Hey guys, I hope this isn’t a bad time. I know there’s a lot of stuff going with conference realignment, but I thought I might as well throw in a quick post related to actual football. I hope that’s cool.
Anyway, this is actually something I meant to do before the season started, but a combination of real life issues and general laziness got in the way. At that time, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to say that how both of the Brown brothers would perform this season was quite an enigma and relied on a lot of guesswork or just believing what Bill Snyder and K-State reporters told us, which can be dangerous.
Between their incredible recruiting pedigrees, their similar "busts" at big-name schools behind some very talented players, and all of the off-field drama that ended with them choosing to come play at K-State, it’s safe to say that they were the most high-profile mysteries in recent memory, if not in the entire Snyder era. Particularly before the spring game, you could have made a defensible argument that either one would become a star in the Big 12 or fail to find a starting spot.*
*OK, maybe Arthur was destined to start no matter what happened, just because the defense was so awful last year, especially against the run. This should be interpreted as, not playing well enough to start for teams whose rushing defenses finish in the top 100.
Since then, obviously, Arthur has shown why he was getting a considerable amount more hype than his brother, leading all of the leaders here at BOTC to name him preseason newcomer of the year for the defense.
Meanwhile, Bryce has struggled due to varying degrees of poor offensive line play, injuries, lack of hard work, and grudges held by coaches, depending on who you ask. I still think in his three carries against Eastern Kentucky he looked like more of a Big 12 running back than anyone else on the Wildcat roster, but I’m well aware that’s a terribly small sample size.
Even with all of this new knowledge, the fact remains that none of us have seen either of the Brown brothers face even decent competition as Wildcats, so it’s still not clear how they’ll react. So, without discussing any off-field issues or injuries (for karma-based reasons), I’m here to offer four different ways to approach setting your expectations for two of K-State’s most well-known recruits ever. I would recommend going somewhere between the last two, but the others may serve as important cautions for you or your friends.
The irrational optimist:
You’re the type of person who generally gets everything and just doesn’t see much go wrong in life. Maybe you’re a Barcelona fan, or you just recently graduated college and fell into a six-figure job through a family friend.
Everyone says they’re really happy for you, but really they’re just pissed that you catch all the breaks but not quite pissed enough to give up the time you let them spend playing your PS3 on your big screen television. I could tell you that setting your expectations this high is a bad idea and just setting yourself up for disappointment, but you probably won’t believe me, so what’s the point?
For Bryce: 240 carries, 1231 yards; 25 receptions, 235 yards; 20 total touchdowns (including 3 passes); Big 12 First Team, BCS Bowl MVP, recipient of Key to the City
Yes, those are almost Daniel Thomas numbers. But you’ve somehow convinced yourself that the offensive line is rapidly improving with the more reps it gets, and once Bryce reels off a couple big runs against the Hurricanes Saturday, he’ll not only break out of Snyder’s doghouse, he’ll no longer need a leash.
That unstoppable strength and speed that led him to a record 7,209 yards of rushing in Wichita’s City League (the same one Barry Sanders played in, you remind your friends) will translate perfectly to the Big 12. What do you make of his early season issues? He’s only 20 and still adjusting to Manhattan. Give him a break.
For Arthur: 128 tackles, 12 sacks, 5 interceptions, 5 fumbles forced, 1st Team All-America, and an offer to become the Big 12’s new commissioner, since it survived.
You’ve seen how Arthur is the clear leader of the K-State defense through two games and seems to have a gear that no one else has, outside of maybe David Garrett. But Garrett’s 5-8, 175, Brown is 6-1, 223. As the competition gets tougher, so will Arthur.
Not only will he be dominant, but he’ll be such a great leader that the team around him will get better, making it impossible for teams to pay too much attention to him without sacrificing elsewhere. He may have been distracted as a freshman under the bright lights (among other things) at Miami, but he’ll fall in love with the fans and coaches in Manhattan, ending a triumphant season by announcing, "I’m going to stay here two more years!"
The irrational pessimist:
Maybe you were around 30 years ago, or your freshman year at K-State was 2007. It’s possible that recently you suffered a bad breakup, and you’re likely unemployed with somewhere around 100 applications that didn’t even draw a response.
Perhaps you parked your car at a Subway for lunch and came out to find it had rolled down an incline because of the parking brake you didn’t know was faulty.* I’m trying to tell you there’s no reason to be so gloomy, but you can’t hear me with the pillow you’ve placed over your head.
*This actually happened to me two and a half weeks ago. Miraculously, my car was a) not totaled and b) didn’t cause any appreciable collateral damage.
For Bryce: 26 carries, 105 yards, 1 TD; 4 receptions, 5 fumbles, 3 arguments with Collin Klein after option plays and one entrance on the field while forgetting his helmet on the sideline.
You’ve seen how bad this offensive line is, how much Coach Snyder hates Bryce for his poor work ethic, and the way that Collin Klein is the best running back on this K-State team. It’s going to be a long season, and he’ll probably just transfer or quit school at the end of it anyway.
For Arthur: 60 tackles, 3 sacks, 0 INTs, one bruised ego
When Arthur takes the field this Saturday, he’ll be stunned to learn that he’s not always going to be faster than everyone on the other team and the way his former team shuts him down will irreparably damage his psyche for the rest of the year. The decline will be so stunning that even Kansas will be making him almost invisible in a month. After that game, of course, Turner Gill will ask Arthur to be the leader of the Jayhawks "run defense."
The rational optimist:
You probably started cognitively cheering for the ‘Cats sometime in the late ‘90s, and maybe you even occasionally use Josh Freeman’s NFL success and the wins over Texas to rationalize the Ron Prince years. Those things are kind of fun.
Still, you’re used to working hard for a living and know that things don’t just fall into your lap. Maybe it took you a while, but you finally found that special someone, and you’ve got a pretty good plan for the rest of your life. K-State football has brought you some great memories and maybe even better times that you don’t remember, but you also know there are other things in life.
For Bryce: 204 carries, 875 yards, 13 TDs; 12 receptions, 143 yards, 2 TDs, Alamo Bowl MVP
You’ve come to terms with the fact that Bryce isn’t going to replace Daniel Thomas like you had hoped, and in retrospect, with this offensive line, it was silly to think anyone could have. But his strength, along with the relative mediocrity of the other guys and the steady improvement of Collin Klein’s still below-average passing game, means the cream will eventually rise to the top and Bryce will see some holes.
Even Bill Snyder knows you have to let your best players play to stand a chance in the Big 12. Bryce will take his licks, particularly against good teams, but by the end of the year he’ll be much improved and be ready to really break out next season, even if it’s just against BYU, Iowa St. and Houston.
For Arthur: 103 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 INTs, Big 12 Newcomer of the Year
It’s obvious K-State has something special in this kid. The way he ran some people down and got all over the field against Kent State is a reason to get excited, even if Big 12 teams can double down on him because his teammates are still pretty weak, especially by comparison.
But there’s no doubt Arthur has the capability to become a great leader, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Bill Snyder knows how to cultivate great linebackers. Even if it’s just for one season, Arthur will give you a reason to watch the K-State run defense again, and singlehandedly move it up by at least 50 spots in the national rankings.
The rational pessimist:
You’re probably here largely because you support teams like the Chiefs, Cubs, and Royals. You can’t fault anyone who tends more towards the rational optimist position, and you might even envy them a bit.
But with your OK job, OK home and at-the-moment nonexistent dating life, you see no reason to set expectations too high for a football team that has fallen considerably since its glory days. Plus, just look at how many great K-Staters were walk-ons. It’s just not as easy to empathize with a Bryce or Arthur Brown as it was with a Jordy Nelson or a Jon McGraw, or even a nice guy like Darren Sproles who was, by some accounts, "too small."
For Bryce: 123 carries, 542 yards, 6 TDs; 12 receptions, 82 yards, 1 TD; 6 fumbles
Bryce showed flashes but never really got into a rhythm at Tennessee, and it’s hard to see why it would happen here with a considerably worse offensive line and a quarterback who hasn’t given defenses much reason not to crowd the box (to his credit, he’s done the opposite with his running ability). Plus, Coach Snyder does seem to like Pease and Hubert a little more right now, and as a former #1 recruit that has to be hurting Bryce’s ego a little bit.
Sure, he’ll get better as the season goes along and he does still have two years left, but how much can we really expect from a guy who hasn’t really looked like a blue chip since high school?
For Arthur: 78 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 votes for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year
It’s impossible to deny that Arthur is the best player on K-State’s defense, but isn’t that like saying you’re the best actor/actress on Outsourced? Even if you’re above-average and capable of being a star for another team, it’s going to be tough to stand out on a defense that is still probably destined to be in the lower half of the Big 12 this season. That's not as much of an insult as you might think.
Arthur has looked spectacular against weaker opponents, but he didn’t get left off the field at Miami for no reason. As the game speeds up around him, how much will he be able to adjust with it? It’s impossible to say for sure, so you’re setting the bar low, because success feels that much better when it's unexpected.