ATHENS, Ga. — This is the reason Marlon Brown was a big deal on the recruiting trail back in the winter of 2009.
The Georgia wide receiver was viewed as such a potential playmaker that then-Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin flew to Brown’s hometown of Memphis right after being hired as Volunteers coach to woo the state’s top prospect.
Brown and the fifth-ranked Bulldogs head into Saturday’s game against the Volunteers hitting their stride.
Brown already has a career-high 16 receptions and ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference in receiving yards (88.0 per game) and catches (5.3 per game).
“I can’t wait,” Brown said. “I’m really, really excited to play Tennessee. I’m healthy this year. When I played them last year I wasn’t that healthy. When I was a sophomore I didn’t play against them because I hurt my shoulder.”
Injuries have slowed the senior’s progress during his career.
He missed two games with sprained ligaments in his left ankle last season in the lead-up to the Tennessee game.
A year earlier, Brown watched from the sidelines as Georgia blasted the Vols.
As a freshman he was booed at Neyland Stadium on a day he made his first two catches for Georgia.
“I really can’t wait to be 100 percent so that I can quiet some of the doubters,” Brown said last year before facing Tennessee.
He’s headed in that direction this season.
Brown has been Mr. August the past two seasons in a sport where a player is defined what he does in September and beyond.
He tore it up in preseason camp in 2011 and again this year.
“I’m just so thankful for him, happy for him to be able to play a season so far,” coach Mark Richt said, noting that Brown missed the opener this year with a strained hamstring. “I’m just glad to see him be able to make these plays and show what he can do and be able to see some of the benefits of the hard work. … It’s nice to see him healthy making plays.”
Brown has a pair of 100-yard games in the three that he’s played this season. He had eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the win at Missouri and five for 114 and a touchdown in the rout of Vanderbilt.
“He’s healthy, and he’s a fourth-year senior,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He knows what we’re doing offensively. I think he’s done a nice job of changing his body. He’s lost 10 to 15 pounds, he’s more flexible and I think he’s continued to get confidence each week.”
The 6-foot-5, 212-pound Brown says he’s actually about six pounds lighter than last year.
“Marlon is a big, physical receiver and he’s faster than he used to be,” Richt said. “He’s trained, he’s trimmed his body down, he’s worked hard with our strength staff, Sherman Armstrong especially with the speed. It’s paid off for him. He’s quicker, he’s more flexibile and he’s always had really strong hands.”
Brown said he spent the offseason doing more stretching after workouts to improve on that flexibility.
“The more flexible you are, the faster you are,” Brown said.
Fellow receiver Tavarres King has noticed the difference.
“He’s just zoned in,” King said. “very zoned in.”
Brown will try to stay “zoned in” against his home state school Saturday.