Can Warriors' safety live up to cyber rep?


POSTED: Sunday, August 09, 2009

Chris Tormey knows it can be done. He's seen it, was part of it. A secondary can be completely rebuilt in one offseason.

“;I've actually had it happen a lot,”; says the new Hawaii assistant who was the head man at Nevada.

Tormey recalls a transfused defensive backfield intercepting 22 passes in 1994 when he coached at Washington.

UH loses NFL draftee Ryan Mouton and the other three starters from last season, forcing open auditions for a new quartet. After three days of fall camp, highly touted JC transfer safety Aaron Brown is hitting the right notes, running with the second team.

“;One word to describe him is 'physical,'”; Tormey says. “;He's as physical as anyone on this football team.”;

WHEN I first heard all the hype about Aaron Brown, I thought, poor guy. If he's anything less than the second coming of Ronnie Lott, a lot of folks are going to be disappointed.

Of course Hawaii DBs coach Rich Miano is going to pump up his guys, but he's extra enthusiastic about Brown.

“;He's violent, he's athletic, he goes to the ball and he's a great kid,”; Miano says. “;He's handsome and charismatic and a bit of a YouTube sensation.”;

You can tell only so much from highlights. That's why they're called highlights. If the guy played like that all the time, they'd be called allthetimelights.

But I did learn something watching Brown's YouTube footage from Saddleback College: He is feared. The tape from 2007 is 4 minutes, 21 seconds long. The one from last year is just 2:27. What happened? Opponents learned you should avoid No. 23. Hence fewer picks, fewer crushing tackles. Same player, fewer highlights.

PHYSICALLY, THERE is no question this 6-foot-1, 205-pound beast (yes, someone's already given him The Label after just three days) is ready to play at Division I. The determinant on how soon he gets in is how quickly he learns.

Sometimes JC transfers never pan out because they don't pick up the system, and they've only got two seasons to do so. Great physical specimens ride the bench and play on only the kickoff team because they can't remember when they're supposed to play zone, man or blitz. The game is now more complicated with quarterbacks changing everything at the line and sometimes after the snap.

As I spoke with Brown for the first time yesterday, I wondered how this obviously intelligent young man could've been a nonqualifier out of high school. Well, it seems a case of senioritis a couple of years ago has benefited UH.

“;I took it too easy, lost focus,”; says Brown, who had his choice of four Pac-10 programs out of high school before slipping. “;It was really disappointing, but I had to take it in stride. Saddleback was great and now I'm in a beautiful place.”;

His demeanor and situation remind me of Mouton—a brilliant athlete and smart guy who just didn't take the academics as seriously as he should've in high school. But all grown up now, and just in time for UH.

FOR THOSE of you who have been waiting, Aaron Brown is here. He actually exists, and he's out there on the UH practice field. He's no longer just a tiny figure on your computer screen.

They don't all live up to the highlights, but this one looks and sounds like he just might.