Derrick Brown is a defensive tackle, but the title falls short of explaining the state’s No. 1 college prospect.
Brown, a senior from Lanier and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-classification high school football player of the year, also served his team as a wildcat quarterback, taking direct snaps and daring defenders to keep his 320 pounds of bulk out of the end zone.
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Brown, 6-foot-4, employed his leaping skills to out-maneuver cornerbacks for touchdown passes in the back of the end zone with what his coach calls the best pair of hands on the team. Brown blocked punts, returned interceptions for touchdowns and cleared paths to the end zone as a goal-line fullback.
“The kid can easily dunk a basketball at 320 pounds,’’ Lanier coach Korey Mobbs said. “Most people think of a player of his stature as a hole-plugger or tackle-to-tackle guy, but he really shows his athleticism on plays to the outside, or wide receiver screens where he makes the play for no gain, or when running plays down from the backside where he lays out like a big-time athlete.’’
Brown is the first AJC all-classification player of the year whose team did not make at least the quarterfinals in 30 years. Since then, 23 players of the year have played on state-championship teams. Lanier finished 11-1.
But Brown’s production on the defensive line was impressive. Brown made 106 tackles — 42 for losses. He had 13 sacks.
East Paulding coach Jon Lindsey, whose team faced Brown and Lanier in the first round of the playoffs, said opponents changed their game plans to accommodate him. Brown had a typical game in the 27-13 victory — six tackles, two for losses, and caught an 8-yard touchdown pass.
“We wanted to know where he was lined up on every play,’’ Lindsey said. “We felt like we could not block him, so we used him as the read in our option scheme. I have coached against several big-time recruits, and the thing that impressed me the most was how hard he played. He did not take a lot of plays off. I was very impressed.’’
One of Brown’s better games came against Gainesville, a key Region 8-AAAAA rival. Allatoona won 16-8. Brown blocked a punt and caught a touchdown pass.
“His TD catch wasn’t just a fat-guy catch,’’ Mobbs said. “He showed his vertical and went up over two skills players to catch a ball in the corner of the end zone.’’
Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, whose former star players have included quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Blake Sims, put Brown in the category of best high school players he has ever watched.
“I agree he dominated our game,’’ Miller said. “He was a force that could not be handled. I have never seen one person take over a game like he did against us.’’
Kipp Adams, the national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, said Brown is most similar to recent former Georgia high school players Montravius Adams (of Auburn) and Trent Thompson (Georgia). As was Brown, each was rated among the best five defensive tackles in the country.
“Brown has that same outstanding size and ability to dominate at the point of attack due to his brute strength,’’ Adams said. “While Thompson might have a little more raw power coming out of high school, Brown is more technically developed at this stage and showcases a more consistent motor than Adams, as evidenced by Brown’s incredible production during his senior season.’’
Brown’s recruitment remains open. His stated leaders are Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee. A decision is not expected until signing day.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com