MADISON - Since bursting onto the scene as a true freshman, Zach Brown's career in the Wisconsin backfield has taken an unusual, if not unfortunate, path. With each and every season gone by, Brown's involvement in the game plan has dwindled.
So much so that as a true senior, Brown decided to redshirt knowing he was behind at least John Clay and Montee Ball. Now, entering his fifth season, Brown is hoping to get back into some sort of regular playing rotation.
With Ball, James White and Jeff Lewis all ahead of him on the current depth chart, though, it might be easier said than done. At the conclusion of Tuesday's practice, BadgerBlitz.com had an opportunity to chat with Brown.
The following is a question and answer with the veteran tailback.
Talk a little bit about how your winter conditioning went leading into your final spring camp. It seems like it goes by pretty fast.
Brown: Oh yes, most definitely. The off-season gave me a chance to take care of some nagging injuries. During winter conditioning I was able to get back with the team and workout. Now in spring ball I'm trying to work back into the offense.
What were some of the nagging injuries you had?
Brown: I definitely had tendonitis in my knee and a groin problem. So I got those taken care of. Now I'm just trying to get back out.
Any surgeries? On both of them?
Did those injuries hamper you at all last year? Were they bothering you during the season?
Brown: Yeah, definitely the knee. The nagging injury in my knee definitely bothered me during camp. I just felt like I couldn't compete like I wanted to at that. The redshirt also helped me with that so I could get that done and not come out without that pain.
Talk about the new running back coach, Thomas Hammock. What have you seen out of him now that you're midway through camp and how is he different than coach Settle was?
Brown: They are both great coaches. They both have an intense passion about the game. I think coach Hammock just has a different vibe. He makes us run after every play further than the cone. He's just real intense. So I just say he just makes you go hard every play and won't let you ever take a play off.
Obviously we're midway through spring camp, but what's your number one priority? Is it to get back into the rotation?
Brown: Right now it's just to be the best back that I can be. Minimize mental errors, make sure I've got all my run keys down, the packages and know the offense because that's the biggest thing mentally wise. Physically I feel like I'm there, but mentally I have to get back into the playbook and know my role.
Is that self criticism or is that coming from the coaches?
Brown: I think it's both. Coach Hammock really hasn't seen me play so he can really only go off now and coach me off of what he's seen on film. With me personally, I feel like that's what I need to work on.
You look at last year, obviously John Clay leaves but you return both Montee Ball and James White who were a pretty good one-two punch. Both of them either went over 1,000 yards or came close to it. Is there a chance for you to get into that rotation or is it going to be heavy with those two guys?
Brown: With this program you never can say what's going to happen. Last year, looking at it, nobody really saw James White leading the team in rushing. You just never know. You've got to keep your head up and just know that when you get your chance you've got to take advantage of it. I just feel like that's the situation I'm in. When I get my opportunity I've got to make the most of it. Hopefully that will lead me to more playing time if that's the case.
You look over the course of your career. As a freshman when you come in and had a pretty solid year. You have 250 rushing yards against Minnesota and then as far as playing time goes you've just kind of trailed off the rest of the way. How frustrating has your career been? Has it gone the way you thought it would go?
Brown: Really, I had no expectations. Coming in I was just taking what I could get. Thank God I was able to have the success I had my freshman year. I think the way it's been is because of the packages. We had P.J. Hill who was a great running back. John Clay was a good running back. Me, being a third down back, was a way to help the offense. It was a good rotation that way. So I don't think it was ever that the other running backs were better. I just think with the way the rotation went was just better for the offense. I just took my role as is because I knew the coaches would put me in a position to help the team. That's what it was being a third down back.
You're a pretty humble guy. I've talked to you for the last four or five years. It just seems like you always take things in stride and be a leader.
Brown: I think that's because I feel like everything happens for a reason. Sometimes things may not go your way, but you're not going to see the end result and how that might help you in the future. I just feel like if I keep on trying to get better and my opportunity comes then I've got to take advantage of it. When it does come, I'll be ready for it.