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Posted on Tue, Jul 28, 2009 : 6:45 p.m.

No longer a safety, Stevie Brown's ready for linebacker role

By Dave Birkett

CHICAGO - Stevie Brown knew something was up the first time he met new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.

A few days after Robinson was hired in January, Brown was running sprints and doing agility work in Michigan’s indoor football facility when Robinson approached and asked his name.

“I was like, ‘Steve Brown,’” Brown recalled. “He’s like, ‘What position do you play?’ I was like, ‘Safety.’ He’s like, ‘D-line?’ And I was just like, ‘Nah, safety.’ And he said, ‘Or something else.’ He’s just like, ‘We need to talk.’”

When they got around to talking again, Robinson told Brown to bid adieu to the position he played most of his life.

No longer a safety, Brown is Michigan’s new starting strong-side linebacker - and he’s OK with the change.

“I feel comfortable with the move,” Brown said Tuesday at Big Ten media day. “At first it was different for me, but now it’s fine and it’s just - I just want to play. That’s how I look at it, I just want to play.”

One of the goats of Michigan’s stunning loss to Appalachian State two years ago, Brown started all 12 games in the Wolverines secondary last season. He had his share of coverage breakdowns, but intercepted two passes, recovered one fumble and proved to be one of Michigan's few defensive playmakers.

Robinson took note of Brown’s physical nature and, despite his size (6-foot, 209 pounds), figured he’d fit well in a hybrid outside linebacker role.

“We’ll take care of him,” Robinson said. “He’s not going to be where he’s just going to get crushed. We’ll take advantage of his strengths.”

That means using Brown to cover slot receivers and tight ends, and giving him a more prominent role in blitz packages.

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said adding Brown’s speed to the front seven should help the Wolverines better defend spread offenses, and Robinson said he’ll use Brown like he did Carnell Lake at UCLA two decades ago.

“I watched him on some film, I thought this guy fits kind of exactly with what we’ve done,” Robinson said. “So it’s not like we’ve invented something. People seem to be trying to make out something, but Stevie’s going to play conventional football for us.”

Brown, whose only recollection of Lake, a Pro Bowl safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers who played outside linebacker for the Bruins, is from video games, said he hopes to emulate two other defensive backs with his move.

“Me being from Indiana, I get to see the Colts all the time and Bob Sanders,” Brown said. “He plays like five yards from the line of scrimmage all the time, but he’s still considered one of the greatest safeties. Troy Polamalu, he’s the same way.

“I don’t mind this at all because it gets to show that I’m versatile. I can be up on the line, I can take on 300-pound linemen, but then I can also cover a slot receiver one on one and they’ve seen me drop back in the deep coverage. It’s just going to show my versatility on a lot of things I can do.”

Dave Birkett covers the University of Michigan football team for He can be reached at


Man in the Mirror

Thu, Jul 30, 2009 : 10:56 a.m.

I wish Stevie the best this year in his new position. GO GET 'EM STEVE!


Wed, Jul 29, 2009 : 7:11 p.m.

If Brown can play a LB spot better than the other starters, I say play him. I'm still not sure why he has problems with pass coverage? I heard he's great during all the practices. May be it comes down to confidence...just afraid to get burned. He just doesn't seem that aggressive and will play off receivers.


Wed, Jul 29, 2009 : 8:56 a.m.

I think Stevie could have a good year. I'm thinking of how bad Jeremy LaSeuer and Leon Hall were until they finally put it all together late in their careers.


Wed, Jul 29, 2009 : 7:46 a.m.

I hope Brown fits into this role and is able to finally find redemption at UM. I would hate to forever see him as "the oft-maligned Stevie Brown," as I do now. At any rate, if he makes a mistake in the hybrid role, it won't be an automatic six points nearly as often.


Wed, Jul 29, 2009 : 6:13 a.m.

Stevie's a darn good player. Michigan will win the Big Ten this year. Go Blue!!