When the news broke Greg Brown was leaving Missouri after only one season with the program for Auburn, one of the secondary coach’s recent pupils shot him a text.
“Dang, already?” Missouri defensive back Aarion Penton said.
Penton had a breakout year earning All-SEC first team honors matching his career-total of five interceptions while Missouri tied for the SEC regular season lead in the category.
The graduating senior saw a bright future for Missouri’s secondary under Brown, a coach whose experience makes him an effective and respected teacher.
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“He gave me advice on stuff to work on, stuff that will help me out (in the NFL),” Penton said at the Senior Bowl. “I took it and ran with it. With so much experience in the league and coaching at different places, you can’t do nothing but take the coaching and run with it to be great.”
Now Auburn will benefit from the “proven track record” coach Gus Malzahn referenced when announcing the hire in January.
The assistant’s lengthy resume includes more than a decade worth of experience in the NFL and stops at power five programs including Alabama, Louisville, Arizona and Colorado.
Brown’s experience and success — he’s coached three Jim Thorpe Award winners (Deon Figures, Chris Hudson and Gerod Holliman — brings an instant credibility factor with current collegiate defenders.
“He used to bring in old film from the league, Terrell Owens running routes and he’s got his DBs out there locking him out in practice,” Penton said. “He has seen the greats, he’s even coached Deion (Sanders).”
According to Penton, Auburn defensive backs and safeties should be ready to get back to basics this spring.
“He wants you to get your fundamentals down to let athleticism take over,” Penton said.
Penton traces his own improvement last fall to work he did with Brown on improving his technique.
“The biggest thing (he taught me) is to stop the comeback,” Penton said. “How quick you can get out of that break is the key. I just keep that in my head and always try to beat the receiver on his break.”
The biggest adjustment Auburn players might have to make is getting used to Brown’s coaching style. Penton describes the assistant’s personality is in stark contrast to the coach he is replacing Wes McGriff.
McGriff won players over with his intense approach on the field — often running down field during special teams drills animatedly encouraging players — but Penton describes Brown as “laid back” and “very chill.”
“He loves to joke around,” Penton said.
Penton’s biggest advice for Brown’s future players is simple — listen to what their new coach has to say.
“Whatever advice he gave us, we knew it was something that could help you,” Penton said.