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The Daily Tar Heel

Brown re?ning speed with a little patience

To call Zach Brown “quick” would be an understatement.

When the sophomore linebacker ran a blazing 4.28 40-yard dash time this summer, the word appropriate for his speed bumped to “breakneck” at the very least.

“I just couldn’t believe he ran it. He looked like he was moving, but I just couldn’t believe it,” Bruce Carter said. “Guys were yelling, and some guys didn’t believe him so they made him run two or three more times after that.”

And let it be noted that on those successive sprints demanded by teammates, Carter said he consistently turned a time right around that same 4.28.

But in order to succeed as a linebacker, he’s learning to go against his instincts on the field and — gasp — slow down, at least for a second or two.

Having straight-line speed is different than knowing what to do with it. 2009 marks Brown’s first year as a starter, and he’s been learning through doing.

Linebackers coach Art Kaufman said he’s been working with Brown on perfecting the details of the position — where to line up, proper technique and decision-making after the ball is snapped.

Of those, the most important concept Brown’s learning is developing patience so he won’t run himself out of the play.

“I think that’s the hardest thing for a linebacker to do — to take the time and find out where to fit,” Kaufman said.

“He’s going to have to get better at taking on blockers, but that’s something that comes with time.”

So far, Kaufman’s been pleased with Brown’s progress in these areas, but he expects the linebacker to make a jump in his play after getting some rest during next weekend’s bye week.

And playing linebacker isn’t the only thing Brown does fast.

According to Carter, Brown also has a mouth so quick that he sometimes talks too fast for comprehension­ — often to his teammates’ amusement.

“When he gets too excited you can’t really understand what he’s saying — his words kind of connect,” Carter said.

“Everybody picks on him about it, saying he needs to slow down. It seems like he’s speaking a different language.”

As Brown progresses, Kaufman said going through the defensive reads will become natural for him, and that’s when the speed can become even more advantageous.

Instead of finding himself on the edge of the play, Brown will be right at the center.

“You’ve got the speed, that is a big asset. His big thing is he has strength to go along with it,” Kaufman said. “If he can get all those other things to go along with the speed, it gives him tremendous potential.”

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