Brian Smith was officially named Rice’s new defensive coordinator on December 12, 201 after spending the previous two years as the defensive backs coach at Michigan. In his two seasons at Michigan, Smith’s defensive backs were the part of an overall defensive unit that ranked among the nation’s best each year.
Entering the bowl season after the 2017 season, Michigan ranked third in the country in total defense (288.8 yards per game) despite losing 10 starters from the 2016 team that ranked fist and saw seven of the 10 starters selected in the NFL Draft.
The Wolverines led the nation in pass defense, surrendering just 142.7 yards per game through the air. Both of the safeties Smith worked with in 2017 (Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus) were named All-Big Ten honorable mention by both the coaches and media.
In his first year working with the U-M safeties, Smith coached Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas to career-best seasons which culminated in All-Big Ten honors for both players. Thomas had a career-best 70 stops, with 10 pass breakups, one fumble recovery and his first career interception, while Hill contributed a career-best 52 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, adding six pass breakups and three interceptions.
As a whole, the secondary was part of an elite defensive unit which led or ranked second in the NCAA in seven defensive categories, including pass defense, pass efficiency defense, first and third down conversions allowed and scoring defense. Nearly 45 percent (44.5; 5.62 per game) of opponents' possessions ended in a three-and-outs, and U-M allowed just 28 red zone trips all season, fewest in the nation. Michigan's defensive backs defended 68 passes, with 13 interceptions and three pick-sixes, including one from Hill and the unit allowed only 11 passing touchdowns all season. The defense led the Big Ten in eight categories, including total scoring defense, pass defense, pass defense efficiency, third down conversions allowed and red zone defense, permitting a 43.6 completion percentage on average for opposing quarterbacks.
Smith joined Michigan's staff after spending the 2015 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he served as the team's assistant linebackers coach.
Prior to joining the Eagles staff, his last pro stop before U-M, Smith spent eight seasons with the New York Jets (2007-14). He worked with the defensive secondary for the Jets during the 2013-14 seasons, mentoring first-round pick Dee Milliner, who earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors in December. Smith started his tenure with the Jets as a quality control/offensive coach in 2007 and held various coaching positions with the franchise.
Smith began his coaching career at his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, where he worked with current Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. Smith coached the outside linebackers in 2004 and switched over to the offensive side of the ball in 2005, mentoring the wide receivers and coaching New York Giants All-Pro and Pro Bowl receiver Victor Cruz.
Smith was a four-year letterman and three-year starter in the secondary for the Minutemen and was a member of the program's 1998 NCAA Division I-AA national championship team. Smith registered 306 stops, 23 tackles for loss, 23 pass breakups and eight interceptions during his career. He earned All-Atlantic 10, All-New England and All-ECAC honors as a senior in 2000.
Smith graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Massachusetts in 2001. A native of Wilmington, Delaware, Smith was a three-time Atlantic 10 and CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and was twice named to the Division I-AA Athletic Directors Academic All-Star team.