Don Brown has a spotlight on him this season as he enters his fourth season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, especially after a historic collapse in last year’s regular season finale at Ohio State and in the bowl game.
Through his time with the program, we have watched one of the top-ranked defenses in the country year-in and year-out, but there have been some notable gaffes in major moments. The best examples of that are the aforementioned OSU game from last year, as well as the opener at Notre Dame where they found themselves in a hole to dig out of early on.
Michigan fans are probably right to be skeptical about Brown’s aggressive defenses in some of these bigger moments, but he is going to stay true to his beliefs and doubled down during a Wednesday session with the media.
“I don’t have time for skepticism,” Brown said. “I don’t have any time for that to affect anything that happens in our room. Do I evaluate? Have we adjusted schematically? Yes. But let’s not make any bones about it. If you were to bring –who’s a good defensive mind? – bring Kirby Smart in here and ask him how he’s going to stop RPOs. I bet I know what he’s going to say.
“Here’s the big thing – have your beliefs, have your convictions. That’s what fuels you. If people don’t like that, somebody else will be doing my job, and I’ll be back in Cape Cod. But for three years, we’ve built out reputation here defensively on (being) aggressive. Like every other coach in the country, you have to evaluate, you have to adjust on a week-to-week basis. The one thing I can tell you is we’re more prepared versatility-wise in coverage, but the aggressive nature will never change. And in fact, I’d like it to be more aggressive.”
Part of the reasons for his defense’s struggles at times is when opponents use their aggressiveness against them. There has also been an inability to adjust that has frustrated fans, as well. The book was out on the Michigan defense at the end of last season when Indiana exploited their inability (or maybe it was unwillingness?) to play zone coverage and ate them alive on the crossing routes. With a week to adjust, they really did not, and Ohio State exploited that to the tune of 63 points.
Brown has his work cut out for him this year with a ton of talent to replace and the focus on him from the fanbase as someone who’s unit needs to step up. A lot of this has been overshadowed by the offense’s struggles and inability to operate in the 21st century, but the hiring of Josh Gattis has the angry mob satisfied for now as it pertains to that side of the ball.
Michigan’s defense this year will again be one of the best in college football statistically, but how they perform when the lights are the brightest might just be the most understated storyline of the offseason thus far. We will have to wait and see how it all shakes out, but do not expect any major adjustments to how they operate under Brown.