Brown Readies Defense

Saturday will be a first for Corwin Brown. The Notre Dame defensive coordinator, picked for the job in early 2007 to replace Rick Minter, will have his first shot on Saturday afternoon against Georgia Tech to call his own formations and plays. Brown hasn't been in this position before in jobs as special teams coach at Virginia and defensive backs coach with the New York Jets.

In those situations, Brown was a spoke in the wheel of the defensive game plan. Now, the Irish defensive coordinator runs the show, with help from defensive line coach Jappy Oliver, linebackers coach Brian Polian and defensive backs coach Bill Lewis. But with the switch from position coach to defensive coordinator comes more scrutiny. If the defense underperforms or lets the opponents rack up big play after big play, the buck will stop at Brown's desk.

"Now when something happens, it's your fault and not anyone else's," Brown said with a smile on Wednesday. "But you have more responsibility and you have to make sure everyone is prepared and do whatever it takes to get them prepared. You have to cross all the T's. Fortunately, I've been around some good guys that really helped me out a lot."

One of those people that has helped out Brown is former head coach Bill Parcells. The "Big Tuna" coached Brown in the NFL and the Irish defensive coordinator said the two have talked recently. Brown comes from the Parcells/Bill Belichick coaching tree, a feature that helped him land the job with the Irish because of the similar background Charlie Weis has experienced. The two are on the same page and Weis is now more aware of the defensive calls being made.

Brown has the task of turning around a defense that has recently been torched in big games, especially with the deep play. Georgia Tech will be the first team to experience Notre Dame's new 3-4 personnel defense. Last year, the Irish ran a base 4-3 under Minter and held the Yellow Jackets to just 10 points in Atlanta.

This season, the formation and blitz calls will be different. Georgia Tech won't know how Brown will call a game because it'll be the first time it's occurred. Brown doesn't think it'll take too long for the Yellow Jackets to adjust and the Notre Dame defensive coordinator was highly complimentative of their personnel.

"This is a tough game because they have so much talent," Brown said. "If you look at what they did in their last bowl game, they put up a ton of points. They were able to run the ball. They were able to pass the ball. They lose (Calvin) Johnson but they have guys who are more than accomplished."

Notre Dame won't be the only team starting a quarterback lean on experience. The Yellow Jackets will rely on redshirt junior Taylor Bennett at signal caller. Bennett will be making just his third start of his collegiate career but it was his last one that has Georgia Tech fans excited. In a 38-35 loss to West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, the junior was 19-of-29 for 326 yards and three scores. The aspect of Bennett's game that has Brown impressed is the Yellow Jackets quarterback's precision.

"We're playing a real, real good quarterback," Brown said. "He has not played a lot. But when you look at him on tape, you wouldn't know that. He can throw all the balls. He reads extremely well and he gives his wide receivers an opportunity to catch the ball, which a lot of quarterbacks don't do. You look at a lot of the so-called "great" quarterbacks in college and they don't give their receivers a chance. He gives his receivers a chance."

Brown's effusive praise didn't stop with Bennett. The main cog in the Georgia Tech offense is Tashard Choice. The senior running back rumbled for an ACC-best 1,473 yards and 12 scores in 2006 and figures to be an even bigger part of the attack with Johnson's move to the professional ranks. Choice was held to 54 yards in last season's contest but saw only 14 carries. The senior ended the season with seven straight 100-yard performances and Choice will try to make it eight on Saturday.

"He does all the things good running backs do," Brown said. "He reads the holes well. He can break tackles. He can run away from guys. I think he has excellent vision and he can be physical when he needs to be. He reminds me a lot of the guys I played against and have been coaching against the past few years. When you look at him, he can hit the home run. He's a big-time tailback. He'll probably be in the running for the Heisman when it's all said and done."

Only three days remains until the new defensive look will be on display for the first time in front of a packed Notre Dame Stadium. There might be as much excitement on this side of the ball among Irish fans as there is on offense. The pressure of leading a defense is not getting to Brown at all as the minutes tick down to kickoff.

"I don't know if I'm anxious because you have a schedule that you follow," Brown said. "You have things that you have to do. Your time is always taken up with putting together scripts, practice plans and evaluations. You don't really have time to sit back and think about game time. You just prepare and go through the motions and the steps."


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