How good can they be?
"We're going to find out," Mattison said. "I do feel like we have guys that run well for their size. This is a young, young defense as everybody knows. This defense must play extremely hard on every play. It can't be a defense that's gonna say, ‘OK, I'm going to take this play off.'
"… I think we can run and keep the ball on inside and front – it can be exciting to watch them. You know? And that's our goal. That's our goal to see if they are what we thought we are."
Michigan will put its defense to the test this Saturday, when they play host to Central Michigan.
"Well, it about time to start isn't it?" Mattison said. "We're excited about it. And can't wait to see what this defense plays like. Excited about how they prepared, how they're working and now we have to get that first game."
Replacing a Captain
Newly named captain and senior safety Courtney Avery is out after having arthroscopic knee surgery Sunday, and is expected to miss two weeks of action.
"He's a veteran. He's a captain. I look at it positively – thank goodness it's not something that lasts a whole year," Mattison said. "Thank goodness he's going to back. There is no question he's always been a guy you could count on. Now somebody has to step up. And that's always been the case here and you know that."
Mattison said it's an open competition to replace Avery in the lineup and the two-deep. He mentioned Jared Wilson, Josh Furman, Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas as possible starters against Central Michigan.
"All those guys have gotten reps and have been throughout camp," Mattison said. "And now it's just how they finish out this week and decide who will be the two guys."
However, Mattison made it clear he doesn't want a rotation at safety or any defensive back position.
"That's a position that you don't like to rotate," Mattison said. "That's a position where that and the corner position you want to keep continuity back there. Because they all work so closely together."
When Avery comes back from his injury, Mattison said there is no guarantees who be starting at safety.
"If one guys is playing better than the other guy – he's going to be in there," Mattison said. "That's always the way it's been here."
Rotating Defensive Front
"I think three deep at those positions have earned the right. As of today. And they have gotten all the reps right on through, rolling through, as of today … It's never four defensive lineman rotating every three plays. It's rotating, but some are different, five plays, some are six plays, some are four plays; that kind of thing.
"We did this at Florida. And I believe in that year we had first string guys and I think five of them were drafted. They all earned the right, and that's what it was. And they tagged themselves out … It's never maybe this many, but that's a positive.
"It's a positive that these guys seem to be all so even and how they are preparing and how they are practicing."