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Arizona football: Shun Brown works his way into a starting role

A newer face will be getting more action in 2016

NCAA Football: Northern Arizona at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

As a true freshman, Shun Brown didn’t play as much as many people expected him to. He finished the year with four catches for 24 yards, and also returned four kickoffs.

But he doesn’t see that as a wasted year of eligibility.

"It was more watching the older guys, playing special teams and knowing my role," Brown said, explaining his viewpoint on the 2015 season. "It was just a learning process."

"It was worth it," he added about not redshirting. "I know the plays better and now I’m treated as an older guy. I don’t see it as a burnt year."

Knowing those plays better and the work he’s put in over the offseason has vaulted the 5-foot-8 sophomore up to the top of the depth chart at the slot position.

"I’ve just pretty much done my job and hard work," he said about what he’s done to earn that spot. "I’ve been working on my route-running, studying the plays, knowing the game...stuff like that."

"He’s a competitive kid that loves football and works his tail off," head coach Rich Rodriguez stated on Monday. "He’s intelligent and is a coach’s son so he has great understanding of the game."

"I know he can play at least three of (Arizona’s four wide receiver positions)."

On the depth chart, Brown is listed above Tyrell Johnson and Devaughn Cooper.

"They’re similar," Rodriguez said when comparing Brown and Johnson. "Tyrell’s a little faster, but of course Tyrell’s a little faster than everybody. Shun’s probably a little more consistent with his route-running and ball-catching, but they’re both really good players."

We should expect to see both Brown and Johnson used on special teams in addition to their receiver duties, particularly kick return.

Brown’s high school teammate Orlando Bradford is also listed as a co-starter at running back.

"We don’t look at it like that as a motivation thing," Brown responded when asked if the two think of this year as the time to start shining at this level. "We’re like ‘okay, when our number’s called it’s time to go’. But we’re not like we’re going to take over, because we gotta actually work for it.

The two went to Calvary Baptist in Shreveport, Louisiana. This year, they picked up another Louisiana kid in Antonio Parks, who’s from New Orleans. Obviously the three of them have a special bond.

"We live together," Brown continued. "We always playing Madden against each other, and just to let them know, I am the champ at Madden, so that’s that. I’d give (second place) to Antonio."

"I’m the best at Madden on the team," Parks told us during a Facebook Live chat. "We’re having a tournament and I’m most likely to win every time. They chasing me right now. Shun Brown is second best. He gave me a challenge but even that don’t work."

"It was really great and made the transition easier," Parks added about having someone like Brown already on the team. "You don’t want to be alone in college, and when I first got here, Shun, Orlando, and even Kendal Franklin, who’s gone now, all helped me with my transition."

Shun really seems to enjoy the NFL game, not just allegedly dominating his roommates in Madden. He watches a ton of tape on some of the guys that he looks up to.

"I’ve got a little bit of Antonio Brown, Tavon Austin, and a little bit of everybody," Brown said through a smile. "I got hands like Odell (Beckham Jr.). When it’s time to do a one-handed catch, I’ll do it, but I’d rather use two than one."

Whoever he’s trying to emulate, it’s working. 2016 could just be the beginning of the Shreveport guys taking over the offense.