[I sat down shortly after the start of Mattison's roundtable.]
"Watching them this summer, you know, we're not allowed to be around them but I'm hearing what they've done and they've really taken care of business. They've worked really hard this summer, which shows that they have the same goals for their group as we do."
How many different places are you going to use Taco, or are you going to center in on one spot for him? And talk about what he brings to the table.
"The entire group of guys by their positions, tackle and nose, end is called 'end' or 'anchor', those are the two outside guys, they know that they have to know both positions. The reason for that is teams that trade the tight end, when you're an end you become an anchor, anchor becomes an end, that kind of thing, nose and tackle—and it helps us with our rotation. We've found this out over the years and it's happened more and more—teams that run spread offense, really one of the reasons they do that is if you have a really good defensive line or experienced defensive line, they try to wear them out, they try to get that defensive line to not have the impact that it would have in a game by taking a little bit of their gas away. So we want to have the ability to plug a lot of guys into different positions.
"Also I think whenever you are at a position and you know the other positions, you know better how to play it. I think the days are over where 'I am a this position and that's all I do,' and you're going to get in trouble doing that because all of a sudden somebody goes down or gets nicked up and you need to take the next-best guy and put him in somewhere. Experience helps you with that. These kids have heard the same techniques, the same expectations for three and four years, it's easy for them to slip into another position."
And then Taco, talk about...
"Taco will start out—he played both the anchor and the end, but we'll play him more as the open-side end this year. With him playing that position will be Chase Winovich. Chase has showed some great things this spring, having never played the position, but he's a young man that we're looking for—he's got a lot of things going for him. He's very aggressive, very fast for his size, he's gotten bigger, and that gives us the two that you're looking for, at least, at that position."
And Taco, talk about his contributions, speed and size, what he brings...
"Taco's got great leverage. He's a six-foot-five guy, so he's got long leverage, which allows you to keep separation. He plays very physical. He can run. He's an athlete, he was an outstanding basketball player. And he's got great experience now. He's played a lot of football since he's been here and now I think he really feels about about—you know, he's ready to really go."
[Hit THE JUMP for Mattison answering many questions that aren't Taco talk-abouts.]
We've talked about this a lot before, but three or four years ago, when the guys you have now were coming in, you said you were looking forward to the days when they got this experience. They've played a lot of football and now those days are here. Are you as excited as you thought you would be to coach a group like this with this much experience?
"Yeah, and I make the point again, and they'll hear it the very first meeting: it doesn't matter what you've done before. We've got to prove ourselves every day. You hear all the stuff about how this group is the most experienced, this group is this and that. They haven't really done anything. What happened last year, what happened in the bowl game, the good things they did last year—that's all great, but the only thing that means is the bar is even set higher. One thing we say in our room, the defensive line, we've always said it, is that bar is higher [here] than most places. The expectations that come with playing defensive line at the University of Michigan will always be really, really high, and now they've happened to raise the bar even more. That's the excitement. The excitement is to see them get to that.
"And again, I go back to what I started out saying: what they've done this summer shows they want to go for that bar. They want to be as good as they can be. It's easy to say that and then if they don't do it in the summer, you say, well, what do you do. They have. They've done it. They've worked hard together. They've done individual drills. They've done technique drills together. They've become a close group over the years, and they really, really want to be as good as they can be."
With Mone and Glasgow, talk about the hunger and the ability that you're getting back with those two guys in the middle...
"Yeah, you have the guy who was voted by his team as the most valuable defensive lineman a year ago in Ryan Glasgow, who tore his pec, and then you've got Bryan Mone, who played a lot as a true freshman and never played at all last year because of the ankle. Both of them are very close to each other. They both feed off each other. They both want the guy who plays that position to be really, really good. They've heard me say it a hundred times, they know it, that you're only as strong as you are down the middle. You look at any great defense and you'll find out they have, down the middle they're strong. They want to prove that they deserve that. And again, we've really tried hard, and this group is allowing us to do this—there's probably a first-string and a second first-string.
"That's how we look at it, and that's how we looked at it last year. You earn the right to rotate. How you practice and how you played the game before will determine if you're going to rotate every four plays, if one guy is gonna go five and one guy is gonna go three. So the goal is let's all do what we're supposed to do, and therefore I can go out and I'm gonna play four plays as hard as I can possibly play, and then I'll come out and rest and my buddy is gonna go in for four and play as hard as he can play, and then I'm gonna go back in.
"So you kinda earn the right to be in that rotation, and when you have that kind of rotation—you know, guys want to be starters, guys want to play a lot and all that, but when the truth be known, they want to play real good. If you can go out there and say, 'Coach, alright, I'm gonna give you 35 plays so hard that you'll never have to say a word, and then my buddy is going to do the same thing,' then you've got a pretty strong thing going. And that's our goal, that's what we've been trying to work towards, and that's what they've been working for this summer."
How is Ryan? Is he ready to pick up where he left off?
"Yeah, Ryan's 100%. He's totally cleared. His bench press, which we don't really work more, but that's going to tell you about his pec, I think it's back to exactly where he was last year. So that's a great sign. He's ran and done that kind of thing. He's really done well. Bryan, on the other hand, has done the same thing, where he's got that ankle. He had a good spring, he went through all of spring, and the thing he's done is he's lost a little bit of weight to be able to not have to carry extra weight, and he's still strong. So the two of them together—and the guy nobody talks about is the guy who started in the bowl game, Mo Hurst. Mo Hurst has played a lot of football here. He also can play that position or play the three-technique position."
What's the plan for Rashan Gary?
"Rashan Gary is obviously very talented. He showed that in his high school [career]. He's showed that here. He's come early and he's done a very, very good job of blending in with the veterans and doing what is expected of a Michigan defensive lineman. His weight is great, he's worked very hard on his strength. You know how it is with us here: I don't care if a guy is a freshman or a fifth-year senior, the best players play. He's gonna have the opportunity early to show his ability and he'll play a lot of anchor, he'll play the strongside defensive end."
MGoQuestion: How many players have earned that right to rotate so far?
"Nobody. Nobody has. Like I said, last year doesn't really mean anything other than you have the opportunity to compete for that, but I'm looking for every guy, every player we have out there has earned the right."
MGoQuestion: Ideally, how big do you want that rotation to be once you hit the season?
"You'd love to have two guys, for sure, at each position. If we have a wild card, an extra guy in there, that helps you even more. You definitely want to have two at each position."
MGoQuestion: Matt Godin's name, I haven't heard that come up yet, but where's he playing right now?
"He's a defensive tackle. Matt will be playing the defensive tackle. Chris Wormley will be playing both the tackle and anchor. You've got Matt, Chris, and Mo Hurst, again, as the veterans that will be competing for that rotation."
You mentioned Wormley, obviously in his final year. What's his ceiling, not only this year but looking ahead?
"The thing that excited me about Chris is Chris has worked extremely hard. Chris has been the leader. He understands that he's the one who's probably played more than anybody in that group. I think Chris has really high goals, and he's showed he wants to achieve those goals by how he's worked. That's all I look at is what have you done since the season's over. One thing about Chris Wormley that people don't realize is he's an excellent student. He went to Israel with a group and the people said he was an unbelievable example of Michigan football. He's always been an unbelievably high-character young man. He's 305 pounds, I believe, and he's running as good as some linebackers. He's really put himself in a position to have a great senior year."
Talk about Chase and how he's moved around and where he's at right now, and how you've...
"Chase was a young man we recruited, and I remember when we recruited him that this guy's a very talented defensive player. Well, Coach Harbaugh, and he's always going to do what's best for the team, moved him to tight end and gave him an opportunity to get on the field earlier as a tight end. We found that we had enough tight ends and he moved him back to defense right before the bowl game. I was going to put him in, he'd done such a good job in bowl practice that I was going to get him in that game at the end, but the offense kept the ball. Then this spring, it was the first time he really was an open-side end, and it was all a new learning process for him, and he had a really good spring. He's gained probably ten pounds this summer of strength, worked extremely hard. I think there's a very high bar for him."
Do you see him maybe getting into the rotation this year?
"For sure. He's competing with Taco at the open end position."
[As new people came to the roundtable there were a bunch of repeat questions. I've edited this down to the stuff that wasn't already covered.]
What's Rashan Gary like personality-wise?
"He's a very humble, very confident—he really wants to prove or be really good. He really has high expectations for his level of play, to the point where he's been with some of our older kids learning the playbook already. He wants to do anything he can to be as good as what a lot of people say he is, so that's good coming in."
Is there kind of an extra bit of attention as far as preparing him for the hype that's surrounding him, just on campus, the attention he's going to get?
"I don't know if anybody's had to do anything with him on that. Our defensive line and our team has. He's blended in so well. Sometimes when guys are really, really publicized and everything like that, some guys check to see how it is—he got here, he went right in with our defensive line, listened to the veterans on what we're doing, did it that way, has been on time for everything. He's been very accountable, which shows a very young man that's mature."
Did Taco come back in the kind of shape you hoped he would?
"Yeah. I got back from our break and I got a chance to see the guys, just happened to see a bunch of them. I was very impressed with how they looked. They looked like a team that had really trained. Sometimes you come back where you're looking and go 'oh, he doesn't look as good.' Every one of them looked like they had really, really trained, and I was excited about that."
You talk about maturity, just talk about Jabrill and the evolution you've seen with him...
"(Chuckles.) I love him. I don't know if I can say anything about him. The only thing I can say is that I don't ever see him except on the practice field. The guy just loves football. He loves to play. He plays with high energy. For some guys, practice is practice. For him, practice is, man, this is a time to really go, it doesn't get more fun than this. That's the attitude he always has. And you know, I've noticed that about a lot of our guys. They look at workouts and they look at practice as, alright, this is the fun part. That's a good sign."
MGoQuestion: It seemed like last year most of the pressure was generated off of stunts. Is there an emphasis on finding more ways to get to the quarterback this year?
"I think we'll still take great pride in being a pressure defense. Hopefully you can get a lot more pressure out of a four-man front. You still may do some things innovative that way, but you're still only rushing four. I think there's some things like that."
How would you describe [Don Brown's] defense, his philosophies?
"The thing is it's not much different than what we had in the past as far as a four-man front. I think he takes great pride in having a good front. I think it starts there. And then from there, he helps the front have success [by] doing things with the front to allow them to get freed up one-on-one. And very aggressive, very enthusiastic about it, all of it good."