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UM’s Don Brown far from backing down at 61

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Don Brown

Ann Arbor – The Michigan players continue to marvel at Don Brown’s high-intensity, high-energy approach to practices.

After all, Brown is 61, ancient to older teenagers and 20-somethings like those comprising the football team. He is in his first season coordinating Michigan’s defense, and the Michigan players have quickly taken to his energized ways.

The Wolverines, whose last coordinator, DJ Durkin, was in his late 30s, do have some fun when talking about Brown, but only in the most respectful way.

“Sixty one going on 21 is the running joke,” senior nose tackle Ryan Glasgow said last week. “He hops in drills. He’s way more hands-on than I would expect -- no offense Coach Brown if you’re reading this. I don’t know if he uses a computer ever. It’s really refreshing to see someone that hands on.”

Glasgow then considered his comments and laughed.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be in trouble,” he said.

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Safety Dymonte Thomas said the players appreciate how involved Brown is during practices and teaching them. The players say Durkin was more of a yeller, and Brown is calmer.

“He’s here, he’s there, he’s always, boom! boom!, ‘What are we doing? Let’s go! All right, bring it in,’” Thomas said. “He’s always excited, he’s always moving. He looks like he’s 21 out there on the field, but after we get back in a meeting, he’s calmed down, he’s more relaxed and he’s more chill. He’s out there on the field with us yelling, screaming, having fun, jumping around with us.”

Brown, frankly, is tired of his age coming up when outsiders talk about him.

“I’ve heard that age thing – it makes me nauseous,” Brown said, not sounding remotely amused. “Bring anybody in here, I’ll be glad to match (them and) put my energy level with anybody else’s.”

He was jokingly asked if he ever gets the better of the players when he jumps in on drills.

“Uh, noooooooo,” Brown said, his mood getting a bit lighter. “Not anymore, that’s for sure. I take pride in going out on the field. I think I’ll be one of those guys. When I can’t do that, I’ll probably go.”

Brown in many ways resembles the defense he runs – all out, aggressive, unrelenting. He’s nicknamed “Dr. Blitz” for a reason.

“We’ll blitz no matter where we are on the field and what down it is, which is really awesome, because when you blitz like that, you get an opportunity to get your hands on the ball,” Thomas said. “Coach Brown is not scared to pressure a quarterback and create pressure throughout the game, so that quarterback is going to get tired and he’ll continue to throw the ball up.”

Brown, architect of Boston College’s top-rated defense last season, bristled on Monday when asked about comment made on the Big Ten Network last week that he runs a high-risk, high-reward defense.

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“Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s a bunch of baloney,” said Brown, sounding irritated. “High risk? No. We just don’t throw this stuff against the wall. Come on. We’re not doing that. We look at the formations, we look at the personnel groups. We lean on the aggressive side. Whether you’re running or passing the ball, we’re going to have the ability to dictate when we come. That’s what it’s all about.

“I can assure you that every one of the calls that we’ve made, we’ve done a thorough study. We’ll at least have run it 100 times, OK? So we’re not throwing things against the wall. It’s not that kind of scenario.”

Brown pointed out that because they’re playing man coverage, some misconstrue the high-risk aspect.

“One thing we believe in, we deny free access,” he said. “We’re not going to play eight to 10 yards off and let you play that game all the time. Now, you’ll see us play off, but we determine when we do that.”