Fighting for a backup spot behind Ricky Sapp at the bandit end, Brown was offered the option of redshirting as a junior.
Brown's playing time increased from his freshman to sophomore year. During his first two seasons at Clemson as a reserve, Brown registered 33 tackles three tackles for loss and a sack. As a freshman, he played 118 snaps in 11 of the 13 games in 2007. A year later as a sophomore, he more than doubled his total snaps to 286 and started in one of the 13 games he played.
Averaging 22 snaps a game a year later would have been tough to come by with a sturdy group of defensive ends.
"(Swinney) said he saw me with good potential. Basically, he didn't want me to just fly by," he said. "He asked me to think about it. He wasn't making me."
Left to make the final decision, it wasn't easy just saying yes. Admittedly, he didn't want to redshirt.
"I had to look at the future and not think about now. I knew with me sitting out the year, it wasn't going to do anything but help me," Brown said. "There wasn't anything negative."
Before giving an answer to Swinney, Brown sought guidance through prayer and council from his mother and pastor.
"I felt like that was the best thing for me to do," he said.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said that kind of a move works well, as long as it doesn't compromise one of two things.
"When you get stacked up at a position, you've got a young guy. It's two-fold," he said. "You've got to ask two questions. Number one, will it help him? Is it to his benefit to add another year of eligibility? And does it help the team?
"If it hurts one of those two, then you don't do it."
Steele said Brown's bought right into the program.
"He's a good young man. He's not a selfish person. He's about the team," Steele said.
Brown is now bigger (up close to 255 from around 245), stronger and with a better understanding of Steele's defense.
Having spent all of last season on the scout team, Brown is also a little more tough, according to Steele.
"You get both mentally and physically tougher (on the scout team)," Steele said. "You get older, you mature."
This spring, Brown continues to battle with Andre Branch for the spot left vacant by Sapp.
Though the defense is a 4-3 base, Brown knows there are multiple looks of odd and even-man lines that Steele can go to on any given Saturday. Add that up with the steady rotation along the defensive line, Brown's excited about the flexibility with this veteran group of defensive linemen.
"These next couple of years it's going to show. It's not going to be anything but getting better," he said.
"I haven't played under coach Steele's defense yet in Death Valley. I'm looking forward to that."
And the expectations he has for himself this fall are high.
"I plan to be the best player yet. Each year, I'm supposed to get better. This is supposed to be my best year yet," Brown said. "I'm just trying to help my team as much as possible."
Smart decision should pay off for DE
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