Don Brown’s ‘direct and sharp’ coaching style adopted by Arizona Wildcats defense

With an entire unit to oversee, defensive coordinator Don Brown doesn’t have time to hold everyone’s hand as he tries to prepare Arizona for each week’s new opponent. And his players are glad he doesn’t either.

‘I like the way Coach Brown trains, I like that hard training’, defensive tackle Trevon Mason said last week. “He doesn’t care where you are, he doesn’t care if you’re the star player, he’s going to come after you, especially when you’re wrong. Everyone needs that, I have the impression.

Brown, in his freshman year with Arizona, made massive improvements to a defense that was in the bottom third of the Pac-12 in yards allowed per game every year since 2014. In 2019 and 2020, the Wildcats were the last in total. defense and score defense.

Arizona is still last in the conference to score defense, giving up 31.8 points per game, but it’s eight points better than a year ago and the yardage numbers are even more improved. The Wildcats are giving up 381.3 yards per game, fifth-best in the conference, up from 473 in 2020.

For Brown, 65, who comes from the old school but still manages to connect with today’s players, his approach is simple: be honest and direct.

“You’re criticizing the performance, not the performer,” Brown said Tuesday. “It’s direct, it’s sharp. And I think that’s one of my strengths, I’m pointed. If I think something needs to be said, I’ll say it directly.

linebacker jerry robert says Brown is “locked in” and “intense” during games, going over every play from the previous drive with the defense as they hit the sideline. If something went wrong, it will fix it, but does not distinguish between individual errorers.

“He criticizes the performance as a whole,” Roberts said. “Let’s say, for example, I go over there and give up a 50-yard touchdown. But he won’t necessarily criticize me, he will criticize all the defense that leads, like what are the things that led to this (playing)? What are the things we could have done better as a defense as a whole on this conduct, not just focusing on the individual.

That’s not to say Brown isn’t developing close relationships with his players. It happens, but not during practices and matches.

“When you’re out there and training for two hours, you don’t have time to go, ‘hey, come over here and let’s hug,'” he said.

Brown used the spring and summer to figure out how each of his guys are best trained and focused on that for the regular season. From linebacker Antoine Pandy, who leads Arizona in tackles and had a six pick against USC, he said he’s improved so much since the spring because of the relationship they’ve built.

“There were times in the spring when I would have traded it in for two used footballs,” Brown said. “But that is not (any longer) the case. And it’s really overall because of the way he approaches the game. We have an honest relationship. I can promise you that. He wants it to be clear. And he wants the truth. The good thing is, knowing that I can be honest with the guy, you don’t have to sugarcoat him. He has a chance to understand what you’re telling him and bring it to the field, and make the necessary adjustments. His trajectory in recent weeks has been like this.

As for the defensive end Jalen Harris, who is having an exceptional year: “Another guy who was ready to be coached. This guy is a brilliant guy, he was able to decipher the information and he brought it to the field. Now a lot of guys can do it in the drill, but they can’t bring it to the field. This guy brings it to the field.

Security Jaxen Turner, who admits to having trust issues, said a personal conversation he had with Brown before the season started made all the difference in his game.

“With new staff, you’re not going to believe everything they say initially,” he said. “I’m all on board now, 100 percent.”

Turner was ejected twice for targeting, including against USC. Rather than lashing out at him for costing his team dearly, Brown simply made sure Turner knew he was playing the right way and sometimes mistakes still happened.

“I don’t know what you do on that,” Brown said, saying targeting “might be the worst rule in college football. You train tackles every day, we train body position, placement of head, all those things. I thought he was below him, but I’m not the official administering the rule. Did you look at this play and say he did it on purpose “It’s an absolute no, the answer is of course no. But for me, you move on. I had a player a few years ago (in Michigan, Khaleke Hudson), he had consecutive games (with targeting) Then it’s on. It’s a tough, tough business.