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Don Brown: The doctor is in

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Former Michigan football defensive coordinator and current Arizona football defensive coordinator Don Brown stands on the sideline and looks out to the field with his hands on his hips in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Courtesy of University of Michigan Athletics.) 

The new and fully refreshed Wildcat coaching staff debuts their schemes and game planning in a marquee game at Marquee Stadium in Las Vegas. With the season opener against BYU looming, Arizona football has never been quite the talk of the town like it is currently. New head coach Jedd Fisch has been saying all the right things, made impressive coaching hires, created a new excitement in Tucson for football and so far has recruited his butt off. The most prominent move he may have made, though, is hiring defensive coordinator Don Brown. 

Brown is one of the most accomplished coordinators in the country, has routinely had top 5 defenses in his tenure and now it’s his goal to try to bring Arizona near that rank. Before Fisch came along, there could only have been hopes and dreams of someone with a high stature like Brown to take an assistant job here in Tucson, but that is where the large branch of connections Fisch has really comes into play. Brown and Fisch coached together in Michigan as a part of Jim Harbaugh’s staff. Michigan is where Brown has held a top 5 defense every year he was employed in Ann Arbor, except for this past weird COVID-19 2020 season which led to his departure. 

Harbaugh thought highly of Brown before this recent split, as he said, “He’s a legend in my mind. Everything he has done and been associated with has been successful. … To hear the way he has affected lives and made people developed individuals is on the same par as people talk to me about my dad.”

Brown is an extremely energetic and animated coach on the sidelines, and in practice he was asked recently if he would be calling plays from the booth or the sidelines.

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“If I was in the booth, I would be scaling the booth to the ground," Brown said. "I tried that once and it didn’t work so well for me."

Brown will attempt to bring that BIG-10 physicality and energy to Arizona and give the rest of the conference a wake-up call. Brown said he has noticed the Pac-12 “airs it out more and whips it around.”

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Being at practices and press conferences, Brown is consistently brought up with his influence on players and his peer coaches. About a week ago, Arizona also received a verbal commitment from a four-star linebacker and one of the highest rated defensive recruits in school history.  

Fisch said in the introductory press conference for the staff that “having a guy like that in the room makes you feel a lot more comfortable in these visits and meetings.” His presence is already giving that newfound life for the current team and the future state of the program. 

What to look for right off the bat with this new defense early on in the season is how fast the players are flying to the ball and the physicality they are hitting with. The talent and scheme may not be fully in place just yet, but something Brown will always have from his defense is 110% effort and extremely tough dudes. 

The test in week one will be pretty good as BYU has turned into a mid-major machine and just produced the second overall pick at quarterback. Let’s see what Brown and Fisch can put together and if it follows suit with the hype being felt around Tucson.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/21)
993 29 2.9%
Total (8/2)
23,557 463 2.0%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 21, 2021