Michigan Wolverines Football: Don Brown Promises Better Against Ohio State
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown and his defense have been shredded by Ohio State's offense the last two years in blowout losses. Brown said Thursday he'd follow head coach Jim Harbaugh's lead after Harbaugh said Wednesday, 'we have to beat Ohio State.'
Brown and Co. have done plenty of scouting in the offseason on themselves, the Buckeyes and other teams, and Brown said he's become a "Zoom wizard" when it comes to meetings.
"I meet with the players a lot. The younger guys have at least gone through every single install they had for spring, so when they see it in fall with the upperclassmen involved and being able to interact with them in and out of the meetings, that's been helpful," Brown said. "This will be our fifth year with the defense, so if there's one year that continuity helps, it's this year."
The guys have a good handle on the concepts, he said, and while they change plenty on a year-to-year basis, the continuity will pay dividends, Brown predicted, especially early in the year.
The goal is always the same — to end the year strong, beat OSU and win the bowl game. That's something they haven't done in four years, and Brown is fully aware.
"I think Coach [Harbaugh] addressed the Ohio State issue yesterday. He's the boss," Brown said. "That's what he said; that's what I'm going to try to do. He's the boss. As far as that goes, I'm getting in line right behind him."
There was a lot to like about the season for the defense, he said later, but he understands that last game in November is the one that really matters.
"Once again, OSU was a huge negative for us," he said of the 56-27 setback. "I'm not going to live in that world, and I don't want our players to live in that world. We acknowledge it; we move on from it, and hopefully I do a better job, because I don't blame the players for anything.
"You blame the old guy, right here. I've got to do a better job getting our guys ready, and I promise I'm going to."
At the same time, Brown was relatively pleased with his defense for much of the rest of the season, including a lot of a 35-16 Citrus Bowl loss to Alabama.
"Obviously, we had the bad play on the first of the game [a long touchdown pass], but late in the second quarter we have a key sack, they call roughing the passer [on Aidan Hutchison]. Whew," he said. "That was a killer. We had done a good job after that first series of really stemming the tide.
"I thought we played pretty darn well in that game."
The Tide had so many receivers that it was tough to double team them all, he added, not that they would have tried.
"We've got good players," he continued. "I thought we played toe to toe with them, 21-16 in the fourth quarter. I feel very strongly that at times, we played really, really well in that football game. Our guys were certainly up to the challenge, and we fell short.
"I take the positives from it, then obviously we go into the offseason ... we took all the pieces that are negative and I promise you, we practice those plays against assorted looks. We took the same thing from the Ohio State game, will be practicing against those plays, too. It's college football ... when you're not successful, it's [usually] eight or nine or a group of plays you just want back. That is certainly those scenarios."
It was the same in the first half against Penn State, though U-M made halftime adjustments and held the Nittany Lions to 72 second-half yards, while Wisconsin was a series of early, bad run fits and a couple of blown coverages that led to the game getting away from them early, Brown noted.
At the same time, he said, the way his group responded in dominating Iowa, Michigan State and Notre Dame showed resilience. But the key to the 2020 season will be consistency, and a great effort against the Buckeyes in Columbus.
Brown has made it clear he's well aware, and he's already started preparing.
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