Arizona defensive coordinator Don Brown looked at last year’s tape of the defense and quickly dismissed it. He had no use for it. And, well, last year was last year and this one is a new dawn.
That said, every play – in a scrimmage or otherwise – he lives and (seemingly) dies (inside) with. It’s who he is.
“For some people it’s their life’s journey,” Brown said after a recent practice. “It started when I was 22 (coaching) and I’m in my 45th year.”
The field on game days or the practice field is home.
“Yeah, buddy,” he said as he walked off the field.
Throw in that he’s part coach, part motivator, part psychologist, some part philosopher he’s definitely home on the field. Now, he’s Arizona’s after a well-traveled, well-respected career in college football (see chart).
And so, the new era of defense – one many hope will bring back the days of the famed Desert Swarm – are here.
For Don Brown, defense is 24/7. And perhaps not because it must be, but because he wants it to be. Football is life; life is football for the coach they call “Dr. Blitz.” More on that later.
There are times when he’ll be somewhere – anywhere – and he’ll come up with a scheme that he thinks will work.
“I just grab my notebook,” he said, mimicking writing notes. “It’s what makes me comfortable.”
Now it’s his job to make offenses uncomfortable. But here’s an early evaluation from someone who plays against it every day.
“It’s just unfair,” said Scottie Graham, UA’s running backs coach.
For Arizona’s sake, it hopes so. Brown has brought you’d “better run-to-the-ball” approach to his defense. If you’re not doing that and, well, if you’re not aggressive, well, you’d better stay home. Players know they’ll know they won’t play if they don’t “run to the ball.”
It’s been his mantra from Day One – and it’s likely to never change.
“It’s fun; he brings a lot of energy,” said Jalen Harris, Arizona’s defensive lineman. “He’s a tough coach but you can’t really listen to how he says (things) but what he says. You have to take that advice. He just wants us to be great so he’s going to push all of us.”
And so, he does. It’s hardly unnoticeable. Just watch him on the sidelines. Listen to him from his sideline.
It’s must-watch-listen-to stuff. You can watch it tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium when Arizona plays in a much-anticipated scrimmage, one likely to determine then next UA starting quarterback.
He’ll be on the sidelines all seasons given that’s where he’s most comfortable. If, well, comfortable is the right word.
“If was in the booth I’d probably be scaling the booth,” he said, joking but serious. “I’ve tried that once, didn’t work so well for me. I think I made it through a quarter and that was the end of that.”
The good thing is, Brown said recently his defense is coming around and improving. They guys are taking to the multiple-look defense that seems and is complicated, but under Brown’s system of we’ll-play-you-where-you-fit-in it all makes sense.
Get in where you fit in.
“Don’t put them in situations where they can fail,” he said. “Put them in where they succeed on the field and what happens? Their confidence rises and they are a lot easier to coach.”
He added: “You don’t want them to get discouraged but you want them to do the best they can do,” he said.
“As you notice I’m fairly verbal on the field, but all I’m doing is creating chaos. If they can’t handle the chaos on the practice field – ‘coach is yelling at me ‘– how are they going to handle playing on Saturday?”
And if you think he’s old school – given his philosophy, temperament and, well, age mid-60s – think again.
“Wait a minute,” he said, “we analytically look at every call after every day. We try to find out what are we operating well and what we need improvement in.”
What’s best for creating chaos, seemingly his favorite word.
It’s his buzz word. With it make teams feel uncomfortable. There in lies his nickname, Dr. Blitz. Attack, attack, attack.
Or at least make them think you are attacking.
“I guess I could be called worse, you know, so, you know, if, if the insinuation is that I’m a pressure guy (so be it),” he said. “We have a saying in our meeting room solve your problems with aggression. You know it. At this level, that’s, that’s part of it. Call me what you want, you know I’ve been called worse, so it’s all good, you know, I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it all.”