Mike Macdonald's Energy, Defensive Philosophy Paying Off Early For Michigan

He was arguably the biggest off-season hire by Jim Harbaugh and, so far, the results look good.
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Few knew what to expect when the official announcement came that Mike Macdonald would be taking over as defensive coordinator as part of Jim Harbaugh's staff in Ann Arbor. A quick google search revealed that he had spent a considerable amount of time in the NFL as part of John Harbaugh's staff with the Baltimore Ravens, along a handful of years serving as an assistant at the University of Georgia.

mike macdonald

Even with all of his experience, Macdonald had never quite been in a position quite like the one he would be taking on in Ann Arbor. Cutting your teeth as a first-time defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan would be challenging enough as-is, but doing so within the current state of the Big Ten East division is a very tall order. Macdonald's lack of experience, particularly at the collegiate level, left many within the fan base wondering if head coach Jim Harbaugh had made the right hire for such a critical position.

There's plenty of football left to be played, but the early results suggest that Harbaugh did make the right move in hiring Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator. In fact, Macdonald has made improvements in several key areas through the first six weeks of the 2021 season when compared to the average result from Don Brown's final three seasons in Ann Arbor (2018-20).

Here are the five key areas in which Macdonald's 2021 defense stacks up against Brown's defense from 2018-20.

1. PPG

  • Macdonald: 15.5
  • Brown: 24.86

2. Rush YPG

  • Macdonald: 119.3
  • Brown: 144.6

3. Pass YPG

  • Macdonald: 190.7
  • Brown: 194.3

4. Total YPG

  • Macdonald: 310.0
  • Brown: 349.5

5. Third Down Conversion

  • Macdonald: 34.09 percent
  • Brown: 37.45 percent

Of course, Macdonald will need to earn his money over the next six weeks of the season as far as the Michigan fan base is concerned. In the coming weeks, the Wolverines will meet up with No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, No. 7 Penn State in Happy Valley and No. 6 Ohio State at home in the Big House.

The jury is still out on whether or not Mike Macdonald will bring the type of change Jim Harbaugh was looking for when he made the hire over the summer. The good news for Michigan fans is that they're just a few short weeks from finding out and, so far, the results look good.