What Can Brown Do for UW?

With a stable full of running backs and wanting to get focused on his degree, Zach Brown made the challenging decision to spend his senior season as a redshirt. Now on pace to graduate in December, Brown wants to leave with his degree and having a standout senior season. Question is, does he still fit in UW's backfield?

MADISON - His 250 yards against the Minnesota Golden Gophers were fourth-most ever for a UW freshman and 10th-most overall in school history, but that Zach Brown breakout performance occurred so long ago that the stadium he accomplished that feat in - the Metrodome – is no longer in use.

It's just another sad saga in what has been a frustrating career for Brown.

As a freshman, Brown had 84 carries in his final four games of his freshman season, all of which were starts. Through 12 games in 2008 and '09, Brown never had more than 66 carries and only five combined starts.

After finishing third on the team rushing in those two seasons but seeing his carries diminish down the stretch in '09, partially due to a damaging fumble at Minnesota, and freshman James White outperform him in fall camp, Brown decided it would be in his best interest to redshirt his senior season, an unorthodox move that has made him somewhat of a forgotten back.

After a productive offseason that has renewed his focused, Brown talks with Badger Nation about what he hopes to get out of his super senior year.

Badger Nation: You've taken a career path that no many players go on during their time in college. Can you talk about redshirting last year and how tough that was?

Brown: It was definitely hard, but I took it as a challenge to go out and help the team anyway that I can. Whether that was being on scout team and giving good looks or doing something else, that's the situation I was in. I just wanted to put myself in a situation to help the team and I felt that being on scout team was what I needed to do.

Badger Nation: When did it occur to you that you might not be as productive as you wanted to be last season?

Brown: I talked to Coach Bielema about the situation even before we started winter conditioning last season. I had talked about it and it was always an idea, but we didn't know if it was going to happen for sure because we didn't know what kind of depth we were going to have. James White came in, Montee Ball stepped up and they played well to give me a chance to take the redshirt.

Badger Nation: Was your confidence rattled at that point because as soon as the season is over, you are thinking about redshirting already?

Brown: No, it was pretty much an academic decision. I wanted to get my degree before I left here. It didn't rattle my confidence, but getting the redshirt would help me out to give me a chance to use the year to get better and compete.

Badger Nation: Because you thought about the redshirt right after the bowl game, do you think that hurt your performance in spring or fall camp, that maybe you were relying on that fall back?

Brown: Not really. Even going into camp, I had the mindset that I had to start. You have to have that type of mindset to where you come out and do your best because we didn't know how James was going to do. He stepped up to the plate and had a fantastic year. I did come in wanting to get the starting job.

Badger Nation: Was it hard then to sit and see the team to have success? Was it hard not being a part of the success the team was having on Saturdays?

Brown: Definitely. You still put in all the hard work in the offseason and during the week, so you want to pay dividends to the team on Saturday. It was still a good feeling though seeing the team had success.

Badger Nation: What's the big thing you need to do to get back to where you were at your freshman year? What's the key to get that confidence and that success back and rolling in your direction?

Brown: It's getting better. I think the biggest thing is practice, just getting my confidence back, getting into the playbook, making sure I know what I am doing on certain plays and then going out there and executing. I want to have productivity.

Badger Nation: What did last year do for you sitting on the sidelines watching? Do you think it was as beneficial to you as you hoped it would be to get you ready for this season?

Brown: To be honest, not really. I didn't really work on our plays, which is what I need to execute when I get into games. I had a whole year when I was absent from the playbook. I would say in some ways that it did hurt me.

Badger Nation: If you could do it again, would you do it the same way?

Brown: Yes. Yes, because I am getting a chance to get by history degree before I leave here, I had a chance to lift with Ben Herbert and get my body bigger and stronger to help me lose the injuries that I had before.

Badger Nation: Talk to me about the academics. How important was it to you to get that degree done, how close are you and how did that year help your schooling?

Brown: Pretty much, I was always on track, but not redshirting that first year made me not take enough credits my first year to get my degree in four years. If I had another semester, I would be able to get my degree and that's why my redshirt year allowed me to do. Most definitely now, I'll be able to graduate my December.

Badger Nation: You mention Herb. How has your body changed during the last year working with him?

Brown: Well, I had a bad tendinitis problem in my knee, so I took care of that. In the weight room, I was able to get stronger and stay at 220 pounds consistently. I feel like I am getting back to form, but I am definitely not there yet, which is why I have to use spring ball to get better and back to that position. It's a process.

Badger Nation: Talk about the depth this position has with not only you, James and Montee, but with Jeff Lewis making strides and with Melvin Gordon coming into the mix this fall? How do you think you fit in to this group?

Brown: Definitely it's a Wisconsin running back tradition of having a great backfield with some great backs in the rotation. The way I fit in, I have a pretty good grasp of the playbook, don't make too many mistakes and feel that I am reliable. I try to make plays as much as I can.

Badger Nation: What's the big difference between Coach Settle and Coach Hammock and how do you think Coach Hammock is going to help you get to the next level?

Brown: I think Coach Settle was more laid back and a great coach that has a good grasp of teaching the game and helping us play it. Coach Hammock played the game also and he's more on you. If you make a mistake, he likes to get in your face and makes you play better.

Badger Nation: Have other players responded to that?

Brown: Yes definitely. There is definitely a sense of urgency and you can see that in practice. He makes us run 40 yards after we touch the ball, little things like that which make us better.

Badger Nation: Entering your second week, where do you feel you're at and where do you want to be at the end of April? Do you feel you are making steady steps every day?

Brown: I feel like I am progressing but being absent from the playbook for so long, it's hard to get right back into it. There's a lot of stuff we did last year that I am catching up on now. Working with Montee and James, it's helped me get caught up to speed. That's the big thing now is learning some things we added last year.

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