The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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74 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2017 For the second straight year, defensive coordinator Don Brown was honored as a final- ist for the Broyles Award that annually goes to the nation's top college assistant coach. For the second consecutive season, he was snubbed for a candidate less deserving. With all due respect to this year's winner, Clemson de- fensive coordinator Brent Ven- ables, much less deserving. Forget, for a second, that this is a Michigan-focused publica- tion and consider this: • The Wolverines led the nation in regular-season pass defense, tackles for loss and third-down conversion percentage allowed, ranked among the top three in five other categories (including total defense and scoring defense) and were top 15 in 10 categories overall. The unit's lowest national ranking among the 11 major defen- sive categories was 26th (turnover margin, +0.5 per game), and U-M led the Big Ten in eight areas while ranking second, third or fifth in five others. • Michigan led the country with an average of 9.6 tackles for loss per contest, making them one of only two teams in the country averaging more than 8.6 tackles for loss, and U-M opponents' 20.9 percent third- down conversion rate led the nation by three full percentage points. • U-M held seven of its 12 oppo- nents to less than 10 points, allow- ing 252.7 yards per game, on aver- age. The defense has surrendered just 16 touchdowns while allowing only 25 red-zone opportunities all season, the fewest in the nation. Of course, there's more to coach- ing than just numbers. It's about be- ing a leader of young men. Brown checks that box, too, se- nior safety Dymonte Thomas told this fall. "Besides football, he's just been a great role model for us —someone we can look up to, someone who does everything right," Thomas said. "He's a do-right guy. He's a great coach, and at times he knows that you've got to laugh and have a little bit of fun, and still stay focused at times. "He's just a great coach overall. If you make a mistake, he'll yell at you. But at the same time, he's go- ing to yell at you because he loves you. I got yelled at a few times ear- lier in the season, and he said, 'You know I love you, but as a senior, you can't make plays like that. We need you to be better, and so let's go harder in practice today.' That motivates you to want to do better for him." Crazily enough, this isn't the first time Brown's been snubbed, but the fourth straight. He was also nomi- nated for the award in all three sea- sons while coaching at Boston Col- lege (2013-15) — and the year before he arrived at U-M his BC defense ranked first in the country in scoring and rushing defense, 13th in pass- ing defense. His group held a potent FSU team to 14 points, Notre Dame to 19 (while forcing five turnovers) and Duke to nine. Keep in mind, too, that the Eagles' offense went three- and-out on 40 percent of its possessions that year, too, con- sistently putting the defense in bad situations. This year, the defense was the biggest reason U-M was in the two toughest road games it played with a chance to win at the end. Venables' Clemson team was solid, too, but gave up 34 or more points in its four biggest games of the year, including a 43-42 home loss to Pitt. "In my mind, as I sit here right now, if there's a Coach of the Year in college football, it's Don Brown," Jim Harbaugh said in late October — before his team went on the road and held Iowa to 12 points (two came on a safety) and was relentless throughout a double-overtime loss at Ohio State, sacking quarterback J.T. Barrett eight times. "He is a tremendous teacher, he is a tremen- dous person and the impact that he's had on our team has been out- standing. "We always look at it as a team effort — everybody does a little and it adds up to a lot, we win as a team — but, boy, Don Brown has had a huge impact on all of us … on us coaches and on the players." Simply put, he's been the top as- sistant coach in the country for the last two seasons at least, more than earning his $880,000 salary this season. So voters, it's time to start paying attention next year, when Brown's defense excels again (and it will happen). Brown has made a habit of tabbing his star practice players "Dudes of the Day" after particu- larly good showings, but it's past time for The Dude of all Dudes to get his due, too. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter at @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS What More Can Brown Do For You? Only two FBS defenses limited opponents to an average of less than 275 yards per game entering bowl season — Alabama (247.8) and Don Brown's Michigan unit (252.7). They were also the only two to limit foes to less than 14 points per game. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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