Ann Arbor, Michigan- Last year we saw a first year defense under Coach Harbaugh and DJ Durkin become well respected quickly. They surged on with some major highlights and only a few lowlights to become one of the best in the country. They ended as the No. 4 ranked defense holding the SEC East Champion Florida Gators to only seven points in the 2016 Citrus Bowl.
With Durkin landing the job at Maryland, who better to replace him than the coach who has the overall No. 1 ranked defense at Boston College, Don Brown.
Now fast forward to this week with the first four practices in Florida and the spring game complete with many feeling very good about where they are right now so early in the year. The biggest challenge for this spring and preparing for the season is to sustain the highly ranked defense they had last year, most importantly, go on the road to their two biggest rivals this fall and win.
We see the players doing very well adapting to the change of Don Brown and his high flying attack scheme. Jordan Lewis said after the spring game, “Definitely, you can see in our confidence level. We feel more comfortable with what we’re doing, being an aggressive defense. You can just see it, it’s evident you can see guys going out there competing, just getting out and making plays.”
The spring game was not a time to show truly everything the defense is working on while building that group under Coach Brown. He was asked two days before the spring game about his thoughts so far and he said, “I’m pleased with their progress. When you’ve been at this as long as I have, you have a system, you believe in it. Presentation’s important and the guys have been great. I was very concerned going in how fast it would take for us to play fast. For the most part, I’m very pleased with where we’re at.”
With several veterans at the secondary and defensive line that have experience hungry to keep this momentum going, there are linebacker spots needing to be filled with those who are no longer there. No one seems concerned by the progress so far out of guys like Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon and you also have to mention the explosive Jabril Peppers.
To see the new staff, veterans, and new faces working great together already in early April, with little injuries and problems, we may be in for a real treat come this fall.