The Mattison Miracle - Some Numbers

Submitted by WolverineBlue on November 12th, 2011 at 11:48 PM

There was considerable speculation during the offseason as to what level of improvement was possible for the 2011 defense under Mattison. Jumping 40 or 50 spots in the rankings was considered the maximum plausible expectation based on exhaustive statistical analyses.

I couldn't wait to see where things stood following today's effort, so I went into spreadsheet mode and came up with the following:


  2011 Ave 2011 Rank 2010 Ave 2010 Rank
Scoring Defense 16.1 7 35.2 108
Rushing Defense 130.9 41 188.9 95
Passing Defense 191.3 22 261.9 112
Total Defense 322.2 17 450.8 110


The numbers should be accurate although there are a couple of late games that could nudge the yardage rankings a smidge. These numbers would be even better if the NCAA had counted the WMU game.

I know, I know, there are still two (+) tough games remaining, and I don't want to jinx anything, but how many thought these results were possible through 10 (9 that count) games. Color me delighted with Marvelous Mattison.



November 13th, 2011 at 1:30 AM ^

I can't seem to find it, but I remember this post. Basically it was telling everyone to stay realistic and see that when there are coaching changes, almost every team either got worse, or got just marginally better in the first year. If I recall correctly, even moving into the 70s seemed like a stretch based on that model.

Son of Lloyd Brady

November 13th, 2011 at 12:04 AM ^

Not saying our players on D are not good, because by the numbers they most definitely are not, but they were not recruited to play in his system the way he wants them to play. We can see what he is doing with the few freshman that Hoke secured for the last class (see Countess, Morgan, and Clark), but with a few classes and years for the players to fully learn the system, I am expecting great things.

UM Fan in Nashville

November 13th, 2011 at 10:28 AM ^

I can't wait to see the next few classes come in.   Not that we don't have talented guys, but we obviously did not recruit a ton of 4*+ guys on defense the past 3-4 years.   I'd love to see what this next group of defensemen could do with Mattison's coaching.   It's going to be fun to watch them in the next few years.    

Side note, what recruit wouldn't want to play for Mattison after seeing this kind of turnaround.    


November 13th, 2011 at 10:59 AM ^

Rich Rod recruited a ton of defensive talent.  THe problem is he just never did anything with it.  I think you can see that there was at least SOME talent there from what Mattison has been able to do.  If the defensive players were that bad, that turnaround should have been basically impossible.

I expect the defense to improve, but let's not act as if Rich Rod didn't recruit. The defensive coaching just sucked

UM Fan in Nashville

November 13th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

I don't disagree at all, I just don't think he really recruited as high of recruits as we are getting with Mattison and Hoke.   It's obvious there's some talent on this team, no doubt about it, I wouldn't go as far as saying "A Ton".  It just wasn't a high priority for RR.   Also you can still have a solid defense with lower rated recruits (see Wisconsin, Iowa, etc).   I'm just saying the next few years will be a lot of fun watching this D potentially grow to a top 10 or higher defense nationally.  


November 13th, 2011 at 12:06 AM ^

I had very high hopes. We have the players. We are chocked full of 3 & 4 stars. Teams like Iowa and MSU have respectable defenses with less talent. Add an NFL defensive coordinator and a defensive minded head coach, and you've got the formula for a good defense. This is Michigan.


November 13th, 2011 at 12:22 AM ^

over the top homer Michigan fan could have expected this big a turnaround with this defense.


The eye test is the biggest thing for me.  They play fast, hit hard, swarm, tackle and don't let teams get behind them.


remarkable improvement


November 13th, 2011 at 12:29 AM ^

how can it possibly happen, we were all told that Lombardi himself couldn't fix this defense.  So does that mean: Mattison/Hoke>Lombardi?

Can you imagine the speeches in the lockerroom before the Ohio game, those kids will sky high by Nov. 26.


November 13th, 2011 at 12:41 AM ^

posting a thread about the biggest statistical jumps in one season in recent NCAA Div 1 history, and I seem to remember the biggest jump being somewhat smaller than 108th to 17th. Maybe my memory is as drunk as I am right now, though.


November 13th, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

Yeah and I'm sure having John Elway on those Bronco teams didn't help either...

I don't think he's THAT bad of a coordinator if he's allowed to run HIS system, but in hindsight, a lot of his achievements don't look that great.  It appears as if he had a LOT of help from the offensive side of the ball


November 13th, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

Per, they were 6th and 8th in the league in points given up and slightly worse in terms of yardage. Although you're right that the offense certainly didn't hurt (and you didn't even mention Terrell Davis).

I think with a little less interference (his own scheme and assistants), he'd have merely been mediocre to bad instead of all-time bad.



November 13th, 2011 at 8:09 AM ^

While there is no doubt that Mattison is a better DC than Gerg, I would argue that the single biggest reason for the jump is that the true freshmen, RS freshmen, and former walkons that were key contributors last year are now another year older.

UM Fan in Nashville

November 13th, 2011 at 10:41 AM ^

But, I don't think that's the biggest reason.   The D didn't improve at all under GERG.   So, I think it's fairly obvious the single biggest reason is coaching.   The previous defensive staff did a really nice job with a few people (Kovacs, Martin) but overall it was a trainwreck.  This new staff just polished the players and they have a much better scheme.  


November 13th, 2011 at 10:50 AM ^

Last year we had Craig Roh playing linebacker, Carvin Johnson and Thomas Gordon playing linebacker, and Cam Gordon playing free safety.  They were not even remotely suited for those positions.  We also had Jonas Mouton, a 5th-year senior and 3-year starter, continually missing his keys and overrunning the play.  We had Obi Ezeh, another 5th-year senior and 3-year starter at our playmaking MIKE spot, continually misread plays.  This was coaching.  Why people insist on making excuses for last year's defensive braintrust (and I use that term very loosely) is beyond me.



November 13th, 2011 at 1:59 PM ^

...for players to get one year older from one season to the next.

Having nine starters back is nice but it isn't exactly unprecedented either. Purdue and Minnesota also have nine back this year. Penn State has 8.

As an explanation for the biggest improvement in recent FBS history, this seems lacking.


November 13th, 2011 at 12:56 AM ^

Pincherbug is speechless.  Playing a bunch of freshmen too.  So much for that old excuse...its coaching really.... love the G Mattison and staff...

This defense plays with great effort, swarms to the ball, takes proper angles, and tackles very well overall.  We are still a bit undersized and a tad slow on the edges but coming around...fundamentally they are much improved and are getting better as the season goes along... gone are the misalignments and blown assigments that we saw vs. ND for the most part the defense is playing very sound football.  Im particularly impressed with the improvement in the DBs both in coverage but also in tackling.


November 13th, 2011 at 11:08 AM ^

For the most part, it is the same players.  There's what, 3 freshman getting significant tme or starting on defense?  All the rest were under the past system.  Plus, don't forget Rich Rod actually recruited some of those freshman who are playing.

I think there's no doubt that the vast majority of the improved play has been coaching. I will agree that with the amount of people returning you have to add in some improved talent and experience, but when your new d-coord moves multiple people immediately and they start having good success and the defense massively improves, it's pretty obvious its coaching


November 13th, 2011 at 1:03 PM ^

Floyd and Martin were healthy in the first half of last season - when we surrendered 37 points to a 6-5 FCS team (UMass) and 35 points (and something like 560 yards) to a 4-8 Indiana team.  As for Woolfolk, he certainly hasn't been healthy this season; he's been hobbled since week 1 and opponents have targeted him in the passing game whenever he's played. 

Why people continue to try to rationalize the performance of the defensive staff last year is beyond me.  It was by every measure the worst defense in school history.



November 13th, 2011 at 12:11 PM ^

what frosh players from last year lost their jobs and/or have not improved?  i can think of only two guys - cam gordon and carvin johnson.  i believe both those guys came out of the gate this year injured and cam's position no longer exists (3-3-5 last year).  so both these guys were competing against kovaks and the other gordon (and now woolfolk).  i'm not surprised they lost PT.  i don't think you can conclude that gordon and johnson didn't improve.  they just got lost in the #s game.

vinopal transferred.  and avery was replaced by countess.  but avery's play has improved when he's been in there.  he made a few big plays in limited PT yesterday.

who else is there? jabreel black competes now against roh. 

it's obvious that almost every players performance has improved (except maybe woolfolk) with this coaching staff.