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Brown's Speed Sets Him Apart

Posted Apr 6, 2012

North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown believes his speed will make him an asset to any NFL team that drafts him.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown's college career was defined by his speed.

As a true freshman, he made an immediate impact on special teams, and chipped in as a reserve linebacker on defense.

As a sophomore, that speed was more quantifiable -- he set the school record in the indoor 60-meter dash with a time of 6.72 as a member of the UNC track team.

But that speed wasn't reserved to the track, it transferred to the field as well, as the linebacker started six games at weakside linebacker.

"(It sets me apart) a lot because I can run down backs and guard receivers and tight ends," Brown said of his speed. "A lot of linebackers can’t do all that so it sets me apart."

As a junior, he began to break out. While he started just five games, he finished second on the team with 72 tackles. That's not to mention his 113 return yards on three interceptions.

In 2011, Brown led the Tar Heels as a senior with 105 tackles. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions and three forced fumbles, and trailed only first-round prospect Quinton Coples with 5.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries.

For his career, Brown totaled 230 tackles, but more impressive might be his seven interceptions as a linebacker.

"I think I’ve got good hands and I just read the quarterback, route concepts and who he might throw it to, who is his favorite target," Brown said.

Even if he's not grabbing picks, Brown has confidence that he can hang with tight ends in a league where that position is becoming more and more of a mismatch in favor of offenses.

"I can cover tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley -- all of the others," Brown said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I just makes your defense so much better."

He did admit that he'll need "some time" to adjust to covering those talented players, but he believes he can do it.

After all, he covered a possible first-round tight end in Clemson's Dwayne Allen last season, and he prides himself that Allen caught just one pass against him.

That speed becomes an asset for Brown in another way -- offenses begin to doubt his physicality.

"I use my speed for a lot of the stuff I do, but then I can overpower certain people like offensive linemen," he said. "I’m not as weak as they think I am. I can bull rush on offensive linemen, so I can show them that if I need to."

At North Carolina, Brown played both outside linebacker positions, and "a little bit of Mike" (middle linebacker), so he has confidence he can play wherever a team wants him in the NFL.

But Brown won't simply rest on his laurels as he looks to make the jump to the pros.

"I'll just keep working on fundamentals, working on my technique, studying film and keep doing what I’m doing," he said. "Just get better at the game."