Vols' prized freshman Brown 'welcomed' to SEC

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Freshman running back Bryce Brown was one of the more ballyhooed prospects in the country when he signed with Tennessee back in March, more than a month after national signing day.

On Thursday, he got his first unofficial welcome to the SEC.

With the Vols sporting shoulder pads for the first time this preseason, linebacker Herman Lathers unloaded on Brown during an 11-on-11 drill, sending Brown spiraling to the turf and the ball flying.

"It's just, 'Welcome to SEC ball,' " Lathers said.

The loose translation: You ain't in Wichita, Kan., anymore.

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin said it's better that Brown gets acclimated now to those kind of "big-time, game-time major hits" than the first game, which is one of the reasons the Vols haven't held back to this point even though the first day in full pads isn't until Saturday.

"That's what we need to do," Kiffin said. "This conference is going to hit him like this. They're not going to take it easy on him. He needs that."

The 6-foot, 215-pound Brown, who was rated by Scouts Inc. as the country's No. 2 running back prospect last year, took at least three punishing hits Thursday. But he kept coming back for more.

"I doubt he's been hit like that before," Kiffin said. "Some guys get hit like that and they stay down for a while. He bounced right back up."

It's pretty obvious where Brown is in the pecking order. He's wearing No. 11, which had belonged to sophomore receiver Todd Campbell back in the spring.

Not anymore. Campbell is now wearing No. 85.