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RB Brown is giving Pitt power in numbers

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By John Grupp
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011

Zach Brown already owns a degree from Wisconsin, and now he wants a full-time job at Pitt.

The fifth-year senior running back plans on pushing junior Ray Graham for carries in new coach Todd Graham's high-octane offense.

"Ray has the most experience right now with Pittsburgh," Brown said. "But we are all trying to be that guy."

Regardless of his role, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Brown looks to provide depth in a backfield that has only two scholarship players with Division I experience.

Brown rushed for 1,152 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons at Wisconsin. His 568 rushing yards in 2007 were the fifth-most by a freshman at the Big Ten power, but his playing time dipped the next two seasons, and he redshirted in 2010.

"He's a very special guy," Todd Graham said. "He's a downhill power back. That's something in our system that we want. We want to be physical."

With a history degree in hand, the 22-year-old enrolled at Pitt — one of his top choices coming out of Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) High School — to pursue his master's in the School of Education. Brown, eligible to play immediately, is already asserting himself as a leader.

"The biggest thing is, I've been around the game for five years," he said. "I have a lot to contribute. I've seen a lot. I just want to come out here and teach the young guys and put out there what I've been through to make us better."

Last season, Graham, who rushed for 922 yards and eight touchdowns, and fifth-round NFL Draft pick Dion Lewis had a healthy competition. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Graham said he respects that Brown wants to fight for the starting job.

"It's supposed to be like that," he said. "If he was here to settle, then I wouldn't expect that from him. But he's here to work hard, and we are going to get it done."

Said Brown: "We're all here to be the man. At the end of the day, that will make us all better. Whoever gets the job will be ready to go."

The rest of the depth chart includes a trio of true freshmen: Isaac Bennett of Tulsa, Okla.; Malcolm Crockett of Takoma Park, Md.; and Corey Davis of Gladewater, Texas.

"My main focus right now is (doing) everything and making sure I can be successful when game time comes," said Davis, who rushed for 1,745 yards and scored 31 touchdowns as a high school senior. "We're racing for this one spot. It's not like Ray is saying, 'It's just me.' It's everybody, and we are working for this thing together."

In his last two seasons at Tulsa, Todd Graham spread around the carries: Four backs last year gained between 335 and 561 yards. In his first two seasons at Tulsa, he featured one back, relying on two-time 1,000-yard rusher Tarrion Adams.

Graham is a shifty, big-play threat who has averaged 6.1 yards per carry at Pitt, and Brown is more of an inside runner. As a freshman, Brown rushed for 250 yards against Minnesota. Graham gained 277 yards, the second-highest total in Pitt history, against Florida International last season.

"We've always had a power-type back in some of the two-back sets," said Calvin Magee, who coaches the Panthers' running backs. "I think (Brown) will fit that role perfectly along with Ray."

Additional Information:

Zach Brown

School: Pitt

Year: Senior

Position: Running back

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 220 pounds

Notable: Rushed for 1,152 yards in three seasons at Wisconsin.

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