The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 135 out there for five, six, seven plays in a row. There are a number of guys that should be able to play until they can't go hard any- more. Not, 'Give me three hard plays' and I'm determining that that's enough. Now, they're determining when they can't go as hard as we need them to. "And the great news is the guy that is standing on the sidelines that may be frus- trated and asking, 'When is it my turn?' — he's going to be experienced and capable of stepping right in when he needs to. And he's going to know that if he wants to play, he'll have to practice and compete like his job depends on it, because it will. Good teams have that. "We have great competition at every po- sition. And this spring it was that way. We handed out a new depth chart every practice. The neat thing in interviewing our kids after the spring was that they all knew, and know, what is expected, for the position and for the person. It wasn't like there was a lot of pout- ing and complaining. "Sometimes you have to sit a kid down and tell him, 'You have a chance if you do this and this and this.' But that never came up. They fully understand the guy next to them is just as talented and wants this just as badly, and they have to show us something." The Wolverine: Do you have any concerns going into next year? Mattison: "There's no question that you can't have a great defense if you give up big plays, and that was our M.O. the first two years. We didn't give up those big plays, but then last year that hurt us. "I believe our experience and talent level will eliminate that, and I think our lack of experience a year ago probably led to some big plays. "In the Ohio game, I just know in my heart if [junior safety] Jarrod Wilson would have played, we would have won. But I couldn't play him. I didn't think he would be able to tackle with a big club on his hand because of an injury. "So his replacement is a kid with a lot less experience that gives up three big plays, and that's not me pointing the finger, but a fact of what happened. "In some situations, we had to play better at positions and we didn't. As coaches we had to adjust and move some guys around, and in the spring, we played better. And a lot of that is on coaches identifying talent and developing that, but you can't coach experi- ence, and at times that really hurt us. "Now, we have experience, so that shouldn't and can't be an issue." The Wolverine: How did the competition manifest itself in the spring and how will it continue to do so this fall? Mattison: "We made a great point to this team that we won't have time to worry about off-field things. I'm talking about academics and those kind of things. If you don't com- mit yourself in the classroom, then we're going to go with the guy that is. "There were some guys that were more talented that could have been playing in the spring but needed to be taught a lesson, and what we saw was that the guy that got the opportunity seized that chance. "There's no complaining about that be- cause they could see with their own eyes how well a teammate was playing. The great thing about a team is the evidence is right in front of them. If a guy is upset about his playing time, he's upset with himself, because there are no pointing fingers when your teammates are doing what needs to be done. "When you have guys competing every practice that have started before and when they see we're being completely fair you send a pretty good message. Grades go up after we see the practice tape, and our kids see that. They learn what we're looking for, and they know if they should be playing or not. There is no room for arguing because they understand what it will take to be the guy we go with." The Wolverine: How confident are you that this defense will be on par with the unit you coached in 2011? Mattison: "That's my goal, and I think they have the ability to do that. I will be very disappointed if this isn't a Michigan-type defense." The Wolverine: What does a Michigan- type defense look like? Mattison: "I don't ever compare us to someone else in the conference. I compare us to the great defenses that were here be- fore. That's the real plus about coaching at Michigan, having been here before I've seen and been a part of really good defenses. That's the bar. "It's cut and dry. When you give up big plays, that's not a Michigan defense. When you're not physical up front, that's not a Michigan defense. When you don't have great linebacker play or great blitzing tech- nique — all those things that make up a great defense —then you can't be a great defense. "I think these players understand that now. Sometimes playing when you're not ready and it's pointed out that that's not good enough, that's how you learn. Now we have to move forward and do it." The Wolverine: Does this year's defense need to have a dynamic player to build the unit around, and do you have that player? Mattison: "You have some players that can be that, but they have to play like that. I was here in 1994, and you knew [corner- back] Ty Law was going to make a play. You knew [cornerback] Charles Woodson was going to make a play, but the thing that stood out to me more was you saw [defen- sive tackle] Will Carr play so well against Ohio State and that allowed [linebacker] Jar- rett Irons to have a great game. No one really talked about [defensive end] Glen Steele, but you knew he was always going to do his job. And that's what you have on a great defense. "You can go through the list of great de- fenses at Michigan, and it is never about one player. There might be one guy that gets more attention and maybe is the guy that you remember making the big plays, but there were 10 other guys doing their job that al- lowed for someone like Charles Woodson to be the player he was." The Wolverine: What is your approach to being more aggressive in man-to-man coverage this season and in your blitzing packages? Mattison: "I feel a lot more confident in our ability to execute both because our kids are on the same page now. In the past, if we did blitz sometimes our corners didn't cover well, and it looked like a bad blitz. And sometimes we did cover well but our blitzers didn't get home, and again it looked like, and was, a bad blitz. "The linebackers and defensive linemen and the corners all understand now. We told them we're going to play more aggressive. That means, 'You corners have to be more physical.' They love that. That's how they like to play. And when they're getting it done, and that linebacker isn't getting to the quarterback, that's not acceptable. "It goes hand in hand. We're not going to blitz more if we can't cover, and we're not going to play tight man coverage if our "We have great competition at every position. And this spring it was that way. We handed out a new depth chart every practice. The neat thing in interviewing our kids after the spring was that they all knew, and know, what is expected, for the position and for the person." MATTISON 134-136.Defense Q&A.indd 135 6/19/14 2:53 PM

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