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Landing Defensive Coordinator Don Brown Was the Right Move

Photo: Associated Press

Don Brown of Boston College.

Never heard of the guy?

That’s fine.

But don’t get things confused.

The lack of a big name doesn’t mean that the Michigan Wolverines didn’t make a huge hire by luring Brown away from Boston College–the same Boston College that finished the season with the No. 1-ranked defense in the country, allowing just 19 touchdowns and a paltry 4.07 yards per play.

Those, of course, were the best totals in Division I football.

Boston College finished with the No. 10-ranked red-zone defense and No. 4-ranked scoring defense (15.3 PPG).

Despite a 3-9 finish, the Eagles shut down Florida State during a 14-0 loss and all but crippled Notre Dame’s offense during a 19-16 loss. Boston College isn’t a power program by any stretch of the imagination, but Brown gave it a monstrous defense during his final two years. His game plan worked to near-perfection with a bunch of 2- and 3-star recruits.

This past season, a mixture of eight sophomores/true freshmen cracked Brown’s two-deep–that’s coaching with immediate results.

Don’t let the record fool you. Don’t be swayed by Brown’s lack of public recognition, either. He brings a wealth of knowledge from the Ivy League. He’s also coached at Maryland, so he’s somewhat familiar with the Big Ten. He stopped at UConn, too. His northeastern ties are strong.

His hiring could also open the door for Michigan to land a new athletic director. Boston College’s Brad Bates has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Jim Hackett. In fact, Bates was mentioned before Hackett was hired in 2014.

This was a great move by the Wolverines, who just lost D.J. Durkin to Maryland. Durkin was also a fantastic get for Michigan. However, the allure of being a head coach was too difficult to deny, so he headed east to guide the Terps. Thanks to Durkin’s dedication, the Wolverines finished the year with the No. 4-ranked total defense, allowing just 23 total and 19 offensive touchdowns.

The base, however, had already been set by Greg Mattison, who was Michigan’s defensive coordinator from 2011-2014. This year, he stepped over to the D-line while Durkin injected the same type of energetic principles into one of the nation’s best defenses.

Everything worked like a charm. The Wolverines posted three shutouts in 2015, outscoring opponents 97-0 during that strech. At one point, kicker Kenny Allen had outscored the opposition. Michigan probably would have liked Durkin to stick around for a bit longer. Guys like him are to find.

Jeremy Pruitt, formerly of Georgia and now of Alabama, was a candidate for the job. So was Stanford’s Lance Anderson, who made clear his intentions to stay out west with the Cardinal. They had big-time experience, for extended periods of time, with big-time programs.

They were the “right” caliber.

But again, don’t discount Brown, who is known for a business-first attitude. He’s of a familiar mold.

“On the field, when we cross that white line we go to work. Things aren’t always friendly, but they’re direct,” Brown said this past fall, according to CBS Local Boston. “I always tell them I critique the performance, not the performer.”

Sounds a lot like the head coach at Michigan, doesn’t it? Sounds just like something Jim Harbaugh would say. In fact, he said something along those lines a few times while guiding the Wolverines to a 9-3 record in 2015.

That type of grinder mentally worked wonders in Boston. In 2014, the Eagles finished with the No. 11-ranked total defense in the nation, just a few steps behind No. 7-ranked Michigan. In 2013, Brown’s first year, the Eagles had the No. 93-ranked defense.

Think about that one-year jump, and then think about Brown’s personnel. If anything, his time in Boston proved that scheme and technique can trump the blue-chip athlete at any given turn. It also suggests that having the blue-chip talent would only make Brown’s defenses that much more impenetrable.

Look at his 2014 and 2015 classes

He had good, hard-working talent back east. Brown knew who and what to recruit, and he did quite well at Boston College.

But now we’re talking Michigan. Now we’re talking potential championship-caliber fortresses, led by a returning core up front and an incredible secondary in the backfield– and it all starts in 2016.

Imagine what Brown could do with elite prospects such as Rashan Gary, a 5-star defensive tackle who has Michigan among his top choices.

Imagine what Brown could do with the likes of star defensive backs Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers, plus a group of rising youngsters, against potent passing attacks. This past fall, the Eagles had the No. 8-ranked passing defense without Lewis- and Peppers-types.

He may not replicate Durkin’s three-game shutout streak, but Brown could engineer something close. He’s done more with less for years.

Linebackers were an issue for Michigan in 2015, and Brown has experience coaching that position as well.

The shoe fits.

On paper, there is essentially zero drop off between Brown and his predecessor. Durkin had youth on his side, which helped with recruiting. Brown is 60 and doesn’t have the hyped reputation on the trail. But does that matter?

Recruits relate with the younger guys. True enough. But they also relate to the seasoned vets. Often times, much-older guidance is exactly what they seek. It’s worked well for Mattison.

There’s no reason that it couldn’t work for Brown in Ann Arbor.

By the sound of it, Brown’s rocky demeanor should fit right in with the rest of Harbaugh’s staff.

“Don is real. He is a tough, New England guy and he has come up the hard way like we all have – the small college route through New England,” Boston College coach Steve Addazio said in September, per CBS Boston. “You have to love him because that’s who he is. He loves defense; attack-blitzing defense.

He can really build a great attitude, a toughness, and he’s done that to our defense.”

Brown can do the same, and more, while at Michigan. Harbaugh knows how to pick staff members. Don’t let the lack of name-recognition fool you. Go by the numbers.

And they all add up for Michigan.

Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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