Like a shooting star, he sort of came out of nowhere. Freshman running back Algernon Brown carried the ball 11 times against Middle Tennessee while chewing up 68 yards on the ground in the process. With Adam Hine's playing status in question, the door of opportunity might just have opened a little wider for Brown.
"I believe so," Brown said. "During practice they've been kind of rotating all of us and I was able to get some more reps. I got a couple more reps and really it's just a matter of responsibility when I'm needed. I have to be prepared and continue to grow within my position. There's a trust factor from the coaches and so I have to prepare myself, grow and then prove that I'm able to handle the responsibilities that I'm given."
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae praised Brown’s performance.
"We did find that Algie Brown did a really good job carrying the ball and securing the ball as he went," said Coach Anae. "That's the makings of a really good running back. We were really pleased with the progress that Algie showed."
"So far I've done a lot better than even I've anticipated," said Brown with a smile. "If I continue to follow the guys above me like Mike Alisa, Adam Hine, Jamaal Williams, and the rest of the guys that have had experience, I feel like I can continue progressing."
When a young running back proves he can secure the ball while average 6.2 yards per carry, it earns him the right to receive more playing time. That right could come Friday against Utah State, but it's an opportunity that will be closely managed.
"He sure has, he sure has," Anae said about whether Brown has earned more playing time. "And Algie is young, so the upside, I look at that as tremendous."
"Algie is going to come on and he's going to help our team," said Coach Atuaia. "We have to be optimistic and yet cautious about the way we go about his progression. I think he's coming to because we've been paying attention to that, and he'll continue to flourish as we move forward contingent upon his willingness to learn and get better."
It's easy to understand why even Brown is surprised at his own early success. He hasn't even been home from his mission for a year.
"Algie is just fresh off a mission, and people don't seem to understand how difficult that is to do," said Coach Atuaia. "I did the same thing where you come back for fall camp with weeks to prepare, so I've been trying to be very patient with this young man in the sense that I don't want to give him too much too fast and then not have him be ready for the duration of the season."
Many people first caught a glimpse of what Brown brings to the field during a scrimmage in fall camp when he rumbled and smashed his way through and past defenders. That same running style that propelled him onto the stage of Cougar fandom notoriety was seen again during last week’s game.
"He had a good fall camp," said Coach Atuaia. "He had a couple of good runs, and people have been able to see him and know what he can do. I think for the future, it looks bright for him if, again, he remains humble and tries to assert himself in the offense when we need him. He closed out the [Middle Tennessee] game for us and I was really proud of him. He held onto the ball and ran well, so we'll continue to use Algie as we see fit."
The type of early success Brown has enjoyed has sort of taken him by surprise, but his hard work, humility, and eagerness to learn and grow have allowed him to put his talents to the test sooner rather than later. On Friday BYU will face the Aggies of Utah State, and this could be a game in which Brown’s talents are needed. If Utah State plays a man-press defense, the offense will need to establish a good ground game.
"This will be the first time I play against Utah State, but BYU playing against Utah State in the past has always been pretty intense," said Brown. "Our goal as a team is to win state. Obviously we didn't beat Utah, but we still have another chance to beat an instate team. I'm looking forward to playing Utah State and it should be a good game. If I have the chance to play I hope I can help my team win."
Algernon Brown's three keys to victory
"I would say first we need to have ball security," Brown said. "That would be my first key. The second key is we have to be able to run the ball effectively and win the third-down battle. Then third, we need to score more touchdowns in the blue zone than we have in the past. If we can do those three things, I think we can win the game."