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Why a Michigan expert thinks Don Brown is a ‘perfect’ fit as Arizona defensive coordinator

NCAA Football: Michigan at Illinois Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats tabbed Don Brown as their new defensive coordinator on Thursday, a 65-year-old coaching veteran who’s earned the nickname “Dr. Blitz” because of his aggressive playcalling.

Brown has led some elite units in college football. From 2014 to 2019, which included stints at Boston College and Michigan, his defenses ranked 11th or better in the country in yards allowed per game.

Brown’s unit at Michigan declined pretty significantly in 2020, so we caught up with our sister site Maize n Brew to get some more info on why that happened and what he will bring to the desert.

Here’s a Q&A with managing editor Anthony Broome.

Ryan Kelapire: What can Arizona fans expect from a Don Brown defense from a schematic standpoint?

Anthony Broome: What you can expect from a Don Brown defense is a lot of exotic looking blitzes tailored to what is on the roster. Michigan fans gave him a lot of crap for being unable to adjust, but he always seemed to find roles for the talent that Michigan had to work with, outside of this season of course. He plays a physical, primarily man defense, but did start to mix in some zone looks over the last few seasons.

RK: And then from an intangibles perspective, are there underlying traits that Brown’s defenses have?

AB: Don Brown is the epitome of aggression. That is going to have ripple effects throughout that entire room and his personality will leave a mark on the players. As a result, though, sometimes things get out of control and we saw a lot of undisciplined penalties at times.

RK: Brown’s defenses were great statistically to begin his Michigan tenure, but tanked in 2020. What happened?

AB: Recruiting misses at defensive tackle and cornerback really set this team back this year and it had been building to that for a few years. Injuries cratered the defense this season, as well. I also think they lost their fastball after a few consecutive years of blowouts at the hands of Ohio State, and a change of scenery for both sides will be beneficial.

RK: Was Brown fired because of his unit’s struggles in 2020 or were there other factors in play?

AB: Some of it goes hand in hand with what we spoke about previously, but it had been building to this for a few years. The drop-off may have been a blip on the radar in terms of statistics this year, but the injuries only helped to make the lack of talent accumulation more apparent.

RK: Player development is something Arizona’s new staff is emphasizing. What kind of track record did Brown have with the Wolverines?

AB: Brown did a really great job of taking unheralded guys on the trail and turning them into NFL players. I think that makes him a perfect fit for a school like Arizona who might not pull in elite classes but are able to squeeze every drop of the guys on the roster.

RK: Recruiting is obviously a big part of being a college coach. How does Brown measure up?

AB: Brown loves the East Coast, so you might start seeing more guys from Massachusetts and Rhode Island than maybe Arizona has before. I don’t think he’s a bad recruiter, but I don’t think he’s elite, either. I think he will be able to coach up the guys that they have and then you take your chances with the guys that they bring in.

RK: Why should Arizona fans be excited about hiring Don Brown, and what should concern them?

AB: I sort of hit on this before about some of the lapses and aggressiveness to a fault as a concern. His units really did struggle against the best offenses Michigan saw every year. With that said, this is a perfect hire for a school like Arizona. Your fans will love him and the players will, too. This is one of the best hires you could make for a program in their situation.