Come Saturday, a two friends and former colleagues will go head-to-head as Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown will try and contain a Miami offense led by his former head coach at UMass, Mark Whipple.
The tandem of Brown and Whipple dates back to 1996 when Brown served as the defensive coordinator on Whipples coaching staff for two seasons at Brown University. They moved on to UMass together, where the Minutemen compiled one of their best records in school history en route to winning the Division 1-AA national championship.
In 2003, the two went their separate ways. Brown finished up his fourth season as head coach of Northeastern and accepted the same position with UMass, the spot left vacant by Whipple, who took his coaching to the professional ranks.
Both Brown and Whipple are currently in their second seasons with their respective teams. Brown has piloted the Terps defense to 26th best defense in the nation. On the flip side, Whipple has led the Canes to the 37th best offense to in 2009, one currently tied for 52nd. A matchup this weekend will be the first time the two will reunite on opposing sidelines.
"It will be like spring practice. Thats the fun part of it, Brown said, alluding to the idea of the two both relying on their trusted philosophies. Outside of that, its two guys competing on Saturday afternoon to get the same thing done.
Brown said that Whipple has continued to call plays and adjust on the fly, much like he did at UMass. He pointed out the use of multiple formations, finding an extra edge in the running game and spreading the field to get wide receivers in space as constants in his offense.
Hes done a tremendous job there stabilizing their offense and getting them to this point. Ive got a lot of respect him, Brown said. Miamis offense is currently averaging over 400 yards of offense per game.
The Maryland defense, however, is up for the challenge. This season, the Terps sport the eighth best passing efficiency defense, 33rd best rushing defense and is holding opposing offenses to 4.4 yards per play, good for tops in the conference. The unit has forced 11 interceptions, amassed 16 sacks and has the eighth best red-zone defense in the country.
Head coach Ralph Friedgen credits Brown for the defenses turnaround, calling him a mad scientist with a collection of plays he has titled the bible.
Hes a hell of a coach – a heck of a football mind. Ive really enjoyed working with him. He is a lot of fun to be around; not fun to go against I might add.
While neither Friedgen nor Brown would comment if either side would have an edge going into the matchup, Friedgen did say it would be interesting because there is a great deal of familiarity, which means both coordinators could over plan.
Brown did give one guarantee this week, though. I guarantee you this: hes not calling me this week and Im not calling him, he said, adding with a smile, and then next week we will.