True freshman thriving with increased role
By ALEX SCHIFFER
College Contributor Network
With injuries to sophomore running back Morgan Steward and senior wide receiver Darius White, the Missouri Tigers have had to utilize their depth a little more than they thought they would throughout the season. But as junior defensive end Shane Ray has said, "When someone goes down, it's next man up."
Nine games into the season, the Tigers are finally starting to get some meaningful production out of true freshmen, as wide receiver Nate Brown has slowly increased his role with the offense as the season has progressed.
"Just more playing time, and learning a little bit from the older guys when they get in there has been a help," Brown said.
Brown hails from North Gwinnett High School in Georgia, a state power, and was expected to fill a big need for the Tigers this season after they lost their top four receivers from the previous year. Brown had his first career catch last week against Vanderbilt and didn't get to enjoy the moment without taking a little ribbing from senior receivers Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser.
"You love to see those guys make plays," Sasser said after the Vanderbilt game. "We talked to him about it right after the timeout. We were just like 'Hey man, first catch right?' And he was just smiling, and we're like 'Great job, way to catch it way to get positive yards.' And then we teased him about how hard he got hit."
Brown had three catches for 27 yards against Kentucky on Saturday and said that White's injury hasn't caused him to add any pressure on himself, but mainly has the entire receiving corps engaged.
"Just everyone has to be ready because you don't know what's going to happen at anytime," Brown said.
Brown's progress has caught the eye of Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel, who said after Saturday's game that he has enjoyed watching Brown's development.
"It was nice seeing him make some plays today," Pinkel said. "He's getting better in practice too."
Brown added that while he's similarly pleased with his progress throughout the season, he's nowhere near the expectation he has for himself.
"I'm not nearly where I need to be or where I want to be," he said. "As a freshman you take things day-by-day and you try to learn something new everyday and be able to apply it to the next game."
Alex Schiffer is a sophomore journalism student at the University of Missouri and hails from Westfield, New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter: @TheSchiffMan