You got here late January and jumped right into recruiting. I would imagine it was a whirlwind at first... is it slowing down now here during spring ball at all?
ShaDon Brown: “Yeah, it is slowing down a ton for me. I'm getting to know the kids a lot better as well as getting to know the tempo of practice, how we practice here. How we do things is starting to come together for me. But the big thing is the kids, getting to know them, their strengths and weaknesses. Getting to the mid-way point of spring ball has really helped me to really help them.”
How would you describe your coaching style? Are there certain things you hang your hat on as a defensive backs coach?
“No. 1, I am a players coach. I love the players. That is why I do this. I am a fundamental coach. I am not all about schemes, I want to develop guys. And I know development is a process. So if you ask what type of coach I am, I am a players coach and I am a developer of talent. So that means I don't have to have a four-star ready-made guy. I'll keep working with guys and make them better. That is what I have had to do my whole career. But I am going to get after them, too. I am going to push them to a place they really don't want to go. That is my job to try to get them to be a champion each and every day they step out here on the field. And it is a always a work in progress, we can always get better.”
I would imagine as a coach the more different environments you can coach in, the better you are going to be long term. Coming from Army, that is obviously a different environment. What did that experience teach you as a coach and what ways can that help you coming here to a non-service academy?
“Well, being at Army really helped me learn how to adapt and overcome. I say that because at a place like Army, the schedule and the time constraints on your players is a lot different. You only have the players for a short block each and every day so you have to be really detailed in your coaching. You have to give them short buzz words in your coaching because they don't have as much time with you to absorb a lot. I have taken that same approach here. I feel like if I am coaching a guy, I need to be able to give it to him in 10 words or less, or it is too wordy and he is not going to be able to understand it. These guys do have a lot more time on their hands to do football and they take advantage of that, but they are not different in the sense they want to win and they work their tails off. That is the same environment I came from and that is why I wanted to take this job.”
The secondary you took over just sent three players to the NFL Combine... I'm sure you would have enjoyed working with those guys, but the players you did inherit, do you sense they see a real opportunity with some starting jobs up for grabs?
“Most definitely I would have liked to coach the three guys that went to the combine but we have got some talented guys here. They are just young. (Less than half of the defensive backs Brown is working with had not gone through a spring ball at CU before) So it is a development process. Also, some of those [upperclassmen] are now seeing there is an opportunity to play past college football. So to do that, they've got to lead. Guys like 'Fo' (Afolabi Laguda), Isaiah Oliver, Nick Fisher and [Ryan] Moeller, those guys are doing a great job of leading the younger guys and bringing them along. Anytime you have young talent, you have to get it out of them by pushing them every day. But they have to have reps. They are going to have some screw ups and some bad plays. But if you look, those guys that went to the combine, during their freshman and sophomore years, they had screw ups, too. Don't forget where they came from. They came from playing as freshmen and screwing up and then as seniors, they looked like the best players in the country, and they were. That is why they were at the combine but it takes time to get to that point. We have some guys that can get there as well.”
I would imagine Isaiah Oliver will get invited to the NFL Combine down the road... what can he still work on at this stage of his college career?
“Isaiah can't get bored. Isaiah has to continue to work on his craft, continue to work on press coverage and his feet, and just continue to work every day. He has got the natural ability, he has the length. He'll have a chance to be in the combine, he may have a chance after this year., but I hope he doesn't leave after this year. Isaiah just has to keep working. Sometimes when you are really good, you think you have hit the plateau, hit the peak, but you have to keep working because there is someone out there that is always a little bit better. And that is where he is. I tell him every day, 'Compete with yourself to be better than yourself from the day before.' If he does that, he'll continue to do be a great player and hopefully he'll have a future at the next level. But we want to win a Pac-12 Championship first.”
You have a couple hybrid players that play both at safety and closer to the line of scrimmage... do you still coach those players when they go to practice in the Buff 'backer spot, or do you hand them off to DJ Eliot?
“No, I coach them all. I coach the nickels, I coach the Buff 'backers, and corners and safeties. So I have a big task. I have some help with some off-the-field guys, they help me out, but I coach all those guys. Ryan Moeller plays safety for us as well as he'll play the Buff position, which is a hybrid linebacker/safety. Evan White is playing in that role some, as well as Kyle Trego. Those guys are doing a good job at the Buff, which is a really good position for us because it allows us to get another big, fast athlete on the field. Essentially we have five defensive backs on the field at all times. So when we go Buff, we have a stronger guy who can play the run game. It is better for us on first and second down, and then we can go to our nickel package on third down, which allows us to get another talented guy on the field. So my room is pretty flexible in that I have guys that play nickel, I have guys that play corner, guys that play Buff, guys that play safety. That means there are more reps.”
Has a leader emerged in the defensive backs room? Or is that still a work in progress?
“No question 'Fo' is the leader in that room. He is the vocal guy. He's the heart and soul of that room. He pulls it out every day with effort and he wears it on the sleeve. He is an emotional leader. He cares about his teammates, and sometimes he disciplines them with tough love, but they know he cares about them. The other thing that he does, he does a great job working with our young guys and our walk-on players. He doesn't treat any of them different. He treats them all like family and he breaks it down with the guys on 'Family!' every day. That is a big deal for us on the back-end. We have to be a family. I tell those guys every day, 'Hey, we have to eat pressure for breakfast.' Any mistake on defense, people generally look at the secondary because it is easy. So we have to learn that is part of it and we have to eat that for breakfast and keep rolling and we do that by being a family.”