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Undersized defensive lineman JB Brown wants to be Arizona’s Aaron Donald

jb-brown-arizona-football-aaron-donald-wildcats-defensive-line-nfl-titans-jayon-brother-depth-chart Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Much has been made about the Arizona Wildcats’ concerted effort to get bigger on the offensive and defensive lines during the offseason, a point driven home by the addition of four junior college linemen in the 2019 recruiting class.

Yet it may just end up being one of the smallest D-linemen on the roster that ends up making the largest impact.

JB Brown, who started eight games at defensive end last season, plans to play the “majority” of time on the interior after experimenting with a move inside during spring ball.

“In spring we just kind of tried it out and see if I could do it so, we were like we’ll stick with it,’ Brown, a junior, told reporters Monday night after Arizona’s third preseason practice. “I’m on the field, trying to help my team win, that’s all I care about.”

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Brown is at least 20 pounds lighter than every other defensive tackle on the Wildcats’ roster and 75 pounds lighter than JUCO transfer Myles Tapusoa. While Brown does intend to add more weight—“I want to put on the right weight. Not just … cheeseburgers and stuff like that”—he knows it’s possible to be undersized and excel inside.

He learned that by studying the play of NFL All-Pro DT Aaron Donald.

“As soon as I got the move inside, I looked up the smallest defensive tackle in the NFL,” Brown said of Donald. “He’s 6-1, 285. You know what he does, 20-sack season, so I had a lot to watch.”

This marks the second significant position change for Brown since coming to Arizona. He played at linebacker as a freshman in 2017 before moving to defensive end last season, when he had 30 tackles (7.5 for loss) and 3.5 sacks, tied for the most on the team.

“In high school I was D-end and linebacker,” he said. “The game (defensive coordinator Marcel) Yates came to see me in high school, I played 3-tech and linebacker. So that’s where the idea, that I can be moved around and versatile, came from.”

Brown’s ability to adapt and adjust has been aided by growing up in a football household, one in which his three older brothers—including Jayon, who played at UCLA and is with the Tennessee Titans—all played the game at the collegiate level or above.

“I’m around football 24-7, so even on my breaks back home I’m around pro athletes,” Brown said. “The IQ of the game has always been there for me.”