When I was in Norfolk a little more than a month ago to work on a story about Old Dominion’s football rebirth, it seemed smart to ask Monarchs coach Bobby Wilder a little bit about Don Brown.
Both spent the last decade-plus in what is now called the CAA. And it wasn’t like the opportunity to chat face-to-face with Wilder would pop up again in the weeks leading into the start of Brown’s first camp as Maryland’s defensive coordinator (which is noted in today’s dead-tree edition).
Wilder, as he did for much of our session, smiled —- a bit ruefully this time.
“I have a lot of experience with coach Brown,” he said.
That’s what will happen when you deal with Brown every year. Wilder was the offensive coordinator at Maine before taking over at Old Dominion, and dealt with Brown’s schemes when the latter was at Northeastern and later Massachusetts.
What made him so tough? I might as well get out of the way and let Wilder explain:
“He was one of the best defensive coaches in the CAA,” Wilder said. “I always felt like when we went against him, our game plan had to be right on point. If we were not ready for everything, he was going to exploit it. He was one of those coaches who liked to get a feel in the first quarter for what you were doing, find out what your weaknesses were and he was going to attack it.
“His blitz packages were as good as any I’d seen in college football. Every week you had to be ready for something new. That guy, he’d be in two-down fronts, three-down fronts, four-down fronts. He’d be in nickel, dime packages. There were times he’d have seven defensive backs on the field in obvious pass sets. Your protections had better be air-tight, or you were going to get exposed.”
This, unsurprisingly, made the days leading into a date with Brown’s defense less than enjoyable for coaches throughout the CAA.
Coaches are typically reluctant to say they’ll plan differently for different opponents, and that’s understandable. But after chatting with about a half-dozen coaches at the CAA’s media day late last month, it was clear Brown presented an unusual challenge.
“That was one of the longest weeks in the office for us because they came from so many different ways and they did it with multiple groups,” New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said. “Eventually, it was the same blitz but it was disguised. It was a corner coming rather than a weak safety. You’re sitting there saying ‘How can they bring so many dfferent people from so many different way?’
“The blitz tape was not 20 percent or 30 percent. It was 50-to-60 percent on your time.”
—- Patrick Stevens