Speedy Justin Brown settles in at Oklahoma

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 11, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Justin Brown of the Penn State Nittany Lions is tackled after making a pass reception against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.) Justin Brown is a Sooner now, no doubt, having already developed into a key player for No. 5 Oklahoma. That doesn't mean he still doesn't have Penn State in his heart. Brown was among the players who left Penn State in the wake of NCAA sanctions leveled after the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. The senior receiver already has made his mark with Oklahoma (2-0), averaging 22 yards per punt return and 14.5 yards per catch for the Sooners. Oklahoma has an open date this week and will host Kansas State on Sept. 22. Penn State is 0-2 for the first time in 11 years. Among those who left the Nittany Lions was their top rusher, Silas Redd; a starting receiver in Brown and their starting kicker, Anthony Fera. Penn State fell 24-14 to Ohio in the season opener, then lost 17-16 to Virginia on Saturday after Fera's replacement, Sam Ficken, missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt as time expired. Ficken missed four field goals in the game. Brown said he sent a supportive text to Ficken after the game. ''Your heart goes out to those guys, watching them go through what they're going through,'' Brown said Monday, adding he thought the Nittany Lions should have won. ''I felt like they were (better) when they played Ohio, too. All you can do is watch.'' Brown said he keeps in touch with his former teammates, including Redd, who's now at USC, and ''all the guys that went to different schools.'' He's also developing relationships with his new teammates at Oklahoma and has helped shore up two areas of concern. Brown has caught six passes for 87 yards, including a third-down grab against Florida A&M that kept a drive going. As a punt returner against the Rattlers, he bordered on spectacular, returning punts 43 and 62 yards, twice setting up the Sooners inside the 10-yard line for easy touchdown drives. Co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell both said Brown quickly made a positive impact on the Sooners. ''What a wonderful kid he is, just in every single way,'' Norvell said. ''He's really affected his teammates just by his maturity and how he handles himself. Just talking about a kid being really respectful with his opportunity. He's the greatest example of that. He's a real blessing for us to have. The impact he's making on special teams, and just being a solid guy and a great preparer, has really affected our younger players.'' Heupel said there has been a ''quick growth curve'' for Brown and other receivers new to the Oklahoma program, but that from ''week one to week two, you saw a great comfort level with those guys. ''You saw (Brown) on punt returns and he has the ability to make explosive plays and you saw him on the third down go up and catch a ball between the corner and the safety,'' Heupel said. ''He's a big, strong, physical receiver and dependable to the catch. He's very disciplined in what he's doing and he's only going to get better and better.'' Quarterback Landry Jones said he and Brown have spent time working on timing after practices in an effort to quickly build a rapport with each other. ''Justin is an old guy,'' Jones said. ''He's been playing in college for a while now. You can tell that from his maturity, the way he runs his routes. You typically only have to tell him once the way you want it to run and he typically does it the right way every time.'' Brown said the hardest part of making the transition from one tradition-laden football program to another has been answering all the questions about the Penn State situation and why he left. But he understands why people are asking. ''There was no hiding that,'' he said. ''As soon I made my decision, I knew it was going to be a free-for-all. I was ready for it. All I could do was answer the question. I'll just give honest answers.'' Brown said the playing environments at Penn State and Oklahoma are similar, although one thing did startle him Saturday during the Sooners' home opener - the horse-drawn Sooner Schooner, which comes onto the Owen Field turf after Oklahoma scores, along with the Ruf/Neks, firing their shotguns. ''When we scored and the horse came running out, I wasn't really ready for that or the gun shots,'' he said, smiling. ''I wasn't ready for that.''
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