Bruce Feldman on Mattison and UM missed tackles improvement

Submitted by triangle_M on October 26th, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Feldman reviews UM's scoring defense improvement (improving from 108th to 8th from 2010 to 2011). The article does a good job of getting inside our DC's philosophy.  It also pins down where our defense has made great strides (not missing tackles).

When I asked Mattison about the psychological effect of a guy missing a tackle, enabling the defense not to be able to get off the field on a third-and-long, he pointed out even the verbiage of such a question gets to the core of what he's looking to remedy.
"It shouldn't be 'a' guy," Mattison said. "For us, when we came in here, our whole thing was, the players are the players we have. That's it. It's not like the NFL where you can draft somebody or trade somebody. Our whole goal was to get the players that we have on defense to play 'Michigan Defense.' And when we say 'Michigan Defense,' that means it was first, an honor to play for Michigan. And once it was honor to play at Michigan, it became an obligation to play at that standard. That level was established a long time ago. You just had to play up to that level, and that level, in its simplest form, came down to pursuing to the football. You had to play hard on every play. A loaf, or taking a play off or not going hard, was just unacceptable. I think that's something we've really worked hard to try to get back to.


EDIT: Title changed to help with the GMAT confusion.  Changed missed tackles stat to scoring defense.



October 26th, 2011 at 11:05 AM ^

Watching UM as a child, I remember how eleven winged helments ended up at the ball at the end of every defensive play.  I thought it was how all defenses played (I was definately wrong).  This has been missing for the last several years but I think we see it returning.   It has been pointed out on this board already, but having hats around the ball only leads to good things (fumbles and fumble recoveries).  


October 26th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

Unless your age is single-digits now, when you were a "child," the offenses Michigan played weren't attempting to emulate Richrod, Meyer and Oregon.  College offenses these days are all about creating space and using it.  "Manball," 11 guys pushing 11 guys, creates everyone flying to the ball.  Can't much do that anymore.


October 26th, 2011 at 11:06 AM ^

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure there has never been a coach who said anything remotely resembling this:

"We coach our players to be weak and play like pussies.  We give awards for the most creative way to miss tackles.  We want everyone to play as individuals, and let the team thing take care of itself."

Mattison is saying exactly what almost every coach says.  If you substituted, for example, "University of North Dakota" and "Bob Diaco" for "University of Michigan" and "Greg Mattison," and reprinted this article, nobody would know the difference.  Mattison is old school, and is a master of old school coachspeak. 

Luckily, he is exactly what the fanbase wants, and has done a great job of coaching what he has.  I have more fun watching Borges, who could easily become a Yoda-like presence in the next few years because he is creative and almost never says what he is expected to say.  


October 26th, 2011 at 12:33 PM ^

The thing I hated seeing most last year was Ray Vinopal trying to shoulder tackle a Miss St player in the bowl game. I feel like it was culmination of our season, it was a fitting end. I wanted to scream THIS ISN'T HIGH SCHOOL!!


October 26th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

Who is the recruit that will be most like David Harris? Alan Branch? Once we get some dudes like them (or even anything CLOSE) we'll have a Michigan Defense.

And when I was in high school, our coaches had a saying, "WTFU". This is waaaaaaaay before "WTF" became known as "What the F*ck". Ours was "WRAP THE F*CK UP" They said it so much that any time we were on the field WTFU would just be on repeat in our heads. It worked.


October 26th, 2011 at 2:44 PM ^

Kenny Demens is having a nearly identical year to the one David Harris had at the same point in his career (RS Junior).  He's also doing it on a defense that is giving up roughly a touchdown less per game on average. 

We have a talented group of players with a lot of experience and we have probably the best defensive performance we've seen in the last decade outside of the 2006 team (which was freakishly loaded with talent, as there were three senior NFL pro bowlers in the starting lineup, a luxury we will probably never have again).  And outside of a handful of seniors (Martin, RVB, Woolfolk), most of these guys are only going to get better.


October 26th, 2011 at 5:22 PM ^

I've always sort of wondered this.  Are some coaching staffs really better at getting good tackling out of their players?  That implies that you could have a defense that's pretty good overall but tackling is a weak point, or a defense that's pretty bad overall but is good at tackling at least.

It seems to me that "poor tackling" is a generic complaint applied to any underperforming defense, rather than an actual independent facet. 


October 26th, 2011 at 5:58 PM ^

Maybe your defensive execution gets you in place to stop the play 9/10 times, but you don't know how to tackle. Result: every play goes for a big gain. Example: Probably none, because coaches who know how to construct a defense also know how to teach tackling.

Alternatively, your execution/talent can only get you in position 5/10 times, but the defense makes the most of every opportunity via sure tackling. Example: What Michigan's 2011 defense wants to be.

Finally, your defense is terrible and whiffs on almost every play, but even when by some miracle is close to stopping the play the inability to tackle leads to a big gain. Examples: Michigan 2008, 2009, 2010.


October 27th, 2011 at 9:42 AM ^

Greg Mattison:  "It's not like the NFL where you can draft somebody or trade somebody. Our whole goal was to get the players that we have on defense to play 'Michigan Defense.'"

What?  Why, that sounds familiar:  "It's not like he can trade some draft picks for a Pro Bowl DE; this is college.  He is going to work with what he has, and what he has are people counting on him."

It's more one of the obvious things he said rather than something brilliant, but when Greg Mattison is channeling ME, I'm gonna enjoy the moment.


October 27th, 2011 at 9:52 AM ^

I have complete faith that Mattison will get the most out of his players.  Unfortuately, our two best players on defense graduate.  None of our linebackers seem to have gotton it yet.  I strongly disagree that Deamons looks like a 2005 David Harris.  The guy has taken a step back in my opinion.  There is hope for some of the younger players because you can make the excuse they made the mistake because they are young.  I still see people in deniel insisting Will Campbell is going to be a servicable tackle.  He can't even beat a walkon to crack the two deep.  Mattison really wanted to give Martin looks at 3tech and even DE.  So you know if Campbell was grading out, he would be on the field.

Unless one of this years freshmen make a quantum leap in skill and weight were going to have a journeyman and a walkon as our starting tackles.  Alabama will road kill us even if we snuck David Harris back on the team.

I personally see a couple tough years on defense until the tackle issue is taken care of.  ND has had a fairly talented back seven for years.  Yet Weise's staff either neglected or failed to recruit decent tackles.  Thus for years teams like Navy and a run poor team like USC run the ball down their throat.