Practices at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio are underway this week and two of the top defenders in the nation, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Arthur Brown, are standing out among the nation's best. The Army Bowl is a launching pad for what both prospects see as the new attitude they plan to bring next fall as teammates at the University of Miami.
A 5-7 season has left a sour taste in the mouths of Miami Hurricane fans. Even more disappointing was the play of the defense at a program known for dominant players and units. The Canes finished the year ranked 53rd nationally in scoring defense and surrendered 40 or more points three times this past fall.
Defensive coordinator Tim Walton took the fall for his units' performance in the 2007 campaign, losing his job after the season. Now, head coach Randy Shannon is working hard to revive the defensive mentality of the school's championship teams from the beginning of this decade. Bringing in players like Forston and Brown is a key starting point.
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"You have to crawl before you walk," said Forston. "There were a lot of young players who started this year so they had to adapt to the speed of the game. It's a different level. When I get in there I'm going to bust my tail. Arthur and I, we'll put in the extra work to be great."
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Brown from Wichita (Kan.) East is the No. 2 ranked outside linebacker in the country and the 6-2, 286-pound Forston of Miami Northwestern is the top defensive tackle in the nation according to Rivals.com. They not only bring with them superior athletic ability, they bring the know-how and desire to win championships.
"I think with the players we have coming in right now, they're really going to bring in that championship mentality because with some of the guys we have coming in in the '08 class, like Marcus Forston, they're not used to losing," said Brown. "They're going to bring that mentality with them and that's going to be spread all over that team."
Walton's firing as the defensive coordinator came exactly one day after Brown made his commitment to Miami, yet the five-star prospect has not swayed from his decision. He is keeping tabs on who the next defensive coordinator will be, though.
"I talked to Coach [Michael] Barrow about the situation and he didn't know too much because they don't have a specific guy in line who they would like to take over the spot," said Brown. "As far as I know, not too much is going to be changed with the defensive scheme, so that's really good. I feel that I can fit in and contribute to any defensive scheme they put out there."
Brown made very clear that his primary focus this week is preparing for the Army game and making the most of this opportunity. Building a stronger relationship with Forston, as well as potential future teammates like T.J. Bryant, Marcus Robinson and Nick Perry, is also being addressed.
"Bonding and uniting with the guys you are going to be with, that is the key thing to a championship team. We've been building that relationship. We've been talking on the phone, talking with each other here and really just getting to know each other for this upcoming season.
"Really, I haven't personally been trying to recruit [the uncommitted prospects], but I am pretty sure Marcus Forston has been talking to those guys. He's really aggressive."
Forston has been as aggressive on the recruiting trail as he has been in getting into the offensive backfield at the East practices this week. Recruiting is the lifeblood of every college football program and the five-star prospect recognizes that. He also recognizes the job Shannon and his staff are doing on the recruiting trail and predicts future success for his career as a Hurricane because of it.
"Miami's recruitment right now is amazing," said Forston. "The things Randy Shannon is doing and the players he's bringing in and the players already in the program, I'd say at least my second year we're going to be in a big bowl game or maybe the BCS."