Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Q&A with Missouri Assistant Coach Mack Brown

Mack Brown, left, serves as an offensive GA and tight
ends coach at Missouri. Photo
The Sunflower League Football Blog recently sat down with Mack Brown, an Assistant Coach at Missouri, for a Q&A session. In the riveting interview, Brown, a SM North alum, shared insights into coaching in the SEC, tips on being recruited by FBS programs, and his experiences playing quarterback in the Sunflower League.  

Could you tell us about your current role at Missouri and your long-term aspirations?

My current role at the University of Missouri is Tight Ends Coach/Offensive Graduate Assistant. I am in an unbelievable position as a young coach to have our offensive coordinator (Josh Henson) and head football coach (Gary Pinkel) believe in my abilities as a person and as a football coach and allow me to have my own position group at this level.

As far as long term goes, I am obviously having an incredible time coaching at one of the premier college football programs in the country, but also have to be conscious about the next job and where that will be. I don’t have a great answer for you for the immediate future, but I do know my long-term aspirations is to continue to coach football and develop my group of players as overall people.

What's the perception of the Sunflower League among the Missouri coaching staff, and among SEC coaching staffs in general (if there is one at all)?

I don’t know if there is a perception of the Sunflower League specifically, but we do hold very high regards for football in the Kansas City area. The Sunflower League is obviously a league that you have to recruit if you are going to recruit Kansas City, and Coach Andy Hill does a fantastic job recruiting Kansas City for us as a program. We place a great emphasis on keeping the local talent that we feel can play in our league “at home," and the Sunflower League fits into that category. I also believe there is a good perception of Kansas City football nationwide as you see multiple BCS programs, from all five of the major conferences, offering and recruiting athletes out of the area on a yearly basis.

How does Missouri evaluate its recruiting targets? List the qualities you guys look for during the evaluation process.

We take great pride in our evaluation process at the University of Missouri, which includes being as thorough on each recruit as we possibly can. We have different measurable criteria for each position, but are not locked into those numbers if a coach has a great feel for a player's size development or athleticism. Obviously one of the most important characteristics any recruit can showcase is exceptional functional movement for their position. If you aren't an explosive, athletic athlete you are going to have a very difficult time playing at this level. Another characteristic that we take very seriously at Mizzou is the character of the individual. There are a couple of different ways we evaluate this including asking the player's head coach, position coach, teachers and guidance counselors, as well as monitoring their social media.

What's the best thing a recruit can do to get their name out to FBS coaching staffs? Dos and Donts?

The best thing a player can do to get recruited by any school FBS-DIII is to have productive game film. This sounds very cliché, but it really is the truth. With the way recruiting has evolved, recruits are more and more worried about getting an early offer and committing before their senior season. While this is an option for the elite prospects in the country, if you do not have an early offer (before your senior season), don’t worry about it, go play the best football of your career your senior year and everything will take care of itself.

Obviously going to different football camps in the summer can do a great deal for athletes as they are not only exposing their athleticism to different coaching staffs, but they are also getting the chance to work with those coaching staffs and put themselves in the shoes of a player at that school for the day and get a feel for the staff's personality. This obviously works the other way around as well, as coaching staffs are trying to feel out what it would be like to coach you as one of their players.

With that being said, keep in mind that it will be extremely difficult to get recruited if you aren't playing ball on Friday nights. Don’t attend so many football camps that you are missing a lot of your high school football team activities (weights, camp, etc.).

How much do stats play a role in a player recruitment, if any? 

I wouldn't say that stats specifically play a role in the recruitment of our athletes, but production does. If you are making a lot of plays and constantly around the ball you are acquiring stats within your highlights. We very rarely look at the raw stats of an individual such as tackles, catches, completions, etc. With that being said, having great stats will never hurt a player.

Brown was a highly recruited pro-style quarterback
during his time with the Indians. He graduated from
SM North in 2005.
You were heavily recruited by Colorado and Ole Miss (among others) out of high school. Any interesting stories from your recruitment? And how has FBS recruiting changed from 10 years ago?

Although I did have multiple BCS offers, my recruitment was not that hectic. I attended multiple summer camps prior to my senior season to gain more exposure to the schools that I had mutual interest with. As I mentioned previously I was able to work 1-on-1 with each coaching staff (position coach/coordinator) and get a great feel for the right fits. Once I camped at the University of Colorado, I knew exactly where I wanted to play my college ball. Recruiting has definitely changed in the past 5-10 years though as social media, and the overall exposure of high school student athletes has amplified to the point each BCS school has their own Rivals site and ESPN is broadcasting high school football all-star competitions in the summer.

What's one thing the public in general doesn't know about being a Graduate Assistant at an FBS program?

Being a graduate assistant at an FBS program is very demanding as you work anywhere from 12 to 20 hours a day, and have to be ready to roll the next day as if you had a day off the day before. It’s obviously something you have to be totally committed to in order to experience any kind of enjoyment or success. The easiest way to explain this is this profession is a production based business. If you are not producing on the tasks assigned to you, or your players are not producing at the level they are expected to be at, they will find someone else to do your job. Therefore you end up spending multiple hours making sure every task is done correctly, and you are doing everything possible to give yourself and your players every chance to succeed.

Who's the best player you ever faced in the Sunflower League and why?

Playing quarterback you never truly have the opportunity to go 1-on-1 with an individual play after play and get a great feel for overall strength or quickness. The thing you do get is a feel for a lot of different players athletic abilities as it relates to what area you are going to attack. Obviously, anyone who has played in the Sunflower League takes great pride in the quality of football that is played each year so I could name probably a couple of different individuals from each team I faced. With that being said, I’ll give you a name from the back two levels of the defense. Mike Rivera (SM Northwest) was a guy at linebacker who you always had to have a great idea where he was on each play, and Randy Shephard and Dustin Moomau (both Olathe North) were those same types of players in the secondary.

Who was the best team you ever faced in the Sunflower League and why?

I had the opportunity to play a lot of great teams in the Sunflower League. Olathe North was the class of the league when I was playing, but Olathe East was always extremely talented. Also, the Shawnee Mission Northwest team that featured Rivera and Ryan Torain (2003) was obviously one of the most talented teams we played against and a great environment due to the rivalry.

Favorite/best game you ever played in high school?

We took great pride in trying to be the best team in the Shawnee Mission School District, and we accomplished it a couple of years, but fell short a couple of years. Any time we played a Shawnee Mission school there was typically a great environment and a lot of pride on the line. Two games do stick in my mind though. In 2003, ending Olathe North’s 38-game winning streak the first game of the year, and the following week beating a very good Lawrence team on the last play of the game.

I also had the honor of coaching at Lawrence High School in the fall of 2011 and was able to experience the cross town rivalry between LHS and Free State. This is also one of my greatest game experiences from the Sunflower League as the environment was second to none, and we were able to find a way to overcome a couple of key injuries and win to get into the playoffs.

Wildest SEC experience?

I get this question a lot, as people want to know if the SEC conference is truly what it is built up to be. My answer to the questions is always, yes, it is everything you expect (or expected) and more. The football in this conference is truly a lifestyle for a lot of people, not just a social event you show up to on Saturday afternoons. If you have never had the chance to experience SEC football, make sure you find the time to attend a game in your lifetime.

I have a ton of great stories, but the wildest experiences probably came this year as we were making our run at the SEC Championship game. Going to Sanford Stadium undefeated (5-0) and playing a No. 6 ranked Georgia Bulldog team in front of 93,000 people, and ultimately winning, was an incredible experience. Our offensive coordinator calls the game from the press box so our communication is obviously over the headsets. On our first third down of the game, the noise level in that stadium was so loud there was absolutely no chance of hearing anything on the headsets, let alone the person next to you. Thankfully our quarterback coach started signaling in a play call and we all just replicated what he did.

Another great experience was our win at Ole Miss late last season. We had a great crowd on the road and finished the game very strong. The way their stadium is set up the visiting team walks underneath the stadium and is exposed to all of the fans as the exit, only separated by a fence. By the time we started walking back to our locker room it was a sea of Mizzou fans who were going nuts as we walked into the locker room. It was a really cool experience and one that helped.

My favorite SEC experience happened in Columbia, on the last regular season game last fall when we played Texas A&M with the SEC East Championship title on the line. Our fans were unbelievable and there wasn't a seat to be found as we came out for pregame. After we secured the fourth quarter victory the fans rushed the field to “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles as that victory sent us to Atlanta to play in the SEC Championship game against Auburn.

You share a name with the former University of Texas head coach -- was that by design?

I wasn’t specifically named after Mack Brown, but my father's pre-existing relationship gave my parents the idea of the name. My father had a lot of talented players at Grandview (MO) High School when Coach Brown was an assistant coach and recruiting the Kansas City area. They developed a friendship throughout a couple of different players recruitment processes, but I don’t personally have a relationship with Coach Brown.

What has allowed Missouri to have success, so quickly, in the SEC?

What a lot of people don’t realize is since 2007, the University of Missouri football program is the eighth winningest BCS football program in the country, and has the fifth most First Round NFL Draft picks in that same time frame.

I do believe our recruiting evaluation process works, and we have a player development program that is second to none. Finally, Coach Pinkel and our staff have a plan that is obviously proven over time, and works. Our players compete with each other daily on a level that I had not seen before joining this staff, and have also created a family environment and culture that pulls the team together every Saturday afternoon and we play as one.

Any parting thoughts, shout outs, or words of wisdom you would like to share with the readers?

One of the biggest things I can tell players in high school football is to thoroughly enjoy the experience and put everything you have into your season. There is truly not much that even comes close to playing under the lights on Friday night for your school.

Would also love to give a shout out to anyone who coached me at Shawnee Mission North, obviously you all had an impact on my life, and career choice as I am trying to give back what so many others gave to me. Also, a quick shout out to Coach Wedd at LHS as he provided me with an unbelievable opportunity, as well as the rest of the LHS staff I was able to work with in the fall of 2011. Although my career is young, that was one of my favorite falls yet. Obviously I haven’t mentioned my parents but they have truly allowed me to be in the position I am and chase this dream.

Feel free to follow me on twitter @mgbrown211 or Coach Andy Hill @Coach_Hill_Miz who recruits the Kansas City area. As I mentioned previously, we take great pride in our recruitment of in-state athletes and keeping them at home (we consider all of Kansas City to be in-state), and that doesn't change with the Sunflower League.

Brown, alongside Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, during Missouri's 28-21
home victory against Texas A&M last November.

1 comment:

@theRev_Carnahan said...

Great read Eli- looks like the blog is gonna hit the ground running in 2014! - @theRev_Carnahan