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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

'Pride' back at Michigan

Mattison vows to return defensive passion, power

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Greg Mattison Greg Mattison
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ANN ARBOR -- After he finished tinkering with the game plan for the Baltimore Ravens' next day opponent, Greg Mattison would crawl into the bed in his hotel room and flip on the TV to a college football contest.

On many Saturdays, the Michigan game was being broadcast. For Mattison, who is in his second stint as the Wolverines' defensive coordinator, it wasn't easy to watch.

"Anytime places you've been aren't having success, it bothers you," Mattison said.

Now he has a chance to do something about it.

Mattison met with the media Tuesday after the Wolverines' second practice of the preseason and vowed to help turn Michigan into a team "that Bo [Schembechler], coach [Gary] Moeller and coach [Lloyd Carr] are going to be proud of again."

What that means to Mattison, who spent the past three years in the NFL working with the Ravens, is his unit will be staunch against the run, play with great passion and physicality, and above all else, limit the big plays opponents used to brutalize Michigan the past three years under former coach Rich Rodriguez.

"Our biggest goal, and our biggest purpose with this defense, is to not give up the really big plays," Mattison said.

Mattison is being paid $750,000 annually to ensure positive changes are made on a defense that exhibited few positives the past three years. After Mattison was hired in January by head coach Brady Hoke, he watched three of Michigan's games from the 2010 season --- a win over Notre Dame, and losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin. Mattison wanted to see how the team he was inheriting stacked up against teams with a reputation of being physical. Suffice it to say Mattison wasn't impressed by the guys he is now coaching.

In spring practices, Mattison installed a 4-3 system that was a welcomed departure from the 3-5 scheme used by previous coordinator Greg Robinson. Based on the spring game, Mattison's philosophy consists of moving players around --- such as the many times tackle Mike Martin lined up outside as a pass rusher -- and making the quarterback's afternoon uncomfortable.

Michigan's Jibreel Black, left, Will Heininger, and Mike Martin will be on the move on defense. Michigan's Jibreel Black, left, Will Heininger, and Mike Martin will be on the move on defense.
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"The NFL experience gave me a whole new perspective on pressuring the quarterback," Mattison said. "In that league, a quarterback, if you give him time, will shred you. He's going to tear you apart. It doesn't matter if he's an average quarterback or a great quarterback."

In coaching the Ravens, Mattison was able to build game plans around some of the best players in the league. He could rely on linebacker Ray Lewis to stuff the run, safety Ed Reed to cover the deep part of the field, and end Terrell Suggs to apply heat to the passer.

At Michigan, he has been handed the keys to a unit that gave up an average of 45 points over the final three games of the 2010 season -- losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Mississippi State. At Tuesday's practice, safeties Jordan Kovacs and Marvin Johnson worked with the first-team defense, as did linemen Martin, Roh, and Ryan Van Bergen. Jibreel Black, a sophomore end, needs to display more day-to-day consistency, Mattison said.

Cornerbacks Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd are returning from injury and have not locked up starting spots.

As for the newcomers, Mattison is impressed with the speed of linebacker Frank Clark, and end Brennen Beyer.

"We have miles and miles to go to be where we want to be," Mattison said. "But as far as their effort and as far as their preparation right now, I'm very, very excited."

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



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