Detroit — Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, in his first season with the Wolverines, spent the spring installing his system and concepts.
What accelerated the learning was the fact Michigan has a number of veteran defensive players now on their third defensive coordinator in three years, so picking up Brown’s defense has been challenging but efficient because the players have a better grasp of the game.
“I thought we did a great job of grasping the verbiage and continuing to make strides and didn’t let new concepts and so forth slow us down, which is a huge concern,” Brown said Thursday night at the Horatio Williams Foundation Detroit High School clinic. He feels good about where the defense is heading into offseason workouts.
He praised linebacker Ben Gedeon and lineman Chris Wormley for the leadership in the front seven and praised Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas for their work in the defensive backfield.
“I’m just really pleased front to back with the guys I’m coaching,” Brown said. “Obviously, from a depth standpoint we’re a little thin in terms of numbers at linebacker. I think we’re also a little thin in terms of numbers at safety. Those things will all change when the summer’s here. I’m really excited about taking the good players we’ve recruited and having them be tutored by this older group.”
Brown clearly expects the incoming freshmen, along with the early enrollees, to adjust quickly to roles as backups at safety and linebacker.
He was asked if this concerns him.
“Do I look afraid?” Brown said, not going for a laugh.
He said he fully expects No. 1 recruit Rashan Gary, a lineman, to make an impact this fall.
“Let’s just say I’m pretty encouraged we’re going to see that young man early in his career,” Brown said.
He was impressed this spring by early enrollee linebacker Devin Bush Jr.
“I’m feeling he’s one of those guys who has really benefited from being here,” Brown said. “He’ll have a chance to make an impact.”
Brown’s approach with the younger players is simple and sensible. He will allow them to manage a few things until they master them and then feed them more.
“If you give him a job or two jobs and he can get confident in those jobs he has the opportunity to gain confidence,” Brown said. “That’s the piece of coaching that’s so valuable. You’ve just got to make sure you don’t overwhelm a young player. You give him a chance to get on the field, grow, do a couple jobs he’s confident in and all of a sudden he’s saying, ‘Hey, I can do this. I’m on the field.’ That’s the whole thing, just kind of keep it manageable and give them things they can be good at.
“The key is get them started with a couple jobs and let them build confidence and (by) Week 7 they’re not a freshman anymore.”