Is Mattison's NFL Stint Hurting Us?

Submitted by Gameboy on November 3rd, 2013 at 11:10 AM

First, let's get this out of the way. This is NOT a thread about getting rid of a coach. I hope most of you are not like that idiot who called for firing DL coaches (think about that one). I hope Mattison stays as long as possible and enjoys good health. So, if you want to spew about who should be replaced with who, go elsewhere, there are plenty of threads about that.

What I want to talk about is why Mattison is so averse to pressuring bad QB's.

Is it because of the time he spent in NFL where there are many quarterbacks who will carve up the blitzes? Rushing four is definitely the main tools of the best D's in NFL (Seattle, Baltimore, etc.). But is it really necessary in college?

College QB's are not like NFL QB's. Even very good college QB's do not handle pressure well (see Devin), let alone poor ones like Hackenberg (still a freshman) and Cook. But it seems like we are determined to give them as much time as possible and let them be comfortable in the pocket with ever increasing percentage of completions as the game goes on and they gain confidence.

I just don't get it. You can see how much havoc pressure can cause (see MSU). We are very effective when we blitz (I have numbers). I understand rushing only four is preferred, but why keep doing it when it is not working?



November 3rd, 2013 at 1:48 PM ^

When Mattison blitzes, I noticed his defensive backs playing off the receivers, making it a pretty easy completion as long as the offense can delay the pressure even slightly.  I didn't really see Cook look off his primary option because they were open.

The other thing I noticed was that our line and blitzing backers seemed really slow off the ball and this allowed a few extra seconds as well.

atom evolootion

November 3rd, 2013 at 2:18 PM ^

i agree with our defense being slow off the ball, especially after watching the speed of the sparty linebackers...and, later, the speed of florida state's blitzers. our guys creep up, as if they're not sure about their angles or unsure of their abilities to get to the quarterback... when sparty blitzes, and florida state, these guys are in full sprint toward the line, just about, before the ball is snapped. i'm thinking we should chalk our inability to blitz on growing pains. when kovacz blitzed, he blitzed, and he blitzed accurately! he's gone, and the guys who blitz in his place haven't mastered that craft.


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:17 AM ^

as any other speculation.  The lack of blitzing underscores the sense of many that there's little killer instinct on this team right now.  Seven games in, and in any given game you can count the blitzes on one hand.  MSU blitzed more in the first quarter than UM did in the entire game.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

Both their starting corners (1 about to go to the NFL and the other IMO will be far better than Dennard and is a sophomore) are 2 stars.  Both of our are 4 stars.  Our best corner among the young guys might be a 3 star.  Shows you a lot about stars.  I dont blame the frosh DBs - very difficult to be thrown out there in the fire but the lack of trust in our two 2011 CBs whereas MSU throws their 2 stars out on islands is damning.

Where is the breakout player on defense? Blake has been sufficient, still gets burned time to time and has some nice INT but not a game changer.  JMFR has been hurt.  Where was the quantum leap from James Ross?  Frank Clark plays lights out when not blocked...when blocked, he has issues.  Which is an issue.  Where is Thomas Gordon? You never hear his name in a big defensive play.  Heck the one guy that might be making any strides is Wilson - ironically. 

I know I know - they are all young, but in 2014 the defense is going to have to carry this team as the OL will be an even grander tire fire potentially losing both tackles and having even less experience.

MSU develops their defensive players.  UM acquires players.  Big difference.   I have little confidence in what I am seeing at the position coach level and it makes my caring about recruiting falter.  MSU takes no names and turns them into stars - Calhoun at the DL,  Waynes at the CB.  They had a defense full of 3 stars out there, with only two 4 stars and a few 2 stars.  And they dominated.   We have a roster full of 4 stars with some 3's sprinkled in and play super conservative at the corners and cannot blitz effectively.   It is time to look at each of these coaches, every single one of them and I do not absolve Hoke who supposedly is coaching the DL.


November 3rd, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

That's exactly what I'm thinking about. Our players come in with a huge head start compared to theirs in size or talent or athleticism, then on game day 3 years later theirs are well ahead. Obviously our coaches are coaching our guys, but obviously not well enough, especially compared to theirs. They consistently develop 2 star prospects into nfl talent, while we're consistently inconsistent, to the point that we have to game plan around our deficiencies in the secondary.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:18 PM ^

for Mattison's next presser (along with why our pass rush is average).

He won't candidly answer as I suspect talent is a huge factor. Who in our secondary will get drafted? Taylor, Avery, Gordon - doubtful. Even Countess lacks the size + speed combo to shutdown a quadrant. Scheme & technique are also puzzling but may simply reflect the talent.

Curious to see the secondary with rangy athletes like Peppers, Dymonte and Stribling next year. If that group cannot cover, then it's coaching.


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:36 AM ^

I think he believe in his kids that they can create pressure on their own (front four).and if he doesn't believe that then he needs to dial up blitz after blitz..i wondered why he blitzed a lot his first year here but seems like he doesn't as much this year


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:10 PM ^

Gordon was a Sophomore and Countess was a true Freshman. The DB's in '11 weren't better than the DB's M have now. They weren't more experienced.

I'm mystified by the fact that Mattison brings as few blitzes as he does.


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:44 AM ^

I don't have anything insightful to add in the topic. But I I just wanted to say all the times we passively rushed only 3 men or sent half-baked blitzes in clear passing situations made me sick to my stomach. With all the time we gave him, we made one of the worst QBs in the B1G look like a calm and collected veteran. An ounce of pressure on this kid and he would've cracked, then who know's how different the conversations we'd be having this morning would be.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

I'm curious as well. Mattison has always seemed aggressive in pressuring the QB. How passive we were yesterday in that regards, magnified by the fact we didn't really adjust that stance during the game, makes me think it wasn't all (or even mostly) Mattison calling the shots.


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:43 AM ^

Defense was fine for this game beyond a few blown reads.  They will continue to get better. I am more concerned about our offensive line and blocking at this point!


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:46 AM ^

The defense was probably good enough on a day when the offense could gain some traction and stay on the field. The offense wasn't doing that and it got ugly as the defense frankly wore down. Disappointing.



November 3rd, 2013 at 11:51 AM ^

We blitzed pretty effectively in year 1 of mattison's reign. Problem is we dont hv a stud on the line like Brandon Graham who command double team. The problem is not schemes but rather personnel. Name me one guy on defense who is going to be picked in the first two round of the nfl draft? Until we have that stud, this is the best we can do. If we hv Peppers/Hand fulfilling their potential, then we might hv awesome defense. Say what you want abt MSU's recruiting but they hv been able to unearth 2/3 stars recruit who end up being a top nfl draft pick. Until we hv that stud, we will continue to lose to MSU.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:21 PM ^

"The problem is not schemes but rather personnel."


Just stop.  Calhoun is a 3 star.  Other teams develop studs.  They dont just acquire them ala Clowney.  If you cannot run your defense without 5 stars what sort of coordinator are you?  Are you telling me that until we get a Peppers at CB or a Hand at WDE we cannot have a bad ass defense?  Because that sounds like what you are telling me.  What about getting fast athletic players and then developing them.  Creating the next Brandon Graham, rather than "Drafting" him?

UM has ZERO EXCUSES about recrooting and not having the personnel.  They have the same level of recruiting as Oregon from 2008-2013.  They are NOT developing their players the same way other programs are and until people see that they will continue to make excuses.

Again, if you cannot create an elite defense unless you have all 4 stars and 5 stars on your roster what does it say about your coaching?  Michigan is doing less with more - the Texas way - with the talent it is getting.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:30 PM ^

from the RichRod era so those rankings are basically useless at this point. Secondly, it takes time to build dominant defense. As I posted earlier in MSU's third season their defensive statistics were pretty average. 380 ypg and 26 pts per game. That isn't impressive at all.


This is Calhoun's third year in MSU's system. He did nothing his first two years. At UM they are playing true freshmen and sophomores all over the defense. Big difference.


Now if this happending next year then you will have a point. The defense has to eventually make that leap.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:48 PM ^

Well lets check back in 12 months then because if there is not a major leap on defense UM is facing another 4-5 loss season with another uber young OL, no returning WRs with experience outside FUnchess and Gallon and Green and his 35 carries being the lead back....with @ND, @OSU, @MSU and Utah at home (who upset Stanford). 

Your rationale for what is happening may or may not be correct but the reasons will lose impact with each year this continues.  If there is not a leap in the next 8-20 months for first the defense in 2014 and then offense in 2015 it will be time to make wholesale changes.  Personnel will no longer be the convenient excuse.



November 3rd, 2013 at 12:56 PM ^

UM's OL will be young, but experienced. Four guys have played this year. The interior of the OL will have plenty of experience. The tackle spots are going to be the issue. I'm not overly worried about WR. UM has a ton of talent there. Gardner needs to start working with them early to develop a rapport. The backs are talented. Basically, everything comes down to the offensive line.


The defense has to be near-dominant  next year. It will be a junior and senior laden unit with a nice mix of young talent. That should enough to field a dominant defense. Next year is a no excuse year.


November 3rd, 2013 at 5:07 PM ^

I read the blog comments every day (I have the time) and several times have made a mental note that Alum 96 is usually, IMO, correct in every way. This comment as well. Kudos. I completely agree, Hoke has until 2015 to produce at least a BT championship or he is, or should be gone. No lame duck coach in 2016. And with next years schedule, 2015 is critical.


November 3rd, 2013 at 8:10 PM ^

Thank you sir/madam.  I come off as critical but I see alot of "acceptance" phase on this blog along with "rationalize it away" with the same excuses.  UM has no excuse, none most years.  I am giving the OL a free pass this year and frankly we are forced to do it again in 2014 since it will be younger in 2014. 

I am not giving the defense a free pass to be slightly above average which is all it is.  It faces MAC and Big 10 offenses most of the time - it avoids SEC, ACC, PAC 12 offenses most of the time.  There will be maybe 2 NFL QBs it will face all year - and one is a freshman.  The other they have yet to play.  So the only real bad a$$ offenses it will face this year are OSU and Indiana - maybe Nebraska on a good day although NW's very average defense held them in check (with Neb backup QB), as did Minnesota.  So it really faced/will face 2 "very good" offenses all year and hence it should be doing better, esp the pass defense.   The run defense seems to be doing the job, pass defense has gone off the rails this year.  

I dont visit MSU blogs other than the occassionaly fly by but I assume no one there is saying we cannot have a great defense unless we get Jabrill Peppers (or similar 5 star CB to shut down half the field) or a ferocious top rated DE.... until then go for average. Which would mean they would be average forever.  That is all I hear on this blog from a great many people.  MSU makes top end players out of high end athletes who are raw.   If UM cannot do the same, they need new coordinator and position coaches - we have among the top 5 budgets in the country for sports/football.   We are paying people top dollar. Same for Texas or any other high profile program with plenty of money to spend. The defense is a mix of veterans and young guys it is not top heavy at one position full of very young guys like the offense is stuck with at the OL and WR.

All I hear was how this MSU offense was a "joke" and "Cook sucks" yet when the game was in doubt, UM let MSU drive down the whole of the field at the end of the first half (75 yards), then come out later i the 2nd half and seize control with a 65 yardish drive to put the nail in our coffin.  This shoudl have been a defensive struggle - MSU offense was not great.  We gave up the ghost. Just imagine a great offense.  Enough excuse making... coach up our kids - they are loaded with 4 stars at every position. 


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:54 AM ^

The secondary is uber young. The coaches have decided to play a basic prevent type defense to limit the big play. Doing so has kept us from blitzing. I would rather be aggressive and let the young DBs understand they are one on one man and take my chances.


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:58 AM ^

When the defense is on the field too much, Mattison seems to back off even more, probably due to player fatigue. Then again, we have a few more pass rushers who could be used (Taco, etc)


November 3rd, 2013 at 11:59 AM ^

is because we lack elite playmakers at the corner and safety positions.  Mattison's philosophy is prevent big plays by keeping the ball in front and in the middle of the field.  

The philosophy does not routinely trust corners and safeties 1 on 1.  Plus, we lack elite speed at the LB and hybrid LB/DE positions to make many of these blitzes work.

The results have been largely successful in my opinion.  This is overall an above average to good, but not great, defense.  With a lack of stars (Ryan excepted), I'll take it.

Mattison will adjust the philosophy to a more aggressive style when we have elite corners (Peppers, come on down...  Stribling and Lewis have shown promise for part-time frosh) who can blanket 1 on 1.

The NFL has nothing to do with it.  It's the personnel.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:19 PM ^

You people are out of your minds. Look at the aggressive team he coached in '11 and tell me how many playmakers he had in the secondary. You've swapped Ray for JT and Wilson for Kovacs. Two athletes for two solid, heady players. JT Floyd epitomized in front and inside defense but Mattison was still aggressive. The secondary that year was far less athletic and no more experienced than this current bunch.

Show me where the elite speed of that LB core was. It's nearly the same group this year but you've swapped Ross for Demens. Demens was a thumper and good in coverage but was never a reactive player and sure as hell wasn't fast. He again was heady.

Maybe that is why Mattison is less inclined to blitz. The football IQ of Ross, Ray and Wilson don't fill him with confidence. /reach


November 3rd, 2013 at 1:51 PM ^

I don't remember us being quite as aggressive in '11 as you seem to.  One big difference from then to now was that we had Mike Martin, a monster who commanded constant double-teams.  Thanks to him, our short-yardage defense was fantastic and our pass rush with the front four was decent.  It wasn't so much that we were blitzing all the time - it was the front four getting there more often.


November 3rd, 2013 at 2:15 PM ^

Despite have both Martin and van Bergen who were terrific players, Mattison was still very aggressive. All you have to do is go back and read the UFR's. The okie package was a popular one that year, hence why Ryan and Kovacs got as many TFL and sacks as they did that season. I honestly don't think that front four of Heininger-Marint-RVB-Roh got many sacks themselves.

In honesty, you could be right. But I recall that D being far more active than our current D. Maybe it was just because of Kovacs being a mini-linebacker but I know Ryan got let loose a lot more in '11.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

While I agree largely with the basis of your points about lacking elite playmakers, if the staff must rely on "drafting" elite talent rather than developing any in house, it is a damning statement of this coaching staff and I'd argue any number of coaching staffs could do what you are asking Mattison to do.  He is playing conservative now due to a lack of playmakers - because this staff is not creating playmakers. 

You say they are going to just sit and wait until 5 stars come to Michigan and only THEN can they be aggressive?  If so, why are they getting paid so much?  I can go get that sort of coaching from a middling MAC school.


November 3rd, 2013 at 7:03 PM ^

alum96 is completely correct. If MSUcan  turn 2 star kids into 5 star studs then this must also be possible for UM. Many fans ignore very powerful evidence that contradicts their theories and keep explaining everything based on recruiting and experience only. There cannot be one set of rules for UM but another reality for the rest of college football. Coaching and training must be the difference in the results.

Sione's Flow

November 3rd, 2013 at 12:01 PM ^

Keep in mind we also don't have Pipkins on the roster who could develop into that guy that commands a double team.  Willie Henry is also starting to show signs of being a good one.  I think Mattison plays it safe due to a lack of lock down secondary.

Bobby Boucher

November 3rd, 2013 at 12:02 PM ^

No.  We just need more talent along the Line.  Once we can generate a solid rush with four lineman his crazy blitz's will be terrifying to the opposing QB.  Right now there just meh because of personnel and that's not Mattison's fault.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:03 PM ^

In Year Three for Dantonio(2009). MSU's defense gave up 26 pts per game,  113 rushing yards per game, and 267 in the air for a total of 380 yards per game. Those are rather pedestrian numbers if you ask me.


This is only the third year for Mattison.Michigan's defense was left with little talent by the previous regime and thus UM has had to adjust on the fly. This is still patchwork defense of youth and not-quite-good-enough players. Next year should see a significant improvement with increased experience, Ryan and Countess stronger physically,  and an influx of elite talent with Thomas, Peppers, and hopefully, Hand.

I might be overly optimistic, but I base my opinion on Mattison's past. He is a damn good DC. I know he can coach. That 97' defense was his even though Hermann coached it.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:26 PM ^

....and the cupboard is bare excuse is back again.  MSU does not have any classes that rank with UM's worse and yet they somehow have coaches who develop their defensive players with "cupboard is bare" players ranked in the 30s and 40s overall.  They had two 4 stars on the field as starters yesterday, and a few 2 stars.  Do I hear "we just lack talent so we just have to wait around until the 5 stars and MOAR 4 stars show up" over there?  It is repetitive to hear these excuses for 6 years now.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

If you want to compare look at what Dantonio did in his third season. The numbers are not impressive. 380 yds per game and 26 pts per game.


It isn't an excuse, but a fact. Good defense generally are lead by upperclassmen with a sprinkle of youth mixed in. It isn't a concidence that MSU's best defenses where filled with Juniors and Seniors. Hell, they have 7 seniors starting right now. They started a bunch of 4th year juniors last year. All of these guys were specifically recruited by this staff to play their scheme. A staff that is in its 7th year.


Meanwhile, Mattison is  integrating kids he specifically recruited to play his schemes. Kids who are true freshmen and sophomores with a few juniors and RR leftovers. 

The problem with your post is that you are comparing apples to oranges. Dantonio has four years on Mattison and Hoke. That is four years of recruiting and developing your program to be what you want it to be. 


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:43 PM ^

And what was the excuse 2 years ago when all the 2013 MSU seniors you are explaining away MSU's dominance were starting as 2011 sophomores?  They have had a top 10ish type defense 3 years in a row, including a very young 2011 team.

Is it possible in anyone's realm that MSU has a superior defensive coaching staff, including their HC ?

I know the excuse will be "the 2011 sophomores were Dantonio's recruits while Mattison is burdened with Rich Rod's awful kids". ... or "2011 was Dantonio's 5th year so sophomores when a coach is coaching his 5th year are better than sophomores when a coach is coaching his 3rd year" so no need to answer.


November 3rd, 2013 at 12:49 PM ^

argument that does not mean it isn't a legitimate argument. The mere fact that you would dismiss two years of recruting and development tells me you have no interest in analyzing this situation.


Gerg Mattison has a proven track of fielding great defenses. Frankly, that's all I need to point to in order to destroy your argument. He knows what he is doing. 


See that SI cover in your avatar? The defense that won that title was recruited and developed by Gerg Mattison. He also won a NT at UF. A defense that took apart OSU. Point to me the national titles Narduzzi has won as a DC.