Every school has had their fair share of blunders on the recruiting trail. Tennessee is no stranger to that. But sometimes a recruit fails to live up to expectations so spectacularly bad that they become infamous outside of the program’s own fanbase.
And that’s the case for one of the Vols’ former highly-rated recruits.
Greg Wallace of Bleacher Report recently ranked the top 10 most overhyped college football players since 2000, and former Vol running back Bryce Brown came in at No. 3 on the list.
Brown has gone down as one of the most infamous and disappointing recruits in Tennessee history, but he was once the crown jewel of the Vols’ 2009 recruiting class. Brown was rated as high as the No. 1 player in the country by Scout.com coming out of high school, but something about his recruitment was fishy. That didn’t stop Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin, though.
“Bryce Brown was no stranger to attention when he finally arrived at Tennessee,” Wallace said. “The Wichita, Kansas, running back and his family drummed up plenty for themselves. During his recruitment, a family friend, Brian Butler, sold updates on Brown’s college choices for $9.99 per month or $59 per year, an arrangement that attracted NCAA attention. He initially committed to Miami but backed off and waited until after most recruits had signed to sign with Tennessee in March 2009.”
After the dramatic recruitment process was over, Brown joined the Vols and helped back up Montario Hardesty in what was a solid Tennessee backfield in 2009. Brown didn’t have a flashy freshman campaign, but he ran for 460 yards and three scores on 101 carries while also catching 10 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. The ceiling was high for Brown, and fans had great expectations for the former five-star recruit.
Then Lane Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal, and Brown departed shortly after as well.
Brown transferred to Kansas State in 2010 and sat out a season per NCAA transfer rules. But only a month in to the 2011 season with the Wildcats, Brown left Kansas State as well. He would end up declaring for the NFL draft in 2012 and was taken in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Brown spent four seasons in the league, playing for Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Seattle. He would total just 1,076 yards and seven touchdowns on 252 carries in 42 career NFL games.
“Given the excitement surrounding his recruitment and overall talent, Brown’s failure to capitalize puts him very near the top of this list,” Wallace wrote. “Brown was a talented player but was dogged by off-field concerns and never made the most of his opportunities in college football.”
Bryce Brown will forever be one of the biggest “what could have been” stories in Vol history. Now the former five-star recruit and much ballyhooed freshman at Tennessee has already been out of the NFL for two years and has been out of the news since.