Don Brown greeted the media crowd on Thursday and declared his summer over. It’s back to work for the Wolverines and the defense is going to be a work in progress, at least for the time being.
Brown, who begins his second season as Michigan’s football defensive coordinator in 2017, arrived in Ann Arbor following three seasons at Boston College, where he served as the DC and linebackers coach.
He began his press conference with words of confidence and enthusiasm.
“I really like our guys,” he said, speaking to a couple dozen media folks at the Towsley Family Museum inside Schembechler Hall. “A high-character group. Fun to go to work every day. We’re only three days in. The first two days you got your pajamas on. You’re just running around in your shirts and t-shirts, and you put the headgear on. We did our first day in uppers yesterday. We’re starting to see how we’re going to be. A lot of learning to do. A huge learning curve. Trying to establish tempo and pace with this new practice schedule, it’s interesting.”
Brown only knows one tempo and pace: Attack. He is considered one of the top defensive minds in the country and his defenses are built around speed and athleticism which best fit his attacking style and stingy run defense.
Sometimes the personal dictates the system but the system on defense isn’t about to change regardless of the players on the field. Aggressive. Attack. Blitz. Get after it. Giddy up!
“Regardless of how we’re going to go about doing it, because there are several ways do it, we’re going to be aggressive,” Brown says. “That’s just the way we play defense.”
The Wolverines played defense pretty well in 2016. In Brown’s first year leading the defense, Michigan’s unit ranked first or second in the NCAA in seven categories, including total defense, scoring defense, tackles for loss, first downs allowed and third-down conversion percentage allowed.
The numbers were impressive. Nearly 45 percent (44.5; 5.62 per game) of opponents’ possessions ended in a three-and-outs, and U-M allowed just 28 red zone trips all season, fewest in the nation. When opposing offenses did get into the red zone, U-M’s red zone defense percentage of 71.4 often stifled them.
Michigan’s defense also created opportunities for the offense. The Wolverines allowed just 11 passing touchdowns all season while generating 13 interceptions and 19 total turnovers.
While the season opener Sept. 2 against Florida is still a ways away, Brown is going to have slow down the clock in order to speed up the results. He has just one starter back off last year’s dominating defense in which all 11 defensive starters earned All-Big Ten accolades.
“That’s a good question,” Brown said when asked about leadership. “That’s legit. Who’s providing the leadership? That’s what we’re building right now. I see it.
“I think that’s starting to happen, who’s going to provide the leadership.”
One of many good questions still searching for answers.