‘Greedy’ Don Brown, UM defense earn Penn State’s respect

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Don Brown

Penn State coach James Franklin thinks Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is “greedy.”

And he means that in the best way.

The 19th-ranked Wolverines will play at No. 2 Penn State on Saturday night in a “white out” at Beaver Stadium. Brown’s defense is ranked No. 1 nationally, allowing an average 223.8 yards a game, and is also first in pass efficiency defense and third downs allowed (20.5 percent). The Wolverines are third in pass defense (138.0 yards per game) and sixth in run defense (85.8).

Franklin was the offensive coordinator at Maryland when Brown was the defensive coordinator there, so he understands Brown’s approach to defense and appreciates his consistent success.

“Just look at Don Brown’s history; I think he had the No. 1 defense in the country at Boston College and now he’s doing it at Michigan with different personnel,” Franklin said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches’ conference call. “Don is what I would describe – and I mean this as a compliment – Don’s a greedy defensive coordinator.”

Brown has been referred to as “Dr. Blitz” and preaches all-out aggressive defense.

“Most defensive coordinators are going to take something away while giving you something else,” Franklin said. “Most defensive coordinators are going to give you the wide-field throws, saying that a college quarterback can’t consistently throw the wide-field hitch or the wide-field out or the wide-field comeback, and they’ll give you that while taking all the short throws and the run game away. Don, he’s going to overload the box, they’re going to have a bunch of guys on the line of scrimmage in blitz demeanor. Bring people from all different angles. He’s going to take the short throws away while playing press man coverage, and Don doesn’t want to give you anything.

Devin Bush leads Michigan's defense with 50 tackles.

“Don was the defensive coordinator at Maryland when I was the offensive coordinator, and I used to go against him and it was challenging because you’re getting unorthodox looks. You’re getting basically Cover 1 or Cover 0 almost every play. Don’s kind of overall philosophy is, solve your problems with aggression, and that’s how they play. And for most people that’s high risk, high reward. What Don’s been able to do is play that style of defense without giving up too many big plays. Obviously, he's getting the best of both worlds.”

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Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday praised his defense, which added two interceptions last Saturday at Indiana.

“You start stacking up some of the things they’ve done in terms of limiting opponents to total yards. … There’s a stat that we’re one of 10 teams that have allowed 280-some yards or less in their first six games since 2000,” Harbaugh said Monday. We have the most punts against us of any team in college football this year. And three-and-outs. Our team is playing very well on defense.”

Indiana gained 278 yards of offense, the most Michigan’s defense has allowed this year.

Admiring the venue

Harbaugh said the atmosphere at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium stands out.

“As impressive as any place I’ve ever been,” Harbaugh said on the Big Ten call. “Great atmosphere for football.”

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e was asked how he replicates in practice what the players will hear and go through at the stadium Saturday night.

“As far as simulating that environment – try to make loud noise during practice,” Harbaugh said.

Looking for precision

Harbaugh has said several times the last two days that Michigan’s offense needs more consistency at every spot, not just quarterback. John O’Korn will be making his third start of the season in place of injured Wilton Speight. O’Korn threw for only 58 yards against Indiana, while Michigan rushed for 271 yards in the overtime victory.

“We’re trying to get all 11 on offense playing more precise, more precision with the unit,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what we’re working on. John’s our starting quarterback. Suffice it to say we’re working as a unit to gel more on offense, be more precise. An offense to be successful, requires more precision. Have nothing more to add.”

Harbaugh was asked how he thinks O’Korn has handled criticism from the fan base.

“I’m not aware of the criticism,” Harbaugh said Tuesday. “Not aware of that criticism.”