Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison returns to teaching mode with Wolverines
Greg Mattison has no interest in dredging up past defensive disappointments.
While the first-year defensive coordinator with the Michigan football team is aware of how the Wolverines ranked 108th nationally in total yardage, he won't watch game film to review exactly what went wrong.
Instead, Mattison, who spent the past three years as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator, will build for the future, using NFL film examples to illustrate how the Wolverines can successfully run their scheme this weekend.
It's a strategy that Michigan defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery believes can work wonders.
"What they're asking is, 'How can I be more like (NFL players),'" Montgomery said Wednesday. "I think that's what is neat about putting those cut-ups on is that is where they want to get. So you've really got their attention when you put that film on."
Moving impressionable defensive players in that direction is where Mattison enters the equation. The long-time assistant has coached almost exclusively at the college level, where he worked for more than 30 years.
He worked four years at Michigan before moving on to Notre Dame and Florida before joining the Ravens in 2008.
While the job in Baltimore put Mattison into constant contact with top-level talent, Mattison missed teaching. So when Michigan coach Brady Hoke called offering him a spot on his staff earlier this winter, a return to Michigan made sense.
"It's different than the NFL - the players you have are the players you have," Mattison said Wednesday. "The positive thing is that you have the ability to take a young freshman and say, 'OK, here is where you are now and if you do what we're saying to do, you're going to get to here.'
"With a guy like Ray Lewis, you say, 'OK, take better steps right here - you've been an All-Pro for 15 years - and he may look at you, like 'Whoa, what are you talking about?'"
With Mattison, the Wolverines get the best of both worlds. Players will work under a coordinator who ran one of the NFL's top defensive units, but one who returned to Michigan because he missed working with kids.
"Coaching the technique and the fundamentals at any level is coaching the technique and the fundamentals," Hoke said on Wednesday. "But the impact you get to have on the young guy who is a freshman in the program and building him and getting him to a point where you see the progression he takes and the improvement they make, that's a big part of it."
That's part of the reason Mattison said he never wanted to be a head coach. Outside of a high school job in Wisconsin he landed at 22 and the job that followed when he led LaCrosse (Wis.) Logan to a state championship, Mattison has always been content with being an assistant.
Running a program would require him to wear too many hats rather than allowing him to focus on passing his knowledge along to his players. In limited contact with players this winter, Mattison senses a desire for to improve and grasp a new four down lineman scheme designed to stop the run.
Mattison has already made one move, shifting 6-foot-5, 333-pound junior defensive lineman Will Campbell back to the defensive side of the ball after former coach Rich Rodriguez shifted him to the offensive line last season.
Mattison said Campbell suits his system well, calling the Detroit native "my kind of a guy."
With players eager to learn, Mattison's teaching role allows him to carry out a job he believes he has always been equipped to do.
"That's the thing I love about college coaching," he said. "It's the ability to be able to get a young man from point A to point wherever. That's the fun part."