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Posted on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison among candidates for assistant of the year award

By Kyle Meinke

Name a defensive statistic. Go ahead. Anything.

Here's betting the Michigan football team is better at it this year than it was last year.

That, of course, comes back to the golden touch of first-year defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has been a big hit since the Wolverines wooed him from the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason.

Now, that NFL-style defense has him among 29 coaches who were nominated on Wednesday for the Broyles Award, presented to the nation's top assistant coach. Five finalists will be announced Monday and the winner will be named Dec. 6.

It would be difficult to find a single coach in college football who's had a greater impact on his team this year.

Thumbnail image for Mattison_Greg_2011.jpg

Greg Mattison

The No. 17 Wolverines (9-2, 5-2) are allowing 15.6 points per game, sixth in the country, a year after allowing a school-record 35.2 (107th nationally). Their total defense is ranked 14th, up from 110th last year.

They're allowing 138.2 fewer yards per game — almost a full field-and-a-half — heading into a showdown with rival Ohio State on Saturday (noon, ABC).

"Coach Mattison is establishing an NFL defense here," safety Jordan Kovacs said after last weekend's win against Nebraska. "We do a pretty good job of disguising and giving the quarterback something to think about

Mattison says the turnaround is less about scheme and more about confidence and fundamentals, including — especially — tackling. He said Michigan's improved tackling is a function of getting more players to the football.

“I think if you watch any defense and you see one person trying to make a tackle, you’ll see a team that’s not a very good tackling team," Mattison said this week. "But if you see a lot of people around that football, then you see teams that do well tackling. The big thing is, it closes the space. It closes the opportunity for a running back to cut.”

It also helps generate turnovers, which the Wolverines have done especially well. They have forced 26 this year, 11th in the country.

They've also limited the big play (going 11 games before giving up a 50-yard play) and gotten stops on third down (Big Ten teams are converting just 28.6 percent of the time).

Combine those trends together, and it helps to explain how Michigan has become dominant on defense after three years of ineptitude.

"That's all you heard about when I took the job here," coach Brady Hoke said of Michigan's recent defensive struggles. "Defensively, for a lot of years, Michigan was known for Michigan's defense. And they want to represent that.

"When you see those maize helmets hitting the ball carrier multiple times, that’s Michigan defense."

That's Greg Mattison defense.

List of Broyles Award nominees
Sal Sunseri, Alabama, assistant head coach/linebackers
Robert Anae, Arizona, offensive line
Garrick McGee, Arkansas, offensive coordinator
Dave Wommack, Arkansas State, defensive coordinator
Tim Banks, Cincinnati, co-defensive coordinator
Chad Morris, Clemson, offensive coordinator
George DeLeon, Connecticut, offensive coordinator
Todd Grantham, Georgia, defensive coordinator
Vic Koenning, Illinois, defensive coordinator
Tee Martin, Kentucky, receivers
Tommy Spangler, Louisiana Tech, defensive coordinator
John Chavis, LSU, defensive coordinator
Greg Mattison, Michigan, defensive coordinator
Ron Brown, Nebraska, running backs
Art Kaufman, North Carolina, defensive coordinator
Bob Diaco, Notre Dame, defensive coordinator
Brent Venables, Oklahoma, defensive coordinator
Todd Monken, Oklahoma State, offensive coordinator
Bruce Read, Oregon State, special teams
John DeFilippo, San Jose State, offensive coordinator
Brad Lawing, South Carolina, defensive line
Derek Mason, Stanford, defensive coordinator
Chuck Heater, Temple, defensive coordinator
Manny Diaz, Texas, defensive coordinator
Monte Kiffin, USC, defensive coordinator
Bryan Stinespring, Virginia Tech, offensive coordinator
Jim Reid, Virginia, defensive coordinator
Ryan Cubit, Western Michigan, quarterbacks
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, offensive coordinator

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



Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

There's absolutely no way Mattison doesn't win this award.

Tim Belcher

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Nice to see another MICHIGAN MAN, Chuck Heater, on the list too! GO BLUE! BEAT OHIO!!

1st Down

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 9:40 a.m.

Mattison deserves to win this award. The improvement in all facets of defense speak for themselves. You can just see it on the field. The stats are simply a by product of this. Mattison has proven, along with the great assistants and Coach Hoke who is defensively oriented as well....that there was not a talent issue on was all just bad coaching the past 3 years on D prior to this one. Borges is great... he never shows the same look twice in a series and is always mixing it up...its been a bit of a struggle to find a solid producing RB and Denard has had his struggles...but it could have been far far worse in a transition year to a new system. This years Offense scores as much as last years Offense did...and they control the ball better ....and they are always in every game at the end.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 5:48 a.m.

I agree that Borges doesnt get as much credit as he deserves. The offense may have looked a little awkward at times early on, but its finding its identity as of late and is really starting to look good. I think Denard will become more comfortable in this system and will have a fantastic year next season along with Fitz. I had my doubts about Borges and Drob for awhile, but they are coming along and i think the future is bright for the offense. Oh, and if Mattison doesnt win this award for the miracle work he did with this defense then there is something seriously wrong.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 4:35 a.m.

First - let's not get too excited about this or any award. I still cannot believe that the Coaches Poll of 1997 gave Nebraska a "share" of the National Championship which ONLY Michigan earned (by EVERY measure, including defense). Otherwise: I agree with everyone who loves Michigan: Greg Mattison is The Man. He's brought an amazing turnaround for the Wolverines - one which we ourselves doubted possible! It would be unfair though (IMO) to exclude Al Borges from recognition: he too has visibly improved the entire offense, despite outsider doubts. He too said in advance what he was going to do and did it: protect Denard and make him a more effective threat by blending what Denard already knows (running like a meteor) with more pro-style coordination with the running backs. It's DONE - not perfectly yet but absolutely visible (and getting better) in every game. Another 45-17 game against Ohio would cap an almost perfect year - especially since most of this team still has a year (or three!) to play at Michigan. A solid win in a post-season bowl game would also completely justify naming Brady Hoke College Coach of 2011.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Hey Deb...get back to your own area of Mlive that is Spartonville. I know you love Sparty...let us Walmart wolverines enjoy our turnaround and our season. I noticed on another article that you were upset that Brady Hoke is at the top of the list in the B1G for coaches of the year and you want Dantonio because he has done far more with less talent (in your opinion) My point is that is just your opinion. NUMBERS and STATS don't lie. State's Numbers from last year have not "dramatically" improved. They have stabilized, for the most part. What Mark Dantonio has done over the past few years with State is something to be recognized and I feel that the press in AA has made it clear that he has done a great job. But the impressive numbers and stats that Hoke and company have done is absolutely unprecedented. Now if next year we drop off the face of the planet then it was a fluke. I hope that we maintain that level and repeat next year (albeit a much tougher schedule to play). Quit crying on our are just very afraid that Hokamania is going to take you out for 3 or 4 straight starting next year at the Big House :)

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

Nebraska won a game on a blown call. Last play of the game against Missouri (9th game of an 11 game season) they had to score a TD for the tie. Pass in the end zone was clearly KICKED by the Nebraska receiver. At the point, the ball cannot be caught legally by a Nebraska player. The only legal result of the play is either an interception or an incomplete pass. But the ball went to another Nebraska player who caught it. This was in the era before instant reply, so there was no review, but the refs had to have been willfully blind to have missed the play--the ball altered direction substantially and the only way it happens is if it was kicked. So Nebraska tied the game with 0:00 on the clock and went on to win the game in OT. So, yes, Nebraska did not earn its NC. Big 12 refs gave it to them. If they lose that game, as they should have, they have no chance at an NC. GN&GL


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Really? ONLY Michigan earned? Nebraska also went undefeated that season. What did they do to not earn the national recognition? Too bad the teams did not play that year. Still complaining about 15 years ago. . . and everyone still recognizes Michigan as a national champion this year.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:14 a.m.

If Mattison doesn't win this in a walk then there's just no justice in the world. Michigan's defense last year was a laughing stock and deemed un-fixable. Mattison didn't accept that premise. So he fixed it.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

TheWrongWay, Save your elitism tinged and unfounded criticism of OldBlueYpsi for RR and his excuse making ways. I also made the same comment oldypsiblue did and then corrected it with the "fix" quote a fe wmins after yahooing it up (don't care for the too liberal Google". Be a Michigan Man instead of deriding others as Hoke would tell you the same thing! TiM


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

Rich Rodriguez didn't say that. He said "Even Vince Lombardi couldn't fix some of our problems." In context, the problems he was talking about were youth and injuries. Please tell me you didn't attend U of M. I'd really like to think a Michigan grad would do his research and refrain from spouting nonsense.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

About one year ago, with the once proud Michigan defense in total disarray, the now infamous statement was uttered, by a person responsible for Michigan's football performance, to the effect that not even Vince Lombardi could coach this defense. Translation from "coachspeak", the players were inept and incompetent. Fast forward from that time three months -- "Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door — Perched upon a bust of Schembechler just above my chamber door — Perched, and sat, and nothing more." And as Edgar Allan Mattison viewed the wreckage of that which, more than a decade prior, he had been the loyal custodian, he was heard to utter in unison with the avian: "(Quoth the Raven) 'Nevermore'." Thanks Coach Greg!!!! Go Blue!!!

Terry Star21

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

Points allowed, from 107th in the country last year to 6th ! Total defense, 110th to 14th - Mattison should be President ! He has returned Michigan to the days of glory when defense won games and helps us faithful relax just a bit and feel much more comfortable at game time. MgoBlueForTiM.............hail, hail, Mattison the champion of the west !