But just five days into training camp, Brown suffered a high ankle sprain and bone bruise to his left leg, sidelining him until the second game of the season against Rutgers. Nearly two months later in College Park, Md., he reinjured his left leg in similar fashion. Brown managed 26 tackles and one interception in 10 games of action last fall, but he was never able to regain his freshman form.
"I wasn't full strength, but I was good enough to play," Brown said on Saturday. "I was about 80 or 85 percent once I started playing, and then after I hurt it again, I didn't get back to full strength until this spring… I hate the fact that I got injured last year because I lost a lot of time. Not being able to practice through training camp and missing parts of the season, it just forced me to miss a lot of reps and that hurt me mentally. But I'm getting back into the groove now and hopefully can move forward without any more injuries."
Brown currently sits atop the depth chart as the left-side cornerback opposite Kendric Burney, but he's quick to point out that it's too early for anyone to be settled in their role. Senior Jordan Hemby was listed as a co-starter with Brown in UNC's preseason depth chart.
With Butch Davis' tendency to run a variety of nickel packages on defense, the junior presents defensive coordinator Everett Withers with an ideal nickel back option, a role Brown enjoys due to it allowing for more contact in coverage. But for the secondary to do what's needed to improve on last season's results, the plethora of options in the freshman class – players such as Josh Hunter, Gene Robinson, Curtis Campbell and Mywan Jackson – must develop quickly to provide adequate depth.
"They're just starting to learn everything – they're fresh out of high school," Brown said. "But they've got a lot of talent. You can see it. They make plays on the ball and they're real aggressive – all of them. They'll be all right."
Brown has heard the preseason prognosticators anoint the Tar Heels' defensive line and linebacker corps, while casting a doubtful eye towards the secondary. But he has little doubt the defensive backfield can fulfill its end of the bargain.
"We know what we can do and we've got confidence in ourselves," Brown said. "Our defensive line and our coaches have confidence in us, so we don't take it personally, but rather as a reason to go out and work harder. We don't let it get us down."
As for personal goals, Brown is keeping those to a minimum.
"I set a goal last year of eight interceptions, and then I got hurt, so I don't want to set any goals," he said. "I just want to go out there and play the whole season."