Mike Macdonald’s energy and defensive philosophy pay off early for Michigan

Not many knew what to expect when the official announcement came that Mike Macdonald would take over as defensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh’s squad in Ann Arbor. A quick Google search revealed that he had spent a lot of time in the NFL as John Harbaugh’s team with the Baltimore Ravens, over the course of a few years as an assistant at the University of Georgia.

Even with all his experience, Macdonald had never been in a position quite like the one he would occupy in Ann Arbor. Cutting your teeth as a defensive coordinator for the first time at the University of Michigan would be tough enough, but doing it in the current state of the Big Ten East division is a tall order. Macdonald’s inexperience, especially at the college level, has left many fans wondering if head coach Jim Harbaugh made the right hire for such a critical position.

There’s still plenty of football to play, but early results suggest Harbaugh made the right choice in hiring Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator. In fact, Macdonald has made improvements in several key areas in the first six weeks of the 2021 season compared to Don Brown’s last three seasons average at Ann Arbor (2018-20).

Here are the five key areas in which Macdonald’s defense in 2021 compares to Brown’s defense in 2018-2020.

1. PPG

  • Macdonald: 15.5
  • Brown: 24.86

2. Rush YPG

  • Macdonald: 119.3
  • Brown: 144.6

3. Skip YPG

  • Macdonald: 190.7
  • Brown: 194.3

4. Total YPG

  • Macdonald: 310.0
  • Brown: 349.5

5. Third Down Conversion

  • Macdonald: 34.09%
  • Brown: 37.45%

Of course, Macdonald will have to earn his money over the next six weeks of the season when it comes to the Michigan fan base. In the coming weeks, the Wolverines will meet Michigan State No.10 in East Lansing, Penn State No.7 in Happy Valley and Ohio State No.6 at their home in the big house.

The jury is still out on whether or not Mike Macdonald will make the kind of change Jim Harbaugh was looking for when he hired over the summer. The good news for Michigan fans is that they are only a few weeks away from finding out and, so far, the results are looking good.

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