Name: Eli Brown
Position: Outside Linebacker/Running Back
High School: Warren East High School
Career prior to senior season: Eli Brown's story is a little different than our other candidates.
He didn't enter high school at Warren East, he did so at Warren Central -- transferring for his sophomore year. His team's best success and his defensive statistical highs came in his first year as a varsity starter. He is also an ironman -- playing on both sides of the ball.
As a sophomore, a then first-year starter, Brown was a big contributor on a Warren East team that made it all the way to the semi-final round of the 4A state playoffs. That year he showed the athleticism which he is now known for, racking up 90 total tackles (66 solo, 24 assists) and taking both his interception and fumble recovery back to the crib, for a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, he showed his talents as well. On 106 carries, he scored 11 touchdowns and ran for 756 yards.
And a star was born.
After his spectacular first year of varsity play the offers rolled in. Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Kentucky and WKU all were certain that his talents warranted a scholarship offer.
At that time, James Franklin and his staff at Vanderbilt were rolling on the recruiting trail. The Commodores had Brown on campus for a camp the summer after his sophomore season. He was so impressed with them he committed while he was in Nashville.
With recruitment at his back, the Bowling Green native intended to pick up where he left off on the gridiron. As a junior, Brown's defensive stats weren't were they were a year prior and his team finished with a mediocre 6-4 regular season record.
There are also two reasons to explain the statistical decease:
1. A lot of teams planned their offensive attack away from Brown's side of the ball.
2. Brown only played in 10 games, as opposed to 14 in the season prior.
What he didn't do on defense he made up running the ball. Even while splitting carries with teammate Antonio Shields, he rushed for career highs in touchdowns (15) and yards (1,186).
In the last game of the regular season, he suffered an injury that damaged both his MCL and ACL. The tears caused him to miss the remainder of the season, which only lasted another two weeks as the Raiders fell to Owensboro 54-19 in the second round of the 4A state playoffs.
Things were changing for the better at Vanderbilt and eventually James Franklin was hired as the head coach at Penn State. Though before Franklin made his leap, Brown opened his recruitment back up.
New schools USC, Ole Miss and, Franklin's new school, Penn State jumped in to offer. Though it was Kentucky who showed persistence and landed the four-star prospect.
2014 outlook: The Warren East Raiders aren't being picked to win the 4A state championship in 2014. Brown and his team will receive the underdog role early on.
There has been a lot of talk about exactly what role he will play on this team. Head coach Steve Long told Zach Greenwell of the Bowling Green Daily Times Brown's conditioning, at this point coming back from an injury, could prevent him from having as big of an offensive role early on.
Long figures as the season goes on Brown's stamina will improve and the true ironman will be back at it.
Pleading Brown's case: All the other candidates have big statical years under their belt. Brown had a good year as a sophomore, but as a senior he may really raise the bar.
Not only do you have to take into account both his rushing stats and his defensive stats, think about his journey back from an injury.
In some cases, ACL tears can keep guys sidelined for nearly a year. Brown suffered his injury in November and is playing in August.
With all the scholarships, a four-star ranking and being the No. 136 prospect in the #Rivals250 it may seem farfetched that 2014 could be the season where he really breaks out, but it could be.
He would also be just the fifth defensive player to obtain the award since its inception in 1986.
Even though his prominent position would be outside linebacker, Brown is still an ironman. And wouldn't be nice to see one of those types win the award?