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Posted on Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

After 3 years on a 'supplemental' defense, Mike Martin's NFL stock has risen thanks to Greg Mattison

By Kyle Meinke


Spending his senior season working with Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has helped Mike Martin (68) improve his NFL Draft stock.

Melanie Maxwell |

Mike Martin arrived at Schembechler Hall recently for a private workout with the New England Patriots.

The former Michigan defensive lineman was prepared to answer the usual questions. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What kind of system best fits you?

But he also got this: "Where's Coach Mattison at? I'd love to see him again."

Turns out, the person assigned to work out Martin had been a graduate assistant for Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, way back when.

Small world, eh?

Well, it gets a lot smaller when your coordinator is Mattison, who has coached college football for 31 seasons and in the NFL for three. He's been around a lot of people.

Mattison also developed a sterling reputation while in the pros with the Baltimore Ravens from 2008-10, and that has become a powerful tool for Martin as he prepares for this week's NFL Draft.

Martin is a solid third-round prospect, and has scouts buzzing over his technique and physicality. But he says his credibility with NFL personnel also has soared after his year with Mattison.


Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 306 pounds

Mike Martin

Hometown: Redford, Mich.
High School: Detroit Catholic Central
Position: Defensive tackle
Notable: Team captain as a senior. ... Named second-team all-Big Ten (coaches and media) in 2011. ... Named all-Big Ten (second team coaches, honorable mention media) in 2010. ... Three-time Michigan defensive lineman of the year. ... Played in 49 games, recording 172 tackles and 10.0 sacks.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.: Third round
ESPN's Todd McShay: Third round Fourth to seventh round
CBS Sports: Second to third round

ESPN: No. 10 defensive tackle, No. 77 player overall
CBS Sports: No. 8 defensive tackle, No. 79 player overall

Combine results
Bench press: 36 repetitions, second among defensive tackles
40-yard dash: 4.88 seconds, third among defensive tackles
Three-cone: 7.19 seconds, third among defensive tackles
20-yard shuttle: 4.25 seconds, second among defensive tackles
Vertical jump: 33.5 inches, fourth among defensive tackles
Broad jump: 113.0 inches, first among defensive tackles

What they're saying
"Martin is arguably my favorite player in this draft. I could watch him over and over and over again. He’s one of five or six players that are so much fun to watch because they just never quit. I nicknamed him 'Grunt.' He’s just your classic grunt. He’s just always working hard, and he’s going to outwork you." -- McShay

Recent stories

  • Martin befriends Ohio State players in NFL Draft prep
  • Martin among top 4 defensive tackles in every combine event
  • Martin falls short of combine record in bench press
  • Iowa player says Martin was strongest player in Big Ten
  • Martin stars at Senior Bowl
  • NFL scout says Martin will be early-round pick
  • "There's just no way I'd have the same kind of respect if it weren't for him," Martin told during a recent interview. "We were playing backyard defense (under former defensive coordinator Greg Robinson), pretty much. Just going out, picking a gap and just kind of doing whatever we wanted to do. It was a lot different."

    Michigan's defensive struggles under former coach Rich Rodriguez are well documented. But during those three years, Martin still managed to become a defensive menace.

    He could have declared for the NFL Draft after a dominant junior season, and few would have blamed him. The defense had set a school record for points allowed, and another coaching change meant he would have to learn his fourth system in as many years if he stuck around.

    But he elected to return for his senior year. Turned out to be a sage move.

    The laissez-faire defensive style played under Rodriguez and Robinson doesn't fly in the NFL, and Martin likely would have struggled with the transition. By returning, he received a year of tutelage under the demanding Mattison.

    In a way, he got many of the lumps he would have incurred at the pro level out of the way in the college game, where players have greater latitude to learn and struggle. Martin's education jumped to warp speed.

    "I learned more than I did in my first three years combined -- easily," Martin said.

    Martin says he has a lot of respect for Bruce Tall, his defensive line coach under Rodriguez, but his progress stalled under Tall because he didn't have an expertise in the position.

    He coached safeties for Rodriguez at West Virginia.

    "It was nothing against him, he just didn't know what he needed to know to coach D-line," Martin said.

    The overall coaching approach under Rodriguez devalued defense, Martin said.

    "It wasn't very emphasized," he said. "He didn't really spend much too much time on the defense. We were kind of a supplement -- just there, trying to help out the offense."

    Under Mattison and head coach Brady Hoke, the spotlight was returned to the defense. Martin went from having no coaches with defensive line expertise to three in Mattison, Hoke and position coach Jerry Montgomery. It became the most scrutinized position on the field.

    For Martin, a player with all the tools but lacking in direction, that proved to be the impetus for lifting his game to the next level.

    "One of the biggest things is he found out he had to get up here," said Mattison, gesturing his hand near his eyes. "When you're maybe one of the better players, and it's OK to be here" -- Mattison lowered his hand to his waist -- "you don't get better.

    "So he just said, 'What do I gotta to do? You keep saying that's not good enough. What do I have to do?' Then all of the sudden he'd get up there, then there, and that's why I love the kid. He understood he can be as good as we wanted him to be and that's what he worked to be."

    In turn, Michigan underwent a defensive renaissance. It jumped from 110th in total defense in 2010 to 17th last year. It allowed only 17.4 points per game -- about half the 35.2 it yielded in Rodriguez's final year.

    Martin matured as well. Despite taking on constant double teams, he finished with a career-high 64 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

    "It was the mentality that Coach Mattison brought in," Martin said. "He knows what it takes to win. When he came in, he just set the bar at a whole other level.

    "We thought we were doing things we needed to do to get better, but watching film, we weren't. With Coach Mattison, being more technically sound and harping on all the little details really turned things around."

    His size remains the biggest impediment to his draft prospects. He stands only 6-foot-1, which is slight by NFL standards, although his weight is up to 306 pounds.

    He is ranked the No. 10 defensive tackle in the draft by ESPN, and No. 8 by CBS Sports.


    Mike Martin finished among the top four defensive tackles in every drill at the NFL combine.

    Associated Press

    Yet, his play still stands out.

    ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay called Martin "arguably my favorite player in the draft."

    "I could watch him over and over and over again," McShay said. "He’s one of five or six players that are so much fun to watch because they just never quit. I nicknamed him Grunt.' He’s just your classic grunt. He’s just always working hard, and he’s going to outwork you.

    "He’s short, and he can get engulfed and pushed around by bigger guys and get caught up in traffic and all that. But ... I just think teams recognize what he can do, the effort with which he plays."

    Martin says he's received heavy interest from several teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one that is seriously interested -- they sent head coach Mike Tomlin to Michigan's pro day to see Martin -- and the Houston Texans are another.

    He's also received some interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Tennessee Titans hosted him on a visit earlier this month (although he did not work out for them).

    Martin first turned heads in pro circles when he had one of the best showings at the Senior Bowl in January. Then he went to the combine in February and finished among the top-four defensive tackles in every drill, a breathless display of speed and power.

    He says it was the result of his offseason training regimen. While many players choose to workout on campus, or head south to a training facility, Martin instead moved to nearby Novi and worked out rigorously with former Michigan strength coach Mike Barwis.

    "I don't do that pretty-boy stuff," he said. "I'm blue collar."

    It was a grueling regimen, but Martin says he's now in the best shape of his life as he prepares to enter rookie camp.

    He also has continued to fine tune his mechanics with Mattison, making the drive back to Ann Arbor a couple times per week after completing his workouts with Barwis.

    "He's torn my game down to the bare bones, and built it back up," Martin said. "I've benefited hugely from him, both in what these (scouts) think of me, but also in how I play the game.

    "I can't even tell you what that means to me, to be where I am now."

    Mattison says his phone has rung frequently from old colleagues, inquiring about Martin.

    "I've got great relationships with some of the guys that are coaching," Mattison said. "They know I'm going to be brutally honest. No matter who it is, I think they know I'll never tell someone he could play, if he couldn't play.

    "And there ain't a doubt about whether or not Mike Martin can play."

    Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


    Steve McQueen

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

    Regarding Mike Martin... it is interesting that the NFL scouts have him ranked 8 to 10 in his position...when his performance ON the field, and his measurables at the Combine in his workout all have him in the top 3 of his position. Once again the NFL scouts are missing on this guy... just like they are on Dave Molk and they did on Tom Brady back in the day.

    Steve McQueen

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

    The Rich Rod Error is dead (except in Rich Rod's narcissistic mind, and our memories which we are trying to erase). It does show what good coaching will do for talented players. I was watching a bit of the ND spring game and they look horrible on both sides of the ball, 3 years in to the Kelly Error. There is a lot of similarity between Kelly and RR from their personalities to inability to focus and provide proper coaching for their teams. Both coaches were in over their heads at a bigger school than where they came from. Thank god that is over. This is Michigan.


    Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

    Steve, please don't give ND or Kelly any fire for this upcoming night game in ND stadium. They are ND and they may or may not be as good as us but I can guess that they, (ND) will be up for that game against us. They played us pretty well last year in our stadium first nite game ever at Mich. I can think of several teams that are going to gun for us this year, we won't sneak up on anyone except just maybe Alabama but that's a long shot.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

    I suppose I have to spell it out for some of you. When I posted about how RichRod ignored the defense and I said "it was finally said" I guess it was too much to expect the average person who reads these comments to read the WHOLE comment and understand what I said. In the second paragraph I said that "I understand a player's reluctance to say anything bad about a former coach." Perhaps I assume too much when I assume that because people here are U of Michigan people that they can read and understand what they read. I WAS REFERRING TO FORMER PLAYERS when I said what I said in my prior post. I was not referring to journalists or bloggers or people who post on these blogs. Pay attention.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

    Doesn't really matter at this point 58. It's all a moot point now and in the past. It's a new day with a return to what we all love about Mich. football. RR was rewarded for a lousy job at Mich. with a pretty decent position in Arizona go figure but hey that's college football. I for one am past RR and wish him the best. My only concern now is for our team, Coach Hoke and Staff.

    Steve McQueen

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

    Exactly Ed. There are PLENTY of solid DC's and assistant coaches available all over the planet...even at the HS level. The biggest issues is that Rich Rod insists on dragging his Lackey position coaches, like the horrible Tony Gibson with him everywhere. Scott Shafer is a solid and proven DC....just look at what he did at Western Michigan, Stanford and now at Syracuse. Why did he not succeed at Michigan?? Because Rich Rod put him in a position to fail.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

    Sorry Scott, but the "RR couldn't hire the coordinator he wanted" excuse is really inane. At how many other programs have coaches hired good defensive coordinators for less? Many, many, many. A good manager, which a head coach must be, would have found a good coach for the money he was allotted, which was competitive. We only have to look to schools with even less of a budget and who still produce adequate defenses to understand this.

    Scott Laux

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

    RR can't be excused. But Bill Martin must take some of the rap for not letting him hire the coordinator he wanted. RR obviously just coached offense and left the other side of the ball to his coordinator. The hire of Robinson was a disaster. He was offensive coordinator on three NFL teams and a year at Texas, but seemingly clueless. But people knew he was not good so he came cheap. Bill martin was penny wise and pound foolish.

    Terry Star21

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

    No, you were right. Good observation....


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

    You were crystal clear. I don't understand how any posters here can still make excuses for the poor coaching that we had during the 2008-2010 seasons, and the continued excuses into this month. But whether or not Martin or other players publicly verbalize what Martin said--we all know. It was an utter disaster, no direction, no leadership, no attention to defense. Thank goodness the ship has been righted.

    Scott Laux

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

    Good article. Says it all. I'll never understand how RR- a guy who won two BCS bowls, could be so clueless on defense. And how was Greg Robinson- who was defensive coordinator for three NFL teams and Texas so clueless? Anyone understand how that is possible?


    Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

    Greg Robinson was lost because he was being asked to run a defense that he was unfamiliar with. Why RR made that hire is beyond me...I think he was desperate after the sudden departure of Schaffer...I disagree with the premise that UM was unwilling to pay top dollar for a D coordinator. They just simply paid what the coach was worth, and it turns out there was a reason he did not cost much. That is on RR for not having a focus on D. What D coordinator worth his salt would come to a program where the coach has a reputation for not giving a lick for the D side of the ball? Not many good ones would do that. As for RR, he is a good coach, and he brought some really good kids to Michigan, but his lack of knowledge in a defensive based conference, coupled with all of the other nonsense that went on during his tenure, led to his demise. IMO, some of it his fault, some of it not his fault...


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 8:54 p.m.

    They weren't given the resources necessary to hire position coaches that were competent at their duties. Greg Robinson can't coach everybody everything. Rich Rod had to focus on the offense. It's not that he just preferred to focus on offense (which, admittedly, he did). He had to do it though, or did you forget the offensive crater left by the 2008 mass exodus? The year we went 3-9, it wasn't because the defense was so attrocious. It was because the offense couldn't stay on the field and eventually our defense would get so worn down that they couldn't stand. There were a combination of failures that occured to cause the downfall of Rich Rod and almost none of them were truly his fault. Brady Hoke primarily coaches the NT position. He says it himself. Rich Rod primarily coaches the QB position. I truly don't see the difference. It's about allocation of resources. Rich Rod knows the most about the QB position, it is the most important position on the offense, so he coached it. Hoke knows the most about the NT position, it's the most important position on the defense, so he coaches it. IF you are truly being objective, offense is equally as important as defense. Anybody who says otherwise is ignorant. I can't point to one specific difference between Hoke and RR that made Hoke succeed and RR fail. I can, however, say that RR's coaching philosophy did not cause him to fail, because it's almost exactly the same philosophy Hoke uses. Just so you know, Hoke emphasizes defense to the exact same extent RR emphasized offense.

    Steve McQueen

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

    pretty sure he only won one BCS game...the other was coached by Rod Smith after Rich Rod bolted to Michigan and was banned by his alma mater from coaching the game.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

    So did Kyle really learn to hate RR in the 0 months they overlapped on M football or do we really just like comments and views?


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

    It was finally said: RichRod looked at the defense as a supplement to the offense. He had a safety coach working the D line. Players were playing "backyard" defense with no responsibility for gaps. Teaching technique was not done, That's why players seemed to be out of position all the time. That's why the first D coordinator left after one year. RichRod didn't give a damn about defense. He only cared about his beloved "basketball on grass." I understand a player's reluctance to say anything bad about a former coach. But I don't think this surprised anyone, except those who think defense is irrelevant. Good luck, Arizona.


    Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 1:39 a.m.

    Scott, You say, "the Carr years ended ugly." Really? 11-2 followed by 9-4 in his last two seasons? That's an average of ten wins in his last two seasons!!! How is that ugly? By your criteria, then, the Hoke years STARTED ugly. UM only went 11-2, right? To say the Carr years ended ugly is inaccurate. Period. Further, to say UM couldn't beat ANY team with speed is also inaccurate. Didn't his team beat Meyer/Tebow's Florida Gators in his very last game??? I would say going 6-2 in the B10, whipping MSU and PSU, and slamming the Gators was more than a bounce back after the upset loss to App St. Carr was a good, National Championship winning coach who fielded strong teams until the very last game of his career.

    Scott Laux

    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

    The Carr years ended ugly. Losing to any and every team with speed- including Appalachia state. A 7-5 record for the most storied program in the nation which still could get top ten recruiting classes every year is abysmal failure. The game passed Carr by.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

    It is a bit of a leap to believe that Casteel would have done any better here. Running a 3-3-5 in an inferior conference is not exactly a harbinger of success. For one thing the 3-3-5 does not work versus power I teams, which is what the best teams in the Big Ten run. Another thing is that RR's assistants were God awful. Tony Gibson in particular was/is atrocious. RR's may fare better in the Pac Twelve where defense is not very important.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

    HailMary, what years were "crappy" under Carr? 05' was not great, but UM still went 7-5. That was Carr's worst year in 13 seasons. He won 9, 9 and 11 in the years after that season.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

    It's been said plenty of times, where have you been? Unlike Hoke, RR wasn't allowed to pay what it took to get his co-ordinator(Casteel) or even offer him a 2 year contract.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

    Seven or eight crappy years for Mich. under Carr and RR. That's all in the past now, time to move on.


    Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

    Jeff Casteel knows how to coach defense and, this time, Rodriguez was smart enough to make sure he joined the program.