Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison breaks down the Wolverine defense in Tuesday’s press conference. He notes there is a lot of competition in camp, how Gordon will step into Ryan’s role on defense, Beyer making the switch to linebacker, the improved play of Clark, and more.
Just two weeks into spring practice and the Michigan defense is displaying a healthy ‘competition’ that has the approval defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
“It’s a good spring because there is a lot of competition,” Mattison said. “A lot of young guys that were redshirted a year ago that were heavily recruited. We got some veterans that are improving. So we got a very good mixture. All of them together are working to be good as they can be. Which we always try to do here. The attitude I have been very happy with it so far, cause they come out every day and they want to try to get better. We got a long way to go. There is no question about it. But that’s why you have spring practice.”
Last week All-Big Ten linebacker Jake Ryan suffered an ACL injury that has him listed as out indefinitely. Mattison said Ryan’s injury, while unfortunate, is just a part of a football—and the team must move on.
“That’s the nature of football,” Mattision said on Ryan’s injury. “Everybody knows how much we love Jake. But you have to be ready for that at every position. You can’t go through a season (without injury)—That’s football.”
Ryan, however, will be replaced by senior Cameron Gordon in the starting lineup.
“The good news is Cam Gordon has been right there with Jake all the way through getting all the reps, improving,” Mattison said. “in fact, not because of what happened to Jake, but as we watch the cutups of last year, I made the comments to a number of coaches is maybe I got him out too fast sometimes, because as you watch the film you’re sitting in your chair and say ‘he played pretty good on that play. He did a pretty good job on that play.’ And he just continually gets better.”
With Gordon moving to outside linebacker, Mattison says he finally sees the ‘confidence’ in him playing the linebacker position after coming to Michigan as a wide receiver and safety.
“Right now, for the first time he is really getting confidence,” Mattison said on Gordon. “It was starting to happen last year. He is really getting confidence in he can kind of look in the mirror now and say ‘I am an outside linebacker.’ You know it’s not a whether I can do this. He knows he can do it. Now, he’s just got to get better and better at it.”
Now that Gordon is the starter at outside linebacker, junior Brennen Beyer made the switch from rush end to outside linebacker for depth issues.
“He’s done some very good things for only being moved back for a couple days,” Mattison said. “So will always find a way to make sure we have guys where we have to have him.
“I don’t look at moving anybody else. We really only wanted two guys right there. Then we got Lawson, who is getting some reps there, who is a good young kid that has always got some reps since last year. But we don’t need any more than that. I feel confident with Cam and with Brennan.”
“Yeah, you got (junior Frank Clark), who’s played a lot of football. People don’t realize that Frank came in here at 217-pounds. I think he is now at (274-pounds.) But Frank continues to get better. And here is another example, I think Frank in high school used to play safety. Now, he is a (rush end) and has been since he got here. He’s done a good job for us.”
Mario & Taco
“Mario Ojemudia played a lot as a freshman last year,” Mattison said. “He continues to improve. And Taco Charlton is a young man that should be at his prom that’s here in school. He almost at times when I look at him, ‘I say you’re too big to play.’ This is a young man that is 6-foot-6, 270-pounds. He’s getting valuable reps and the good thing for Taco, he gets to see two guys that are veterans that kind of know how to play it. And he gets to see them what’s right or wrong.”
His New Contract
Mattison signed a three-year contract extension through 2016 season. He explained his reason here:
“I woke up one morning and I said I felt as young as I ever felt in my life. You know I said, ‘I got to keep doing it.’ I feel great. I love it here. I love the direction that the football program is going. And my wife kind of put it really clearly to me. She said, ‘ come on, how long are you really going to play golf before you try to go kill somebody? Let’s be honest.’ I said, ‘ yeah you’re right, you’re right honey!’ I love coaching. I love being here. I feel great everyday coming in the office. When I don’t feel good coming in. And when I don’t feel good standing in front of that defense—then I’ll know it’s time.”