Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison continues to look for consistency within the 2012 version of the Wolverine defense. Through a little more than a week of camp Mattison is privy to flashes of a "Michigan defense," but hopes to see more with the season inching closer and closer.
"You can see we've got a long way to go," said Mattison. "There are a lot of guys that are trying to play Michigan defense, it's just the consistency factor that we have to improve on. We've got to get to the point where a player stacks up good play after good play, and good practice after good practice, and we're not getting that."
Although inexperience is vast along the defensive front for the Wolverines, Mattison is encouraged by the performances of two seniors—but warns the group, as a whole must improve before facing Alabama on September 1st.
"Obviously Craig Roh is a veteran, but when he's a veteran I expect him to stack up those plays every time," said Mattison. "Has he done that yet? No, not every play, or as many plays as we want him to. William Campbell is stacking up more plays this camp than he did last. Is it good enough yet? No. You can go right down the line. Jake's the same way and Brennan's the same way—every guy that's in there, that's what we're seeing right now."
The Michigan coaching staff hasn't seen very much of the freshmen yet as the newbies finish up their summer course work in Ann Arbor. However, even with such limited time to work and develop the young defensive players, it's clear, based on the gauntlet of opponents this fall, that Mattison is counting on some freshmen to step up and contribute right away.
"I'm being really honest when I say this—until we get a second unit that can do that same thing at a higher consistency you won't be able to play the schedule we play this year," said Mattison. "You have got to have a two deep of guys that you feel really strongly about, and that's what's on top of our guy's shoulders right now."
Mattison has high hopes for Jake Ryan
One of the more productive players returning in the front seven for the Michigan Wolverines is sophomore Jake Ryan. Ryan displayed a tremendous knack for being in the right place at the right time a year ago, and always appeared to come up with a big play at critical moments.
With fall camp in full swing, Ryan is continuing to build on that success under the watchful eye of Mattison.
"The sky is the limit for him," Mattison said. "I believe he's very talented, and he's gotten a lot stronger in the off-season—and I mean noticeably stronger. He's been in the same system now for two years. And now Jake has to take it one play at a time and be a guy who I can always say, "Jake is going to get it done." And he hasn't done that yet. We're counting on Jake being that player."
For Ryan, the questions marks that arose a year ago revolved around his understanding of, and execution of, the defense called. In 2012, Mattison has already seen a difference in his understanding as well as an improved awareness.
"The one thing I will say about Jake that I've been very pleased with, is that he does understand the defense well right now," said Mattison. "Jake has become a much smarter football player. Now he has to become a great technique player every play and a great physical player every play. As far as Jake knowing when I call a defense, Jake is right on it this year—and that's whats good."
With the current absence of Frank Clark and the possibility of a suspension for Alabama, Ryan will be a huge key to the Wolverines' success up front—whether it be with his hand down or standing up as an outside linebacker.
To watch the video of the interview with Mattison, click play below.