very, very quickly. He’s got a high football IQ. That helps put him in position to make plays,” Daisher said. “To play safety, you have to be smart. He is and that’s helped his improvement go quickly.”
NO STAFF UPDATE YET — Molnar said the Minutemen are getting closer to filling at least one of the two remaining coaching vacancies — quarterbacks and defensive backs — on his staff. He declined to say which opening was close to complete.
“We’re still several days away from making an announcement, but we’re making progress in one of the areas,” Molnar said. “I hope to have one of the guys in by the end of spring practice. We’ll see about filling the other spot after that.”
ALUMNI TEAM — UMass is still receiving RSVPs from players who’ll play on the alumni team side in the April 20 spring game. Among the five players who have agreed to play so far are three kickers — Matt Murphy, Matt Goldstein and Jason Cherry. So if the team needs field goals, extra points or kickoffs, there could be plenty of competition.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.