The University of Alabama will host one of the premier defensive tackles in the nation this weekend…
Coaching Scout.com Five-Star John Brown
The Scout.com five-star prospect was First Team All-State defensive tackle in 2005, his junior season. The 2006 awards have not been announced, but we feel certain John Brown will be included in those honored. Brown is a quiet, polite young man who is a beast on the gridiron. Brown's family is never far from him or his heart. Brown competed in the inaugural East meets West All-American game this past weekend at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. Brown's grandfather stood at the fence prior to the game encouraging his grandson. It is easy to see his pride in this young man. This day found him a little emotional watching Brown play his final prep football game. Brown will play on a much bigger stage next year. The gray-haired man in the No. 98 jersey might not be as easy for Brown to spot. There is one thing Brown doesn't seem to have shared with his family or his coaches and that is where he will play college ball the next four years. Prior to the dismissal of coach Mike Shula and the departure of his staff, Brown had stated on several occasions Alabama was a clear leader. His grandfather maintains at the game Brown will still wear crimson while his grandmother counters, "I think he will be a Gator." Most felt it was down to those two schools with Florida State University his third choice and Louisiana State University a distant fourth. After the game Brown blew that theory by elevating LSU to his third spot and telling Scout.com, "I liked the way they played this year and their (Sugar) bowl win over Notre Dame was very good. I still like Florida State. They are in it a little bit, but it's probably between Alabama, Florida and LSU." We asked Brown if coach Kevin Steele's move to Alabama hurt Florida State's chances and he said, "Maybe. Coach Steele is a good coach. I just don't know yet. I will visit Alabama on the 12th, and then visit Florida and Florida State after that." LSU had their chance to roll out the red carpet for Brown. He has already taken his official visit to Baton Rouge. Alabama will get their shot this weekend when they roll out the crimson carpet and try to impress the 6-2, 285-pound Dreadnaught. Florida will get their opportunity next with a freshly minted national championship trophy in full view for recruits. Brown's defensive line coach is Dan Talbot. Physically, Talbot doesn't seem far removed from some offensive line work himself. The coach joined legendary coach Bill Castle's staff in 2003. Lakeland went 6-4 his first season. After that season, losing became a thing of the past. The Dreadnaughts were a perfect 15-0 in 2004 and won a fourth 5A state championship in the school's history. The team was also ranked 18th nationally. The 2005 season brought another 15-0 record and another state title along with the somewhat subjective national title. The Lakeland squad duplicated that effort in 2006 with a thrilling overtime win over St. Thomas Aquinas 45-42, going 15-0. They were again state champions and national champions. Coach Dan Talbot is 51-4 since his arrival. John Brown came in as a sophomore and he's 45-0. Coach Talbot talked with Scout.com about coaching the affable John Brown. "Actually it has been pretty easy," he said. "I have been fortunate. I've had the opportunity to coach some great players. Jordan Hammond, who is going to LSU, Kendrick Stewart, who is at Florida State, and now I've got John Brown who is undecided, but will go to a major college. They all three played together, but as far as coaching them, I've had it pretty easy." "John is a great kid. He works hard. He is a great player. I think he knows he's great, but you wouldn't know that by talking to him. He is very, very humble. He has been a pleasure to coach. He has listened to me. He has never had a confrontation. John has done exactly what I have told him to do. He is a very coachable kid, and he'll do great wherever he goes. The coaches will love him," Talbot said beaming. As far as Brown's grades are concerned, "John is on track," Talbot said. "He's on track to make it. It was never an issue of grades. It's just going to come down to test scores, just like most kids. The sliding scale helps." Coach Talbot talked about the difficulties and frustrations Brown faced when opponents keyed in on this talented playmaker. "Any time a player demands a double-team like John does it's going to free up other players to make a name for themselves," he said. "It's going to give other kids a chance to shine and make plays. Our linebackers were thankful for John Brown because there were plenty of times they ran to the ball untouched because of the attention that John Brown commanded. Then you look at John's stats. He had 98 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 42 tackles for a loss of yardage. He was demanding a double-team, but those are outstanding numbers for a defensive tackle. He had 37 quarterback hurries and four caused fumbles. To put up those kind of numbers and get double-teamed, well it's outstanding." Coach Talbot talked of how he prepared Brown for all the attention he would receive. "Going into the season John understood that he was going to get double-teamed," he said. "The reason it was so easy for John to understand that is because when John was a sophomore he was playing right next to Kendrick Stewart. Everyone knew who Kendrick was, and he required the double-team then, where John didn't." "John had an outstanding sophomore year, and that's when he just kind of blew up on the map. In the off-seaon I went to John and said, "You know you had it easy." We watched a lot of film because of the focus on Kendrick. I told him, "He took all the double teams. That means it was just you versus him." We'll take that match-up any day. John Brown versus anybody. "But now everyone knows who you are, so now you're going to have to worry about and really concentrate on getting off of double teams and doing that aspect of it. We knew it was coming just because at Lakeland High School we have been fortunate enough to have guys like Jordan Hammond and Kendrick Stewart. Those guys learn from each other, so he knew what to expect. Some kids would have complained and got frustrated. John knew it was coming, and we mentally prepared for it in the off-season. Once the season started we physically prepared for it." Coach Talbot talked about Brown's future and when he might announce his intention. "I don't know what he wants to do," he said. "He might want to surprise people on signing day, but I think it's going to come down to what John wants. He may just quietly make his announcement." "He's still scheduled to go to Alabama on the 12th. It's been tough with what's going on up there, but I don't see why not. I don't think coach Saban is going to look at film and say John's not a guy we want," Talbot laughs at the notion. "I think it's just going to come down to his visits." "I think he was really leaning towards Alabama. With the Shula deal and with coach Ball being the one recruiting him and his future uncertain, it may just come down to who he's more impressed with on the visits. He's pretty much booked now until signing day. He's already been to LSU on an official visit. He'll go to Alabama and then to Florida State and Florida. It's going to be one of them." Coach Talbot went on to talk about the freakish amount of talent on this year's championship Lakeland squad. "It's weird," he said. "I think it's just hard work. Those kids worked so hard. They were pulling tires at 7 o'clock in the morning in the summertime. That's 200-300 pound tires. If you had seen those kids when they were freshmen they were just little guys that we thought had some promise, but everything goes to the kids. They get what they deserve. It's all a tribute to them and their families and how hard they worked. For six of them from one high school football team to go to the University of Florida is unbelievable, and I don't think it will ever happen again." Next year will bring some rebuilding after losing this much talent and a 45-game win streak on the line. "On the defensive line I've got two returning starters," Talbot explained. "I'm pretty confident that I've got two younger kids that will fill in. Now I don't think if we're looking for someone to fill John Brown's shoes we have that, but I think we are going to be real competitive." "The expectations around here have been really high the last three years. We've answered the call all three times. We were predicted to win the state in 2004, and we won it. We were predicted to win it again in 2005, and we did. We were predicted to win it again in 2006, and we did." "I think the expectations around here are that everyone thinks we'll be down. I think we'll surprise some people. We've got some good kids in our program. Going into this year, everyone was worried about our defense. I think we proved a lot of people wrong. Hopefully, we'll have the opportunity to do that this year. It's going to take hard work. We're going to work them hard and coach them the same, and see what happens. We are going to be young." The coaching staff at Lakeland would rival the best anywhere. Coach Bill Castle has been the head coach for the Dreadnaughts since 1976. Coach John Flath (offensive line), Coach Chris Davis (wide receivers) and Coach Talbot have all been head coaches prior to becoming a part of Coach Castle's staff. Having four head coaches on staff could be trouble, but it is anything but that. "We get along so well," Talbot explained. "There are no ego problems. We are all about the kids. We understand what coach Castle goes through being the head coach, and we try to help him." "I think being a head coach, and then going back to being an assistant, makes you a better assistant coach. When I was working as an assistant before the head coaching experience, I had all the answers. When I became a head coach it's tougher to make some of those decisions, especially when it comes to whether you have to remove a kid from the team or not. If you are an assistant, it is easy to say he needs to be gone, but when you are the head coach, you are the one that has to do it and then answer the call as to why. You understand a lot more than the average assistant coach that has never been in that position." When we parted from coach Talbot and coach Davis on Saturday we wished them good luck next season and they replied, "We're going to need it." We think luck has little to do with it. The Dreadnaughts are in great hands. Stay tuned to Scout.com as we bring all the updates from John Brown's official visits and his college decision.
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