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The Michigan Defense: Where are we now?

Matt Parker Profile PicGreg Mattison came to Michigan with the job of restoring pride in the Wolverine defense. Before he got to campus some three years ago, the Wolverine defense was terrible; 110th overall as matter of fact in 2010. Maize and Blue fans expected it could take awhile for the defense to come around. But it was actually the spot of greatest improvement right away in Brady Hoke’s first season on the job.

But after two seasons of improvement, things look to have taken a step back. With that in mind, let’s take a brief look back at how we got to where we are today. And let’s see what bodes well for the near future on the defensive side of the ball.

Nobody really knew what to expect of the 2011 Michigan defense. Mattison was working with a group of players that had not been able to stop ANYBODY the years prior under the former coach. Needless to say Mattison made his presence known right away. Michigan remarkably held opponents to 17.4 points-a-game in 2011. That ranking was 6th best in the nation and up from the 107th place from the squad that in the prior year allowed an average of 35 points per contest.

One of the key stats that year as well was the 3rd down conversions. Michigan held opponents to 36.42 percent on 3rd downs. The pass defense ranked 16th overall that year as well and the Wolverine defense held opponents in the red zone to 68.29 percent conversion rate.

In 2012 despite a rough first game against Alabama, Greg Mattison’s group redounded and finished 2012 with a sustained solid performance. The Wolverines held opponents to 19.8 points a game despite giving up 41 in that loss to the Crimson Tide to open the year. The pass defense was number one for a while most of last year. They finished 5th in the nation against the pass and 13th overall in total defense. On third down conversion, the Wolverines held opponents to 36 percent, 30th overall. One of the areas that Michigan didn’t do so well in 2012 in was opponents the red-zone conversion rate where they were successful 80.95 percent of the time.

The defense broke down at the end of the Outback Bowl against South Carolina allowing 12 points and was unable game to make a play when they had a chance to do so to seal the victory. Ultimately that cost them the victory. Overall though in two seasons, Greg Mattison absolutely returned some lost luster and pride to the defensive side of the ball and coming into 2013, expectations ran high that the success would continue.

2013 however has been a mixed result with the defense. So far the defense this year is giving up 27 points per game. Teams are converting 41.32 percent of the time on 3rd downs against Michigan. Also teams are scoring on 82 percent of their red zone trips. Which has not improved from 2012.  The Michigan pass defense also took a HUGE decline this year. They are currently ranked 98th against the pass. Overall, the Wolverines are 27th best in total defense giving up an average of 360 yards-a-game.

The run defense has been pretty good for the most part this year though and is currently ranked 14th.

Mattison is working with a bunch of young kids on defense this year. While the defensive line has been making progress it can still improve a great deal as well as the safety play can improve. To many big passes late in games actually cost Michigan the game against Penn State.

But the defense is ahead of schedule. Mattison will have this defense on lock down mode. MICHIGAN is really missing that dominant defensive tackle and the Hoke is recruiting them to come to Ann Arbor.

Prior to the game against MSU, Deshawn Hand was publicly rumored to consider Michigan his number once choice. But recently, Hand made an official visit to Alabama and Nick Saba.  If anyone can convince a kid to change his mind and skip Ann Arbor, it would be Saban.

Four more games to go in the regular season and I will be looking forward to how the defensive plays vs. Nebraska this weekend. Hopefully they play a great game and MICHIGAN will come away with the win.

As always through the good and the bad, our hearts will always be Blue for MICHIGAN.


Matt Parker

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