April 24, 2008

A teddy bear off the field, a beast on it

Mike Markuson was in Lexington, Texas, earlier this week.

When the Ole Miss offensive line coach left the small town in the south central portion of the Lone Star State, his briefcase was one scholarship offer lighter.

Ole Miss became the third school to offer Lexington offensive tackle Michael Brown this week, joining Arizona and Stanford.

"Everything went good (with Markuson's visit)," Brown said. "He came by and watched practice. He talked to our coaches for a long time. They told me the offer is in the mail."

Brown, a 6-foot-6, 312-pound left tackle, doesn't know much about Ole Miss, but he knows enough about the Rebels' new staff to be interested in finding out all that Oxford has to offer.

"I know they beat LSU last year," Brown said, adding that distance from home "won't be a big deal for me."

Lexington is three hours south of the Dallas Metroplex, three hours north of Houston and an hour away from Austin.

"Pretty much everybody in Lexington is either for Texas or Texas A&M," Brown said. "I grew up for A&M, but forget all of that."

There's more to the story of Brown's dismissal of the Aggies than a simple "forget that." Lexington coach Jason Holcombe said former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione offered Brown a scholarship during his sophomore season, one that for all intents and purposes, Brown accepted. Franchione was fired last November, however, and new coach Mike Sherman and his staff essentially withdrew the offer while they re-evaluated prospects.

"That didn't set well with Mike," Holcombe said. "He's opened it up now."

That's music to the ears of coaches such as Markuson and Houston Nutt, who are looking to sign at least six offensive linemen in the Rebels' 2009 signing class. Holcombe said Ole Miss has a real shot to land Brown.

"I think so," Holcombe said. "If you would have asked me that six months ago when Franchione was still at A&M, I would have said, 'No way.' But now he's definitely open to any and all schools across the country. And for Ole Miss to make a trip from way up there to central Texas, you know they're interested."

Brown said he's planning a trip to Tuscaloosa for an Alabama camp this summer. He's already researched the proximity of the Ole Miss campus to the Crimson Tide's digs, and is in the preliminary stages of planning a tour of Oxford and perhaps the Rebels' football camp as well.

"I'm intrigued by the SEC," Brown said. "Also, anybody who's interested in me, I'm going to give them a look."

Brown has a 3.5 grade-point average. He'll take the ACT in June. Holcombe said he'll have no trouble qualifying. Further, Holcombe said, whoever lands Brown is getting a unique kind of player and person.

"He is a small-town country boy," Holcombe said. "He's a real nice kid. Everybody likes him. He's nasty on the field though. He finishes his blocks well. He's going to gain more coordination as he grows into his body and he's a beast now. He could play guard but I see him playing the money position (left tackle).

"He loves to hang around the coaches and he's always had a close relationship with his coaches. He drives a truck and wears cowboy boots. Really, he's a big ol' teddy bear. Whoever ends up signing Mike is getting an excellent kid as well as a player.

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