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March 3, 2014

Pass rush will be an emphasis this spring

Michigan was dismal rushing the passer last year, finishing with only 25 sacks (64th in the country). Combine that with only eight forced fumbles (No. 102 nationally) and it's obvious why the U-M defense struggled in 2014.

The Wolverines will lose experience up front with Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington having graduated, leaving a void inside. Michigan also needs to shore up its defensive backfield (No. 66 in 2013, giving up 231.3 yards per game) and find harmony between its defensive units.

"People said, 'why is the secondary so poor?'" defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "Maybe it was that guys were blitzting or the defensive line didn't get home.

"That's a big emphasis now. We're going to pressure, but we're going to make sure whoever gets the one on ones, they're going to beat people. It comes down to technique, age, speed, strength, everything, all things that happen with maturity. Believe me, that will be emphasized in practice more - 'we're going to do this, so let's make sure we get it done and right.'"

That includes implementing an over defense vs. the under they used last year.

"So much of football today is three wides. When you go to nickel defense, it's almost always over, therefore you're not changing from regular defense of under to over whenever the situation happens," Mattison continued. "It's more of an over throughout the game and they become better at that position."

That's the goal, anyway, and they've got several more practices this spring to make headway.

Notebook

  • Splitting the secondary duties in half made sense, Mattison said. Curt Mallory has the safeties, Roy Manning the cornerbacks.

    "The way things are going, there are so many spread offenses, five receivers on the field," Mattison said. "Most teams have evolved to having two secondary coaches. You're dealing with sometimes five or six guys at one position, so it's hard for one coach to coach those guys. To do what you have to do, especially when you're young - we felt two would help develop our guys at a faster rate."

  • Freshman Jabrill Peppers will have a chance to make an early impact, Mattison said.

    "He is very talented, so we'll put him at a position where he can make the most impact," he said. "Whatever that is we'll figure that out as we get close to that time. He's so talented and versatile, so well coached in high school he could play corner, safety, nickel - there are a lot of places a very talented young man can help that team."

    Someone from the corner position could slide to safety given the numbers.

    "You hope you're three deep at every position with talented football players," he said. "Right now we're close to three deep. We've got a Delano Hill, Jarrod Wilson, Jeremy Clark and Dymonte Thomas and Brandon Watson. He's young but very talented. That's five. Your'e close to where you want to be.

    "At corner, we're three deep. In college you aren't going to be able to get more than three deep. If you do, you're not doing a great job recruiting because you're overloading one spot."

  • Mattison said there was no more sense of urgency than there was last year.

    "Not based on how the season ended," he said. "I always have a sense of urgency. You heard me say it a lot of times, I really believe this and always will - the bar was set here a long time ago how you're supposed to play. When you're a player you either are successful or not. We need to be successful, and success for us is playing Michigan defense."

  • Sophomore Thomas is "very talented" and will spend all of his time at safety.

    "We had to do it last year with him at nickel and safety. Splitting both, he never got to do all of what he had to as safety," Mattison said. "Dymonte will do one thing, safety this spring. He will learn it and is playing very fast right now."


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