Brooks solid in first college start

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Arkansas defensive back Greg Brooks hits Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander from behind during a game Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Fayetteville.
( Ben Goff)
Arkansas defensive back Greg Brooks hits Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander from behind during a game Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Fayetteville.

— It may have gone under the radar with two big-time Arkansas freshman wide receivers in Treylon Burks and Trey Knox starting on offense in a 20-13 win over Portland State, but there was also a true freshman in the game on the defense’s first play.

Greg Brooks, a former Harvey (La.) West Jefferson standout who enrolled in January, was one of five defensive backs on the field for the first play of the 2019 season. He said he was nervous for his first college snap.

“Yeah, a lot of nerves,” Brooks said. “It was my first college game. I didn’t want to mess up, but after the first play I was good.”

Brooks played 52 snaps, notched four hurries and graded out at 70.7 percent, according to Pro Football Focus. That mark was second best among Arkansas defensive backs behind safety Kamren Curl (83.2).

Arkansas had six sacks, eight tackles for lost yardage, six pass breakups and three interceptions in the win.

“I thought the defense played good,” Brooks said. “It was my first game so I feel like I did good. I know what to do now. I know what to expect. The game is a lot faster making the transition from high school, but I think I did good. The defense did good.”

Arkansas secondary coach Ron Cooper offered up his postgame assessment to Brooks.

“He said, ‘Play more your style. Don’t be laid back. Be more aggressive.’ Stuff like that,” Brooks said.

Brooks, who chose Arkansas over Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt and others, is the son of Greg Brooks Sr., who played at Michigan for one season and three years at Southern Mississippi and was a sixth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2004 NFL Draft.

“He really set a great example for me,” the younger Brooks noted when he first committed to Arkansas.

Brooks felt like enrolling early got him ready to play both physically and mentally.

“I feel like it helped me a lot,” Brooks said. “I gained like 20 pounds. I went from 165 to 185, so I think early enrollment helped me a lot, and it helped me learning. Playing in the spring game helped me see what to expect, get used to the defense.”

Arkansas played six true freshmen in the game with defensive ends Mataio Soli and Zach Williams, and offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg also playing.

“Most of us young guys got in the game really early so I feel like all of us - as a matter of fact two of them are my roommates, Zach and Soli,” Brooks said. “I feel like coming in in January helped us a lot to get playing time.”

He will get his first taste of SEC road life on Saturday when Arkansas visits Ole Miss in its league opener.

“Definitely a different atmosphere,” Brooks said. “Can’t to see what it’s like for my first SEC game.”

He has heard a lot about the road atmospheres in the SEC and is eager to see if it lives up to the hype.

“That’s what I really want to see,” Brooks said. “Really see what the SEC is talking about. I really want to see that.”

Brooks has seen film of Ole Miss’ offense, which struggled with only 173 yards total offense and was 1 of 10 on third down conversions in its 15-10 loss at Memphis on Saturday.

“Really a lot of RPOs, inside zone,” Brooks said of Ole Miss. “They’ve got a little, quick, shifty slot guy, so you’ve got to key on him.”

New Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, a redshirt freshman who was one of the top five quarterbacks nationally in the 2018 class, is backed up by two true freshmen.

In four high school seasons for Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, Corral completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 10,178 yards and 103 touchdowns.

Corral completed 16 of his 22 pass attempts (72.7 percent) for 239 yards with two touchdowns and one interception last season while playing in four games. He was 9 of 19 for 93 yards in the loss to Memphis.

“He can throw the ball really well,” Brooks said. “I don’t think they are going to run with him that much because he’s their guy. So they aren’t (injury risk) going to run with him. I think they’ll want him to throw it more.”


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