Orlando Brown: Newest Tennessee commitment has loads of potential

By on May 4, 2013

Tennessee landed a commitment from Orlando Brown, an offensive tackle of Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Ga., on Thursday. He chose the Vols over Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Orlando Brown, Sr. was one fo the biggest and most intimidating linemen in the NFL during his nine-year playing career.

Orlando Brown, Sr. was one fo the biggest and most intimidating linemen in the NFL during his nine-year playing career.

Even if you don’t actively follow football recruiting, the name should sound familiar. He’s the son of the late NFL veteran offensive tackle of the same name.

Dad was nicknamed “Zeus” because of his 6-foot-7, 360-pound frame. He started 119 games for the Browns and Ravens during a nine-year career that was interrupted by injury. He missed three seasons after being infamously struck in the eye by a referee Jeff Triplette’s penalty flag during a game in 1999.

But no doubt about it, through the late 90s, Orlando, Sr. was known as one of the most intimidating players in the game.

“Baby Zeus” is massive, too; perhaps even bigger than his father.

Rivals.com lists him at 6-7, but he’s even taller than that, and he weighed 370+ during last season, but has shed more than 30 pounds in recent months and has improved his body makeup considerably. (Brown says he’s lost 110 pounds over the last three years.)

Originally ranked a 4-star by one outlet, Brown is now a consensus 3-star recruit by all of the major recruiting services.

That ranking has been one of the more talked about ones in the 2014 class. With his size, bloodlines and interest from a host of big schools, fans wonder why Brown isn’t thought of more highly by the experts.

It probably has to do with that word coaches love to hate: potential.

Brown shows flashes of quickness and athleticism on film, but clearly needs to become more consistent and improve his footwork and technique. There’s also the issue of his weight. He’s worked extremely hard to improve his body composition, but he will need to maintain that dedication going forward.

Regardless, that 3-star ranking shouldn’t worry anyone too much, as recruiting analysts miss the mark on offensive linemen more than any other position.

Thirty-eight of the 41 offensive linemen drafted in last week’s NFL Draft were rated 3-stars or less out of high school/junior college by Rivals.com. That means 80+% of the o-linemen chosen were 2-stars, 3-stars or not rated at all.

As a comparison, nearly half of the 46 defensive linemen drafted were 4 or 5-star recruits. In the the 2009 recruiting class, 3-star offensive linemen were almost as likely to be drafted as 4-stars (8% vs. 10%, respectively).

While the recruiting analysts do a very good job identifying talent in general, it’s clearly more difficult to project young offensive linemen. And if there’s any fan base that should be confident in their coaching staff’s ability to take a raw offensive lineman and develop them for the next level, it’s Tennessee.

As CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman recently pointed out, Butch Jones has an impressive track record of identifying tackles that the recruiting experts looked past and turning them into NFL prospects.

While at Central Michigan, Jones recruited Joe Staley, an All-Pro tackle the past two seasons with the 49ers, and Eric Fisher, the No. 1 pick in last weekend’s NFL Draft. Both Staley and Fisher were 2-stars out of high school.

At Cincinnati, he signed Eric Lefeld, a 2-star defensive end who became a First-Team All Big East offensive tackle as a sophomore in 2012.

That trio had the opposite body makeup of Brown — they all needed to gain weight to play tackle — but like Brown, they were long and athletic. They also shared another commonality that can make a high school recruiting evaluation tricky — they were young for their grade level. Brown, like Fisher, will play his senior year of high school ball as a 17-year old.

Obviously, it’s quite a stretch to make a comparison between Brown and Staley, Fisher or Lefeld, but Jones has an eye for offensive tackles with high ceilings, and clearly he thinks that Brown has potential.

It will be interesting to see what Brown is able to do with it.

Photo credit: H. Darr Beiser / USA Today