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August 21, 2013Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison sat down with the media Tuesday afternoon for the final time before game prep begins next week. Here are the highlights from his press conference:
News: Tuesday night, redshirt freshman offensive guard Kyle Kalis said that junior defensive end Frank Clark is wreaking havoc inside during certain packages as a three-technique defensive tackle.
Mattison: "We are going to make sure that an injury or anything that happens to this defense won't hamstring it. You have to know when you play here that the best four players are going to play. I don't want to get into a situation in the middle of a season where all of a sudden you have to move someone inside and he hasn't had a rep at it.
"We're doing a lot of the same things at positions in the secondary, and it's just to make sure that, as things go on in a physical season, everyone is ready to do multiple things."
Views: I believe Mattison - in an extreme case (say, senior Jibreel Black and redshirt freshman Willie Henry and Tom Strobel went down with injuries), it would be useful for a guy like Clark to have some experience inside.
But there's an ulterior motive here: the pass rush. Sophomore Mario Ojemudia and freshman Taco Charlton have really impressed the coaches with their pass-rushing ability from the rush end position. If you can get one of them and the super-athletic Clark, who has bulked up to 273 pounds this offseason, into a third-down package, it is going to create even more pressure with a four-man front.
That is the major goal for the defensive line this year. Outside linebacker Jake Ryan led the team in sacks last year, and the Wolverines blitzed the linebackers and safeties liberally all season.
If Clark and Ojemudia/Charlton can apply heat, it opens up worlds of possibility for coverage schemes downfield.
News: Mattison was asked whether defensive tackles Quinton Washington and Ondre Pipkins could play a three-technique instead of the one-technique.
Mattison: "In a four-man rush, one or two guys are one-on-one blocked. Someone has to be able to beat a guy one-on-one. That's the first thing. The second thing is, 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, some people think you just need great ends. That's not the case at all.
"You have to have good ends, but if you don't get good push up the middle, their quarterback can just step up in the pocket. In evaluating, we've seen that too many times, we have given quarterbacks open windows to make an easy throw. This year, we have worked very hard on getting your hands up to block passes Those are the steps we have to take."
Views: This ties in with the previous section about Clark. Washington and Pipkins aren't going to tally big sack numbers this season - last year, they combined for just one on the year.
But that's OK. In passing downs, that's not exactly their responsibility. If Washington and Pipkins, who both tip the scales above 300 pounds, create a pileup in the middle by demanding multiple blockers in the middle, it will free up the other three to do some serious damage.
If he takes on a center and a guard for long enough, that means the offensive line has a guard and two tackles to block three down linemen. And Mattison expects his linemen to be able to quickly and easily shed a single blocker.
News: The coaches are experimenting with senior defensive back Courtney Avery at safety in fall camp. That puts pressure on junior cornerback Raymon Taylor to be the guy opposite redshirt sophomore cornerback Blake Countess.
Mattison: "We're counting on Ray. We you have a guy who has started 10 games, you have to count on them. Guys in this defense who have started games in the past, who have worked hard in the offseason, need to take the next step. If they stay level, they're not what you're looking for."
Views: Taylor has made a lot of strides. When he was thrust into a starting role after Countess went down with an ACL injury last year, Taylor made some great plays - and some not-so-good ones.
Consistency is the name of the game, and Taylor has worked hard to become a consistent defender. He has a better understanding of where his help is, and where to position himself to take advantage of that help while blocking off avenues for the opposing receiver.
The coaches wouldn't be trying Avery out at other positions if they didn't feel comfortable with Taylor at the cornerback spot. I think he's going to have a big year. He has the athletic ability, and he has improved in the mental aspect of the position by leaps and bounds.
News: True freshman Dymonte Thomas continues to impress the coaching staff.
Mattison: "He's a big part of it. He has played safety. He's done a lot at safety, and he does a lot at nickel. Dymonte, as he did in the spring, is continuing to improve. I'm very pleased with what he's doing right now."
Views: The Wolverines are going to play a lot of nickel this season - and Thomas is a big reason why. He provides a lot of versatility at the position, and he's going to do a lot of different things: blitzing, zone coverage, run support.
If he can also help by providing depth and stability in the safety position, Thomas is going to be a huge asset in 2013.
News: Mattison mentioned redshirt freshman walk-on Ryan Glasgow as a player who is in the running to earn playing time in the three-technique defensive tackle rotation.
Mattison: "Sometimes, when you get a walk-on, he has scholarship offers at other players. When a program starts getting better and better, you'll get guys who say, 'I want to come to Michigan.' Every kid is coached exactly the same, whether he's the highest-recruited kid in the country or he's paying his own way. When they respond, it doesn't matter. The best players play."
Views: This is not a knock on Black, Henry and Strobel, who have all earned high praise for the coaching staff during this fall camp. It's a testament to Glasgow. Mattison loves a heavy rotation in the front seven. These guys are in a high-impact, high-fatigue environment every play on the field, and the more fresh - and capable - bodies, the better.
If Glasgow proves that he belongs on the field, he will get snaps.