Clinic Items: Greg Mattison Comment Count

Brian February 15th, 2012 at 3:07 PM


So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.

Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.

I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.


Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.

His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)

On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.

There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.

Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.

Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."

At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:

The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:

And that led to a field goal.

Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.

Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.

In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."

Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.

The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."

*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]

Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.

Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.

Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.


Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.

When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."

This goes here.

Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."

Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:

You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.

But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]

So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.


4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?

Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.

4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:

  • Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
  • SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
  • Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
  • Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
  • Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.

Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.

The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."

Player Notes

Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."

brennen-beyer-minnesotaBrennen Beyer. Beyer was talked up like a future star. Reportedly up to 250 pounds and will be given an opportunity to win the WDE job in the spring.

Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.

Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.

JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."

Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."

Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…

Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.

Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.

Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."

Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.



February 15th, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

Great, great stuff, Brian.

However, I have to call shenanigans on Mattison saying that they won't flip if the other team motions its tight ends.  Michigan was still flipping its personnel at times in the Virginia Tech game.


February 15th, 2012 at 3:29 PM ^

Ok, I'll bite- what in the name of Mattison's glorious grizzled face is "pirate technique"? I would love to recognize when we are doing this. The fun we would have with that on liveblogs speaks for itself.


February 15th, 2012 at 3:40 PM ^

I have such a man-crush on Mattison it's ridiculous.  I so love that he has our defense actually PLAYING DEFENSE and attacking other teams with a plan.  As much as I loved RR's offense the fact our defense had the worst technique Mattison has ever seen surprises me not.  And I have to believe that year II under coach Mattison will be even better as players start to react instinctively due to the reps they had in the system.



February 15th, 2012 at 3:46 PM ^

He is truly a great coach.  I love the way Michigan played defense this year, even when they got burned.  If he's going to go down, at least he's going to go down swinging.  The mentality behind the defensive playcalling is 180 degrees from where it was under Greg Robinson.


February 15th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

with Rich and his offense.  It's like defense porn to me. I love me some defense, and his aggressive, take no prisoners, no matter what thing is something I've been longing for since Mattison's defense deteriorated after he left behind a great defense here the first time.  If he gets it back to close to where it was before (Woodson's don't grow on trees), I think the younger fans are in for a treat.  Because while there IS excitment in offense, big plays, scoring, no me, there's just a different electricity at that Stadium when you know you have a defense that is going to go out there and rip some heads off. And when they do, that's when a crowd explodes. I have full faith he can do it too. It's going to be fun.

Ty Butterfield

February 15th, 2012 at 3:59 PM ^

I agree with your comment about electricity in the stadium when you know the defense is going to wreak havoc. My family has had season tickets since 1995 and I was lucky enough to see every home game in 1997 as well as the Rose Bowl. People went crazy for the defense in 1997. It was awesome. As the season progressed I looked forward to watching the defense more then the offense. Everyone wanted to see if Woodson would do something amazing or if the defensive line would rip the opposing quarterback apart. It was tremendous.


February 15th, 2012 at 4:04 PM ^

I'd rather win 17-0 and see the other team's 3rd string QB under center and nervously staring at Alan Branch.  I love seeing the HD picture zoom in and the expression on the QB's face clearly is "Shit, I'm a dead man."  

Winning 70 to 63 isn't fun, because when its halftime and the score is 42-42 the entire half was a meaningless, except in proving both defenses sucked.  When you're up 7-0 and the other team has negative yards rushing (thanks to sacks) there is a certain pleasure that comes with knowning Woodley still has 30 more minutes to work his way down the QB depth chart.  

Winning 70-0 is also awesome, but I'll take 17-0 over 70 to 63 anyday. 

Maize and Blue…

February 15th, 2012 at 5:59 PM ^

instead of your D. If your D has given up negative yards rushing and your O only has 7 points that's the case and I'm probably falling asleep like the Bama/LSU game last year.

Since a 42 to 42 half is meaningless (your words) then a low scoring tie at half must also be meaningless and prove both O's suck. I want a team that can compete for a MNC I don't care if that means winning every game 49-42.  Personally, I'd rather be Oregon or USC than Bama or LSU.


February 15th, 2012 at 9:59 PM ^

And the third hasn't won a National Title.

(USC ran an offense that was functionally the same as Lloyd's, just with hellacious talent. And even we could slow them down a little. What we had no prayer of stopping was their SEC speed defensively line, blowing by our linemen, and LB's as fast as our running backs. You can like offense, but if you really like winning, you better like defense too).


February 15th, 2012 at 4:30 PM ^

CRex mentioned it. Penn State 2006. I believe Brian's post on the game touched on how not all 7 point leads are equal. I love defense as well, I'm a hockey goalie, Chicago fan (85 Bears D... yeah, we've had some good D's) and there is nothing better than denying someone from reaching their goals.

PSU KNEW they would not score more on that D. They had run out of options, they were done. There's nothing better than a defense that destroys the other team's will.

Benoit Balls

February 15th, 2012 at 3:45 PM ^

but, does this regime make use of the dong forest?

Thanks for hauling your arse out of bed extra early to get us the goods, Fearless Leader. Wait til Mrs. Cook talks you into kids, 7AM will feel like noon.


February 15th, 2012 at 3:49 PM ^

I kinda wanted to go to see the MSU coaches speak just to see if they said anything stupid about somebody.

I have to say, I haven't felt so secure with the program since before THE HORROR. These guys get it.  It just on a daily basis washes a glow of serenity over me, even knowing that there will be some potholes along the way (there always are), that good times are ahead.

And boy, JT Floyd, how far we've come.



February 15th, 2012 at 4:42 PM ^

I'm going to take some heat for this, but I fail to see how J.T. Floyd has improved in any significant way.  He had 66 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and 1 interception in 2010 (when he missed a good chunk of the season with his ankle injury).  In 2011 he had 48 tackles, 8 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions when he played the entire season.  He made a decent play here or there in both seasons, but he wasn't HORRIBLE either year and he wasn't GREAT either year.  He's been just another guy both seasons, in my opinion.


February 15th, 2012 at 4:57 PM ^

just comparing tackles from '10 to '11 doesn't tell the whole story. Teams avoided going to his side last season. I'm not comparing him to Woodson, I'm not comparing him to Woodson, I'm not comparing him to Woodson, .... BUT ... Woodson had 63 tackles in '96 and only 44 tackles in '97. When you've got a lock down corner, the lack of tackles becomes apparent. The amazing thing about Woodson is that he still managed to get 8 INTs in '97 even though no one in their right mind would throw at him.


February 15th, 2012 at 5:07 PM ^

The only team I saw avoiding him last season was Virginia Tech.  And they did have some success going after Countess, so I'm not sure that it was "let's avoid this guy" as much as it was "this kid's a freshman so let's test him."

I'm not just comparing tackles.  Tackles for a corner are iffy for lots of reasons (scheme, how many short passes you're allowing to be completed, etc.).  But he played 8 games in 2010, IIRC, and 13 in 2011.  Seeing a jump from 1 interception to 2 and from 4 pass breakups to 8 when he had an additional 5 games to accrue those additional statistics isn't exactly telling.  I could see if he jumped from 1 INT to 4 or 5, or from 4 pass breakups to 12.

I think it's also important to note the scheme change (standard cover 3 in 2010) and the defensive line improvement.  A good defensive line can cover up for a weak secondary, and Martin/Van Bergen/Ryan offered a pass rush that we hadn't seen in a few years.


February 15th, 2012 at 4:59 PM ^

I don't want to BEGIN arguing the finer points of the game with you as that would make me a lot like one of Tyson's early opponents, but.... my highly untrained impression of JT in 2010 was that he was way off of his guy a significant amount of time.  Seems a lot of those tackles came after his guy pulled down a 15 yard pass....Am I anywhere near right or should try laying off the beer when I watch the games?


February 15th, 2012 at 5:02 PM ^

No, you're absolutely right.  But I've always assumed that laying off the receiver was a Tony Gibson/Rich Rodriguez coaching point, since it happened with both Shafer and Greg Robinson.  Every corner did that in Rodriguez's three years.  So the fact that Floyd was playing up at the LOS frequently seems to be more of a coaching scheme/philosophy thing.


February 15th, 2012 at 4:59 PM ^

but it appeared his improvement did not come in numbers, but in the fact that he was in the right spot way more often.  I htink his numbers may have gone down becuase he was targetted less than last year.  It felt like as the year went on, Countess was targetted much more.  This is where a comparison of Brian's UFR's might come in handy to somewhat quantify his improvement.

Of course, increased line play also played a factor as well to the secondaries improvement.


February 15th, 2012 at 5:12 PM ^

Nebraska and Ohio State both made big plays against Floyd.  I didn't really see a team go hard after Countess until Virginia Tech.

I agree about the defensive line.

Was he in the right spot more often...or was this coaching staff just telling him to be in a better spot?  I think Floyd was in the right spot a lot last year, too.  It's just that the scheme/coaching had him playing way off the LOS and, therefore, he wasn't able to make any plays on short throws.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, Are people attributing Floyd's improvement to him getting faster/smart/more physical, or are they attributing his improvement to improved defensive scheming?  The latter is certainly true - the defensive coaches were better this season than last.  But I didn't see a big difference in Floyd's play.

Blue in Yarmouth

February 16th, 2012 at 3:13 PM ^

I actually fell out of my chair I laughed so hard at this post! That was a sweet retort!


I agree with Magnus though. I think he improved a bit, but not substantially IMHE. I think the scheme allowed him to look a lot better than the previous one did, but I'll take modest improvement over what we say previously any day. 


February 15th, 2012 at 5:13 PM ^

you watched every game both seasons im sure. In 2010 some teams didnt even bother throwing on us because they didn't have to. This year Floyd was basically covering the other teams #1 the entire year and did ok. Our run defense was also better forcing a few teams to throw more often. 

He still is not some shut down corner or anything but just watching his play year to year, I have definatly seen a significant improvement.

Blue Durham

February 15th, 2012 at 6:18 PM ^

The difference is that the defense was always on the field in 2010 as opposed to 2011.

number of passes against: 409
Total plays against: 963
percentage of passing plays: 42.5%

number of passes against: 374
total plays against: 803
percentage of passing plays: 46.6%

Your stats for Floyd individually are also equally affected. The defense faced 160/963 or almost 17% fewer plays. Fewer opportunities for tackles, PBUs and INTs.

So if Floyd saw the field at the same rate in both seasons and, as you made the case that had essentially the same raw stats for tackles, etc., then I'd argue that he had a 17% better year last year.


February 15th, 2012 at 6:30 PM ^

Your stats don't make any sense.

Floyd played in 8 games last year, a season in which Michigan faced 409 passes over the entire season (including the 5 in which Floyd didn't play).

Floyd played in 13 games in 2011, a season in which Michigan faced 374 passes.

Unless Michigan faced just 35 passes in the 5 games Floyd missed (which I know isn't the case, even without looking it up), then your statistics need to be adjusted.

I don't know how many times Floyd was targeted each year, so I can't tell you how successful teams were when throwing against him.

Either way, I appreciate your attempt at trying to support your argument with statistics.  Unfortunately, they're the wrong statistics.


February 15th, 2012 at 7:43 PM ^

You and I have different interpretations of "more often" then.  When I think "more often," I think the number of passing plays.  Michigan faced more throws in 2011 than 2010.  Passing plays are obviously going to test Floyd more.  So when do you think he faced more throws - in 2010 when he missed 5 games or in 2011 when opponents threw more AND he played all 13 games?  Methinks you're trying to justify your poor argument.

And J.T. Floyd clearly didn't see the field at the same rate both seasons.  That was established in my previous post.  So using that hypothetical when you [should] know it's factually incorrect just seems kind of pointless.


February 15th, 2012 at 6:22 PM ^

Agreed Magnus, and I don't even think stats does a good enough job illustrating it.  You can tell when closely watching coverage he's been a fairly average corner.  I'll take it and I appreciate what he's done, especially against Illinois, but I think he's been consistently average.  In the tire fire of a defense with RR, he predictably looked pretty bad.  But in a better coached defense overall this year, I think he looked competent.

Ty Butterfield

February 15th, 2012 at 3:52 PM ^

Jake Ryan is tremendous. You can tell that he still needs to learn some things but no matter what he seems to be around the ball. The kid just seems to make plays. Jake Ryan quickly became my favorite player on the defense last year. I guess we should have known that after that huge play in the WMU game where he tipped that pass that led to the pick six he would be headed for big things. I can't wait to see the progress he makes in the off season.