A season ago, the Ole Miss defense was leaving fall camp with two guys at the top of the depth chart at safety. It was junior Cody Prewitt and sophomore Trae Elston, then everyone else. Not much fanfare followed redshirt freshman Chief Brown.
Now a redshirt sophomore and considered a third starter at safety by safeties coach and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, Brown is poised to make an impact alongside Prewitt and Elston.
“He’s pushing me hard, and we’re competing every day,” Elston said of Brown.
What was once a position manned by two players now has added competition, and it has certainly brought the best out of everyone in fall camp.
“We push each other to do better because there is always competition,” Brown said.
So it’s easy to see that the emergence of Brown has really helped take Prewitt and Elston’s focus and effort to another level, which should be a big help to the back end of the Rebel secondary this season.
So after limited production last season, what has helped boost Brown from a role-player to a possible starter at safety?
“My roommates (sophomore linebacker) Denzel (Nkemdiche) and (junior quarterback) Bo (Wallace),” Brown said. “Watching them have great seasons just inspired me to work hard to be able to play with my brothers.
“When you have two great stars in your household you have to live up to your potential. You can’t be some slacker. You have to learn the playbook, so I did. Now I can play free safety or rover safety.”
In addition to being motivated by his roommates and learning the playbook, Brown also cited that hard work this offseason with strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson has helped him get stronger and faster.
The improvements made this offseason could be the turning point for Brown.
“This offseason has given me a lot of confidence and has really helped me get back the confidence and swagger that I had in high school,” Brown said.
So while much of the attention this fall has been on the emergence of Brown, the Winona native has also been impressed with both Prewitt and Elston.
“(Prewitt) is a great leader and a great player,” Brown said. “He plays hard and he sparks the secondary to be better. When he’s ready to go, we’re all ready to go. He’s a great guy to play with. He’s the fire of our defense.
“(Elston) is a phenomenal athlete. He could actually play on both sides of the ball. He’s a great safety, a very physical player. He has special skills back there at safety. He has great ball skills.”
Brown said he has learned a lot from being around Prewitt and Elston, but that each is able to learn from the other.
Talk started in the spring that there could be three starters at safety when Wommack said he viewed Brown as a starter following the spring game. Now in fall camp, Wommack continues to say the same thing. With so much time and reps spent together, the relationship that has been built might just create some special chemistry on the field.
“We have a great bond,” Brown said. “Everybody always calls us ‘the trio.’”
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @JLgrindin and @thedm_sports on Twitter.