Don Brown, the man credited with building the top defense in the country this past fall, is headed to Michigan.
The Wolverines announced Monday afternoon that Brown would be taking the place of former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who took the head-coaching job at Maryland earlier this month. Brown spent the past three years at Boston College turning the Eagles into the toughest and most aggressive group in the ACC. This season, his defense allowed only 254.3 yards per game, the fewest in the nation.
The New England native has rarely ventured far from home. The farthest from Massachusetts he’s gone during a successful 33 years of coaching is Maryland, where he spent two seasons as defensive coordinator. Now that he’s Midwest-bound, here are a few things the rest of the country should know about Michigan’s newest hire.
A proponent of chaos: Brown’s defenses rarely sit on their heels. In previous stops at Power 5 programs, his M.O. has been to overwhelm opposing offenses with constant blitzes he called “organized chaos.” That shouldn’t be a novel concept to Michigan’s defense. Durkin was also an aggressive playcaller.
Brown’s methods have typically taken a couple of years to pay off at previous stops while players learned how to disguise blitzes and “ad lib” within the system. His first defense at Maryland in 2009 struggled, but the following year the Terps went 9-4 thanks to a significant improvement on that side of the ball. At Boston College, Brown’s defense allowed 428 yards per game in his first season. That number shrank drastically in each of the next two years.
A jam-packed trophy case: When Brown packs up for Ann Arbor, he’ll be toting a big box of trophies for both individual and team accomplishments. This year’s AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award is the most recent addition, but he has also won conference coach of the year awards eight times during his career and the 2006 Greater Boston Coach of the Year Award after leading UMass to its second straight league title.
Brown has been a head coach at Plymouth State, Northeastern and UMass. All three schools won conference titles under his watch, including the 2005 UMass team that made it to the Div. I-AA championship game before coming up short of a national title. Brown also coached Yale’s baseball team to a league championship in 1992 when he pinch hit for a season while serving as the Elis’ defensive coordinator. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh likes assistants with a track record of winning, and Brown definitely fits that description.
A veteran defensive staff: If interim defensive coordinator Greg Mattison sticks around for another season, that will give Michigan two 60-plus-year-old coaches on the defensive side. The general knock on older coaches is that they have a hard time connecting with recruits on the recruiting trail. Brown, though, has ties to Maryland, an increasingly fertile region for high school prospects. With him and interim linebackers coach Chris Partridge (who could potentially earn a full-time assistant job moving forward), Michigan has a good network in the two newest Big Ten states, Maryland and New Jersey.
Brown spent the first 26 years of his career below the FBS level and has never coached at a school that competes for nationally acclaimed prospects like Michigan does. That will be a new challenge for the Wolverines’ new hire.