Who: Bryan Brown, Louisville
Title: Defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach
Previous stop: Appalachian State defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach (2018), cornerbacks coach (2012-17)
Why he’s important: Let’s put it this way — there’s nowhere to go but up.
Scott Satterfield on Deener show on @939TheVille just said last year’s Louisville defense was “one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) April 30, 2019
The 2018 Cardinals won the golden sombrero in the ACC, finishing last in the conference in scoring defense (44.1 points per game), total defense (483.5 yards per game), and yards per play (6.88). They allowed nearly 10 points per game more than next-to-last-place North Carolina. They 25 yards per game more than next-to-last Wake Forest. In fact, Louisville defended exactly the same amount of plays (843) as first place Miami and allowed 2,176 more yards, which is more than the total number of passing or rushing yards Miami surrendered all season.
(Louisville was also last in the ACC in scoring offense and total offense… but 13th in yards per play!)
Even worse than the product on the field was the culture inside the locker room.
“I did not know (how bad it was) until I got here,” Brown told ESPN Louisville in May, “until I stepped foot on campus in December and I met with a couple of guys and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh! Like, you didn’t know where the coach’s offices were?’ That’s the God’s to honest truth, we had players who didn’t know where the coach’s offices were.
“It blew me away cause from the time I’ve grown up playing any sports, I’ve always talked to my coaches no matter what… And then when you get here and you talk to guys and there like, “Well you know, I’ve never seen my coach’s house. I’ve never been invited to my coach’s house. I don’t know where his office is.’ That blew my mind.”
It’s a rebuild unlike anything else the 35-year-old has ever undertaken, who has one year of coordinator experience under his belt.
The new staff has moved a dozen players to new positions to better maximize their talents in Brown’s scheme. But more than anything, the defense’s greatest improvement will come not from scheme, but buy-in.
Brown didn’t go back and watch the entire 2018 season — showing game tape of the 2018 Louisville season to prisoners of war is actually classified as torture by the United Nations — but he saw enough to know last year’s team quit, and so improvement is bound to come simply by getting all 11 players to play through the whistle.
“The guys that we have, they want to do right,” Brown said. “And when you have guys that want to do right, I think great things will end up happening for us…. I think our guys are going to execute to a T a good bit of the time this year, and I’m excited about it. They’re going to give great effort, they’re going to get to that football. We’re going to cause havoc. If there’s some mistakes made, we’re going to make up for it with our effort.
“I can tell with my little ones, fathering them, you can tell when to kick them in the butt and when they need a pat on the back. These guys need a lots of pats on the back.”
One staff’s bottom-out is another staff’s opportunity, and no one on Satterfield’s staff stands to gain from Louisville’s eventual rebound more than Brown. It probably won’t happen in 2019 or maybe even 2020, but once the Cardinal defense grows from abjectly bad to adequate to good or even great, plenty of athletics directors and search firms will look at the unit’s coordinator and see head coaching material.