ANN ARBOR—Fresh off Michigan’s first full team scrimmage Saturday night at the big house, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison walked back up the tunnel with mixed feelings about the Wolverine’s performance.
“I think there were some good things,” Mattison said Wednesday. “I think we started off doing some good things in the different situations that Brady put us in -- the black zone coming out, moving the ball. And then we had a kicking break and we did a lot of the kicking and I wasn’t really happy with the way we came back.
“I think when you’re a young team, all those things have got to be addressed. You can’t assume -- a veteran team would know, ok let’s turn it up guys, here’s the switch coming out -- and you can see they’re a young team and they do a couple things good at times and then all of the sudden you’ve got to make sure they’re hungry.”
After unexpectedly losing Blake Countess to injury in the season opener in 2012, Mattison is using fall camp to ensure his defense will be ready if anything should go awry in 2013. The move of Courtney Avery to safety, as well as true freshman Dymonte Thomas, who is seeing time at safety and nickel this fall, serve as the example of versatility Mattison hopes his defense can have.
“We’re going to make sure that an injury or anything that happens to this defense, that you aren’t hamstrung,” Mattison said. “You have to know when you play here, the best four players or the best three players if it’s a three man front or whatever, are going to be in there.
“So, I don’t want to get into a situation in the middle of the season where all of the sudden boy I’m going to move you inside there and he hasn’t had a rep at it. I’m trying to look ahead to saying, ok let’s move this piece that way, this piece that way and that’s what we’re doing.”
Junior cornerback Raymon Taylor, the true beneficiary of Countess’ season ending injury last season, is firmly entrenching himself at one of the spots with the pressure to perform on the rise.
“We’re counting on Ray,” Mattison said. “When you’ve started 10 games, or nine games, you’ve got to count on them. Guys in this defense that have started games here in the past, that have worked hard in the off-season, need to be the next step.
“If they stay level, if they stay equal then they aren’t what you’re looking for. They need to take the next step.”
Mattison continues to shuffle around players on the defensive line as well, including the addition of reps inside at the three-technique for defensive end Frank Clark. For the Wolverines, the reasoning is two-fold.
“In a four man front, one or two guys are one on one blocked,” Mattison said. “Somebody has got to be able to beat a guy one on one. That’s the first thing.
“The second thing, when we did get pressure on the outside last year, we didn’t get push up the middle. To be a good pass rushing team, a lot of people think, well, it’s because you have great ends. That’s not the case at all. You’ve got to have good ends but if you don’t get good push up the middle those ends, the quarterback just steps up and that’s what he see’s.
“Too many times in evaluating in the past, we’ve given open windows for the quarterback to make an easy throw where as, this spring we worked very hard on getting your hands up and we’ve blocked a lot of passes, a lot more than we have in the past.”
To watch video of Mattison discussing the defense, press play below.