The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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134 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY MICHAEL SPATH M ichigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was billed as something of a savant in 2011 after remaking the Wolverines from a pushover that ranked 110th in to- tal defense in 2010 (450.8 yards allowed per game) under Rich Rodriguez to 17th (322.2 yards surrendered per game) in Brady Hoke's first season. The 2012 campaign was another step forward (13th and 320.0 yards given up per game), but the Maize and Blue regressed last fall (41st and 371.5 yards al- lowed per game). There were plenty of reasons for this, largely stemming from a lack of experi- ence with five first-year starters and 10 key contributors in their first or second year of eligibility. Plus a weak running game that averaged 125.7 yards per contest (103rd na- tionally), and an offense that ranked 57th in the NCAA in turnovers lost (21) often put the defense in adverse situations. Mattison, however, wasn't one to make excuses, accepting the responsibility of his defense's shortcomings. He's confident U-M's 2013 season was an aberration, and its 2014 season will serve as the culmination of four years of recruiting, development and experience gained. He expects this year's defense to rank among the nation's best, and he will not tolerate anything less. The Wolverine: What do you like about your defense heading into the 2014 season? Mattison: "I like the experience of having played in big games, in close games. When you look at our roster, there are so many kids that played at a very young age. And then there's another group of guys that have played a number of years after starting out young, and now they're seniors and they're juniors. It's their time to be really, really good. It's not like the last two years where so many of the kids we threw out there were playing for the first time. "These guys that are going to be vying for playing time now are guys that know they have to play their best to start. If they don't play up to their ability then the next guy up is going to start because there is someone else with talent and experience. "Last year, we made a concerted effort to rotate guys, and it was a good plan. They couldn't go all the time — they were too young. But playing as hard as you could for a number of plays, we could get by. Guys played at a higher level, and that allowed a lot of guys to play. Now, they should be able to reach back and put their max effort DEFENSE Q&A Building A MICHIGAN DEFENSE Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison Is Confident His Unit Will Fulfill His High Expectations In 2013, Mattison's crew ranked No. 41 in the country in total defense (371.5 yards allowed per game) and No. 66 nationally in scoring defense (26.8 points surrendered per game). PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN 134-136.Defense Q&A.indd 134 6/19/14 2:53 PM

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