Camp O'Brien: Huge Year for Brown?

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State defensive end Martrel Brown just might be the most underrated lineman in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Martrel Brown enrolled at NC State in 2003 as a 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker hailing from Pembroke (NC) Purnell Sweat High School. He was always productive, registering 165 tackles and 12 sacks as a senior.

Despite the productivity, Brown remained an unknown on the recruiting circuit before exploding in the 2002 Shrine Bowl.

Brown's seven sacks paced
the Wolfpack and was the
sixth-best mark in the ACC.
The game featured talents such as Mario Williams, Tank Tyler, and Marcus Hands, but it was Brown's seven tackle, two-sack (he also added a blocked punt) performance that sparked North Carolina's victory. NC State offered Brown a scholarship following Shrine Bowl week, and he committed to the Wolfpack in January.

Brown had the athleticism to play linebacker but his frame indicated he would grow into a defensive tackle on the college level. He redshirted the 2003 season, and played sparingly in 2004 and 2005 as a reserve to Tank Tyler, John McCargo, and DeMario Pressley.

Brown finally had his chance to start in 2006, but it wouldn't be at defensive tackle. Despite checking in at 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds, Brown's athleticism (he averaged seven yards a carry as a prep fullback) allowed him to move outside to defensive end, and he didn't disappoint.

He started 11 games for the Wolfpack and totaled 40 tackles with eight tackles for a loss and a team-high seven sacks. Brown's seven sacks paced the Wolfpack and was the sixth-best mark in the ACC and second among returning defensive linemen.

NC State defensive line coach Keith Willis knew that he inherited a talented player in Brown, and he raves about his senior leader.

I'm absolutely proud of him," said Willis. "After what I've seen on tape, and after working with him this spring, this kid has improved three-fold."

"He's quicker than I believed,
and he has got even quicker."

Brown has great size and an explosive first-step that allows him to fly past opposing offensive linemen. As he continues to grow into the defensive end position and learn different techniques, he will only play even faster.

"[Laughing] He's quicker than I believed, and he has got even quicker," said Willis. "I think that is due to some things that were introduced to him, and a lot of that had to do with his mindset... taking his mindset just a little higher than what it was. I think he has done that thus far."

Brown played linebacker throughout high school and was a defensive tackle his first three years at NC State. This will be just his second year playing defensive end, so he is still improving, and that should put fear in the tackles and tight ends that line up across from him.

"By no means is he at his peak, and he still has room to go," said Willis. "I'll tell you what, if what he's doing right now is any indication of what to expect during the season, he's going to have a pretty good season."

At ACC Media Day, most of the attention along the defensive line centered on Virginia's Chris Long, Miami's Calais Campbell, FSU's Andre Fluellen, and the Wolfpack's DeMario Pressley. All four players have had good careers and should shine in 2007, but don't be surprised if Martrel Brown is in the mix for All-ACC honors at the end of the year.

"If he continues to grow," added Willis, "Somebody is going to have hell to pay when they play against him."

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