Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison a finalist for national assistant of the year award
With the regular season in the books, awards season is right around the corner.
Greg Mattison will be a heavy contender. In fact, he already is.
The Michigan football team's defensive coordinator was named on Monday one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, which honors the country's top assistant.
The other finalists are LSU defensive coordinator John Charvis, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and Alabama linebackers/assistant head coach Sal Sunseri. The winner will be named at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 6.
That's a list of heavy-hitters, and Mattison has earned his place among them.
He led the Wolverines to a defensive renaissance this year, with his 4-3 scheme and emphasis on fundamentals setting the tone for a group that finished the regular season ninth in scoring defense. It allowed 17.2 points per game.
The Wolverines allowed 35.2 points per game last year, tied for 107th in the country. That's an improvement of 18 points per game and 98 spots in the rankings, with largely the same players as they had last year under former defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
Mattison addressed the defense's improvement last week.
"This defense, it’ll go down — you’ll probably remember this defense more than any other defense because of how they have bought in," he said, referring to both scheme and philosophy changes. "I’ve said it all along, these kids come out everyday and every meeting to get better, and everything you talk to them about and every drill they do, they try to get better.
"They’ve done it all year, and I’m happy for them that they’re having some success because it shows that it’s worth what they’re doing.”
Michigan allowed more than 24 points only twice this season. It showed considerable improvement in most major statistical categories, including rising to the top of the Big Ten in rush defense during league play.
Mattison said the key to that improvement, more than anything, was better tackling, and better tackling is a function of greater effort.
"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," he said. "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. And that comes down to effort."
Mattison, originally from Madison, Wis., is in his 34th year as a college football assistant. He also spent the past three years with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.
He has said the only reason he came back to college was because his best friend, Brady Hoke, was named head coach at Michigan, which is near where his daughter lives and a place with which he fell in love during a previous coaching stint.
Mattison was an assistant for the Wolverines from 1992-96.