Zach Brown transferred this past offseason from Wisconsin to Pitt. There's a number of factors to consider with him, especially with a running back of Ray Graham's caliber already in the driver seat. Since Bro>wn graduated from Wisconsin, he is able to play this year because he is enrolled as a graduate student, pursuing studies in health and physical activity.
What differences are there between you and Ray Graham?
"I would say I'm more between the tackles than Ray. Ray is a dasher. He is very good at making the man miss. I'll definitely give him that. I'm more of a bruiser than he is."
Would you consider playing the three-back position?
"Looking at the playbook, and all the positions, I definitely feel I can play that three position in certain situations."
You were recruited pretty heavily by Pitt. Can you explain getting the rare chance to play for two of your finalists?
"It's very unique. I enjoyed my time at Wisconsin. I wouldn't take that back for the world. I'm at Pitt, and I was looking here coming out of high school. It's a great program with a lot of tradition. I'm looking forward to just ending it here.
"It's a unique situation. I thank God for putting me in the situation I'm in. A few years ago, I never imagined I'd be in the situation that I'm in. I just owe it all to God. I'm ready to take advantage of it."
Drew Carswell is making a move from receiver to the three-back, a position his 6-4, 215-pound frame is even more-suited for. Carswell also eagerly awaits a chance to see the field after redshirting in his freshman year. On top of that, Carswell had to wait one more turn in the spring, sitting out with a sprained ankle.
Do you like the change so far?
"In spring ball, I guess because I was hurt. I wasn't able to practice, but I guess coaches felt it would be a good change for me. I got bigger. I'm a little more physical now. I think it was good that I changed over to the three-back position in the spread. I think it's pretty cool. I like the position. It's really nice."
Can you compare the three-back to playing receiver?
"I do a lot of the same packages. I line up in the slot. It's not really a bad transition, actually. It's actually pretty cool. I like the position. You get to touch the ball a lot more."
Charles Clay put up big numbers running the football and catching the football out of this position at Tulsa. Can you see yourself developing a similar role as his?
"Trying to be just like that. That's how Coach (Graham) explained it to me. That's how he wants to use me, basically. It's the same thing; run the ball some times, catch the ball some times. They pretty much came to me and talked to me about it. They asked me how I felt about it. They explained it to me, showed me some tapes about it. I started thinking, ‘This might be a good change for me.' I pretty much just said, ‘Hey, lets go try it out; do what you have to do.'"
"I'm super-anxious. I'm ready. I'm so ready. The spring, it was a little painful watching. Camp is here now. I'm just trying to get ready for the season."
Cullen Christian has to sit out a year after transferring in from Michigan, but there's a lot of excitement about the former four-star prospect coming in to a position of need when he will be able to take the field in 2012.
What's it like just being back home?
"It's a great feeling being back in Pittsburgh. I love the campus, it's just great out here. I like the football too. The coaches are cool. It's a good feeling to be back home."
Pitt was one of your finalists coming out of high school. What differences do you see now, from the school you were recruited to?
"It's a whole different look. It's better than I thought it was going to be. If I could do it all over again, I might have chosen here. I like it a lot. It's really fitting me."
It has to have a home feel with your former Michigan position coach, a former Michigan teammate (Ray Vinopal) and two former Penn Hillls teammates (Aaron Donald, Brandon Ifill) here.
"I have coach Gibson, and I have a couple of my old teammates that I play with, the other guys from the WPIAL. It's been a good experience so far."
"I think it's a good thing. I can get my mind right, figure out all the schemes and everything. It's pretty much the same as Michigan. I'm going to enjoy sitting out. It will be all right. It's tough, but I will sit out and give the young players some love, and come back next year ready to play."
What's the best part of being in Pittsburgh?
"I'm close to my family and my friends. That has to be the best thing."
Todd Thomas also had to wait an extra year for his turn. Thomas initially signed with Pitt in the 2009 recruiting class. He ended up not qualifying, and had to spend the 2009 season at Milford Academy in New York, where he spent a year transitioning over to defense. He started off at Pitt a year ago, but eventually took a redshirt thanks to a knee injury.
The wait has paid off, as Thomas enters his redshirt freshman year in the midst of a competition with senior Greg Williams for a starting spot at outside linebacker.
What's it like to finally be in position to see the field at Pitt?
"Actually, it feels very good. After Milford, it was hard. I made it through, and it just so happens that last year was tragic. I tore my ACL. This year was basically hard work, grinding, sweat, tears and everything that's going to pull me through to get through this. I have to do it."
You have played a bevy of positions before coming to Pitt, and even in your redshirt freshman year. Did you ever picture yourself as a linebacker?
"When I played for Beaver Falls, I played a little linebacker, a little outside linebacker. In high school, you really don't have a job somewhere. You just play, like you're playing outside. You just play. In college, it's more that you have to be at a different gap, at a certain place on the field. At first, it was a little bit difficult. Now, I got the hang of it. I'm ready to go."
What makes you a linebacker?
"Just my speed, and just my athleticism. That's why I love the position. I can just use my athleticism and run around a bit."
Coach Gibson recruited you at Michigan. Do you find it ironic that here he is coaching you at Pitt now?
"I remember coach Gibson recruiting me at Michigan. I think he was at West Virginia too. Overall, Coach Graham, I love him to death. I love him as a coach; him, coach Patterson, and my favorite is coach McCray. He pushes me a little bit. He pushes me to death, but we're at the DI level, we have to do whatever it takes."
This seems like an enthusiastic coaching staff. How much has that enthusiasm rubbed off on players like yourself?
"The enthusiasm is very good. The coaching change, it's been good for everybody. Our offense is different. Our running style is different. Everything; offense, defense, it's fast-pace. It's all good."
Your high school, Beaver Falls, and Aliquippa are pretty serious rivals. With Aliquippa grad Brandon Lindsey playing your opposite side at outside linebacker, can a kid from Beaver Falls and Aliquippa get along out there?
"That would be real good with me and Brandon on the outside, but I just have to work hard in camp, stay healthy-that's the main one—and just work. I like it a lot.