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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2011

Wolverines want to be 'bullies'

Toughness on defensive side important to Hoke's new staff

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR -- Safety Ed Reed was a film room junkie, often studying as much game tape as his coaches.

Reed is a seven-time NFL Pro Bowl choice and a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ray Lewis, perhaps the best linebacker ever, refused to sit out practice drills even though he was 35 years old and sore.

Lewis too is destined for Canton.

These are the types of players new Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison worked with the past two years in Baltimore. Tough guys, accomplished, and meticulous in their preparation. It's a formula that also works in college football.

"That's what we gotta work to, that's what it's gotta be," said Mattison, who is being paid $750,000 annually to end the Wolverines' three-year run of futility on defense.

New head coach Brady Hoke and his staff met with members of the press Wednesday afternoon at Schembechler Hall to provide an update on the team.

Spring practices begin March 19, and Will Campbell's brief stint on offense is over. Hoke said "not really" in response to any players having left the program, and nose tackle Mike Martin had a spectacular showing recently in the Wolverines weight room.

Beyond that, the message was pretty simple -- time to get tough.

"We've got to do a good job of teaching football," Hoke said. "The fundamentals, the techniques, the effort we want to play with. The toughness we want to play with. Those are the things we'll be looking for."

Mattison expressed the same thought more succinctly when he said, "we want a team of bullies."

Campbell, a 300-pound junior, hasn't lived up to enormous pre-college hype, but he'll start with a clean slate under Hoke and Mattison.

His trial at offensive guard having lasted half a season, Campbell will return to defense to start the spring, and potentially could be a key contributor in Mattison's 4-3 defense. Also, lineman Quinton Washington will remain on defense after a mid-year switch, Mattison said.

An improved Campbell lined up next to Martin, flanked by ends Craig Roh, and Ryan Van Bergen could be the starting line.

Hoke and his assistants insist there's "no entitlement" in the program and that there will be no preconceived judgements on individual players heading into the spring.

"I don't know anything more than when I fist got here," defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said.

Montgomery called Martin "a great looking kid" and told a story confirming all other stories of Martin being an animal in the weight room.

At the NFL Combine, a prospect is measured --among other things -- on how many times he can bench press 225 pounds.

Martin gave it a shot recently "and he blew it out of the water," Montgomery said.

After adding 25 pounds to each side, Martin recorded 28 repetitions at 275 pounds.

At the recent Combine, Oregon State's Stephen Paea set a record with 49 reps at 225 pounds. Montgomery didn't say how many Martin did at that weight.

"Most definitely excited about working with his talent," Montgomery said.

At linebacker, position coach Mark Smith said "it's open season" for 12 guys fighting for three starting positions.

Kenny Demens played well after becoming starting middle linebacker midway through last season, and has impressed Smith with his work ethic and leadership.

"Guys gravitate toward him," Smith said.

The secondary will sort itself out in time, but one thing for sure is senior Troy Woolfolk will be used at cornerback initially.

Mattison was unsure if Woolfolk, coming back from injury, will participate in spring practice. If he does, it will be at corner, and not safety where he was before.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160



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