The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 7A
Defense takes pride in turning the tide
TIM ROHAN defense, 110th in total defense -
Daily Sports Editor 112th in passing defense, allow-
ing 261 yards per game - and
Greg Mattison had a specific 76th in turnovers forced.
message for the group of players How did Mattison and Michi-
who lived by his word. When he gan coach Brady Hoke turn
walked into the team meeting around a defense in five games?
room last Sunday, one day after Maybe they don't believe any-
the Michigan defense posted its thing's turned around just yet.
most dominant showing since Maybe the turnaround started
2007, Mattison began: when the Wolverines took their
"You guys played good. You lumps a year ago.
guys got a shutout. You guys were "We (have) an unbelievable
good on third down. But you guys hunger and the attitude that,
gave up first downs that you nor- 'Yeah, we accept the fact that we
mally wouldn't give up. So we've were not where we need to be
got to watch this film and get this last year. We'll do everything and
corrected." anything to be good this year,'"
Win 58-0? Not good enough. Van Bergen said.
Mattison's defense is ranked Demens said the secondary
second in scoring defense, 16th plays with an attitude that they
in passing defense - allowing were better than it played last
177 passing yards per game - season. Perhaps more than any
and sixth in turnovers forced. unit, it plays with a personal
To the untrained eye, Mattison's pride.
defense is doing just fine. "They understand totally that
But it's not his defense. giving up big plays is not accept-
"It's the Michigan defense," able in the back end," Mattison
Mattison said Tuesday. "It's said.
Ryan Van Bergen's defense. It's Now, Michigan's allowed
Mike Martin's defense. It's the just 10 plays of 20-plus yards
(line)backers' defense. It's the and Mattison commended their
secondary's defense." positioning in run defense. Last
"We're just taking pride," season, the unit allowed 46 pass-
added junior linebacker Kenny ing plays of 20-plus yards. And
Demens, as he explained what it missed tackles at all three levels
meant to make it their defense. led to long runs.
"Coach Hoke told us that it's our Pride as a unit is stronger than
defense - they give us a scheme, that of one individual.
they coach us, but it's our job to When Mattison said he was
Sgo out there and perform." going to rotate waves of defensive
A year ago, the Michigan linemen through, cutting down
defense finished 107th in scoring Van Bergen's playing time, the
"The things that happened
last year is, the ball would be on
the ground, and we'd not come
up with it as much. This year,
when the ball's on the ground, it's
Four players have intercep-
tions. Seven players have forced
fumbles. Three players have
scored defensive touchdowns.
Everyone's buying in.
Hoke says the turnaround
starts up front with his defen-
sive linemen - once Van Bergen,
Martin and junior defensive end
Craig Roh started being "disrup-
tive" by themselves, it opened up
the world to Mattison. The line-
backers could do their job. And
the secondary could disguise
coverages and double team play-
ers if they needed to.
At one point, Mattison chal-
lenged his front-four, saying,
"We're going to start rushing just
you four, you have to hit home."
"(It) allows us to go back and
forth: pressure, no-pressure,"
Mattison said Tuesday. "Or make
it look like pressure, when it's
really not pressure."
Roh, in particular, has four
tackles for loss and two sacks the
past three games. But on Tues-
day, Mattison challenged him to
be even better - tobe the impact
player Mattison needs his rush
end to be.
In the past, it would've been
enough if Roh just worried about
"I think individuals have
probably tapped into confidence.
(in the past)," Van Bergen said.
"There have been guys that have
played well. But as far as confi-
dence in the unit, that's more of
a new thing."
Together they're No. 2. Divid-
ed they're No. 107.
Mattison threw out schemes
and variations that didn't fit this
version of the Michigan defense.
He'll only use what they know
and are comfortable with, and
only bring in new schemes when
Maybe, just maybe, the turn-
around started when they all
started having fun. Mattison pre-
pares them so they know what
plays are going to be run, where
they're going to. go and what
the opponents' tendencies are.
Demens said the game prepara-
tion this season is well ahead of
what the defense was doing last
season. And Van Bergen called
Mattison's in-game adjustments,
"When an offense hears the
defense calling out their plays,
that's kind of intimidating,"
Really, though, at this point,
the turnaround could be attrib-
uted to all of the above.
"I think it's schemes,"Van Ber-
gen said. "I think it's guys buying
in. I think it's experience - we've
got a lot of guys who have played
a lot of football. I think it's just
confidence. There's a swagger
about our defense. When you're
playingthe waywe're playing, it's
a lot more fun to play.
ED RIN KI RK IA ND/D
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has prepared his unit well this season.
fifth-year senior was skeptical
at first. Then he saw how fresh
he was in the fourth quarter,
and how he and senior defensive
tackle Mike Martin, who played
upwards of 90 snaps a year ago,
had enough energy to go 100 per-
cent when they were in the game.
On Saturday, Van Bergen played
28 snaps and got his first sack of
"With so many things that
have gone right with coach
Mattison and all these coaches,
we've all bought into everything
they've told us," Van Bergen said.
"Anything that they say, goes."
Maybe the turnaround start-
ed when Mattison came to his
defense with a new rule - when-
ever the ball was on the ground,
in any drill, whether it was an
incompletion or thrown out of
bounds, or whenever the ball was
on the ground, the whole defense
had to sprint to the ball and rally
to the endzone.
"Everybody rolled their eyes at
this rule," Van Bergen said. "We
thought, 'Man, this is nuts, we're
going to be tired. We're wasting
time. This is stupid.' Shame on us
because it's been great for us. It's
taught us great habits.
Borges OK with backs Smith's versatility paying off for Blue
by committee for now Daily Sports Editor
IkJ \. !-.A i M LJL-L~ .,'O/\/ i !__ Z Z ~
KEVIN RAFTERY over Minnesota, Smith rushed,
Daily Sports Editor received and threw a touchdown.
But Smith's success came as
Five games into the season, no surprise to Borges.
the Michigan football coaches "We're using Vince Smith
are waving a white flag - for exactly the way I thought we
now. Throughout spring and were going to," Borges said.
fall camp, plenty of questions NEW FIELD, NEW CITY, NO
lingered. How would the team PROBLEM: On Saturdays this
adjust to a new offense? A new season, the Wolverines have
defense? Who played on nothing but the Michi-
would be the NOTEBOOK gan Stadium turf so far. This
starting kick- weekend, they'll get their first
er? But for the coaches, one thing taste of real grass at Northwest-
was certain: They would have ern's Ryan Field. It shouldn't be
a lead running back to take the an issue for Michigan, or coach
majority of the carries. Now, just Brady Hoke.
over a month into the season, "We've been practicing on
four different backs - redshirt grass all the way through," Borg-
sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint, es said. "Brady likes practicing
junior Vincent Smith, senior on grass. It's easier on the kids'
Michael Shaw and sophomore legs. As long as the field stays in
Stephen Hopkins - have had decent shape, you can do that."
meaningful carries this year. There should be no issues
"I'd prefer the other way, with the field Saturday, as tem-
where there's a (main) guy," said peratures are forecasted to be in
Michigan offensive coordina- the mid-70s with clear skies for
for Al Borges on Wednesday. the 6p.m. central time kickoff.
"But our combination of backs And chances are, a good majority
is working out. I may change my of the people will be rooting for
mind in three weeks, but I see the Wolverines. Michigan has a
no reason at this point to change huge alumni base in Chicago.
* how we're going about it." "It's always nice to play in
Toussaint has tallied the most front of folks that are behind
carries among the backs and you," Hoke said. "I know there's a
also leads them with 75.2 yards ton of alums who live in the area,
per game - still more than 45 so we welcome them all."
yards behind junior quarterback WHERE'S TREE?: Last
Denard Robinson. season, redshirt junior Roy
"Fitz has come around," Borg- Roundtree led the team in
es said. "Fitz is really running receiving. He snagged 72 passes
the ball hard and tough." for seven total touchdowns and
Smith was originally set to 935 total yards.
be the third-down back, but in In last season's offense under
recent weeks he has given the former coach Rich Rodriguez,
coaching staff plenty of reason Roundtree played in the slot
to put him on the field more position. This year, he's on the
often. In last week's 58-0 rout outside.
And he's struggled to make
his presence known so far. In
five games, he's had just five
catches for 44 total yards and
one touchdown, albeit the game-
winner in the Notre Dame game.
Both Borges and Hoke insist
Roundtree's numbers mean
"Just the way games have
played out," Hoke said.
Borges expanded on Hoke's
"Within the game plan, we
have X amount of balls that go
to the split receiver," he said. "If
they go to him, they go to him.
There's going to be games you
catch some balls, there's going
to be games you don't catch any
INJURY UPDATE: Junior left
guard Ricky Barnum, who hurt
his leg two weeks ago in a 28-7
win over San Diego State, is ques-
tionable for the game against
Northwestern. Based on what
Hoke said at his press conference
before practice yesterday, his
status for Saturday depends on
what Barnum was able to do at
practice Wednesday - the day of
the week Hoke decides if injured
players will be able to play in the
"I don't think he's out," Hoke
said. "He didn't do much yester-
day, but today's Wednesday."
Fifth-year senior receiver
Junior Hemingway has been
playing with a protective
arm wrap, but Hoke said that
shouldn't be an issue.
"He's alright," Hoke said.
"He's got a little boo-boo on his
elbow. We did punt yesterday
and he's one of our wings, and he
did a great job protecting."
It was the second quarter and
the Michigan football team was
already up 14-0, but junior run-
ning back Vincent Smith'sjob was
possibly on the line. Well, one of
Smith's many jobs.
He was already the third-down
back and had claimed one of the
top two running back spots early
in the season. But this job - the
person who throws the half back
pass - had the smallest room for
Smith had won the job at the
end of summer, throwing two
successful passes during prac-
tice, but offensive coordinator Al
Borges has a quick trigger fin-
ger when it comes to halfbacks
throwing the ball.
"They get fired fast," Borges
said on Tuesday. "They do. Last
year at San Diego State I fired
Ronnie Hillman after one throw.
He told me, 'Coach, that's too
much pressure, just one pass!' I
go, 'That's tough. It's like Donald
Trump, man. You're out."'
Fortunately for Smith, he
floated a 17-yard pass to wide
open sophomore receiver Drew
Dileo to put Michigan up three
touchdowns. It was just the lat-
est example of Smith proving his
versatility. He tore his ACL in the
last game of his freshman year,
but recovered in time for the sea-
son and didn't miss a game the
following year. Smith rushed for
612 yards, good for second on the
team behind junior quarterback
When Michigan coach Brady
Hoke was hired in the offseason,
he said he wanted to bring a more
traditional power run game back
to the Wolverines. The offense
didn't appear to fit the 5-foot-6,
172-pound Smith anymore.
But Smith said he never
thought about leaving. He lost out
on the running back job to open
the season but found a way to get
on the field as the third-down
back, mostly because of his block-
ing ability. Teammates say that
Smith picks out the biggest guys
to go against in practice and Hoke
has repeatedly praised how tough
his smallest running back is.
"The small guys, they always
got to put a little extra to be
noticed so that's what I do," Smith
said. "I've got to do my job and
just get noticed in a different type
After a 118-yard performance
against Eastern Michigan, he was
noticed for his running ability too.
Since then, Smith and redshirt
sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint
have been the main rushers in the
12th-ranked Wolverines' running
: , a.
Junior running back Vincetn Smith has scored four touchdowns this season.
back by committee attack.
Smith has two rushing touch-,
downs in the past two games.
The rushes, from seven yards
and three yards respectively, are
putting some of the doubts about
whether he can run between the
tackles to rest. And as Michigan's
utility man, his impact hasn't
beenlimited to the runninggame.
He's also third on the team in
receiving with nearly 100 yards.
The screen pass he took 28 yards
to the endzone against Minnesota
was his second receiving touch-
down on the season.
"He does everything you want
him to do," Hoke said last week.
"Vince is a guy that you can
count on. If he makes a mistake
or doesn't do something as well,
it's not because of lack of effort
or lack of toughness. He's done a
good job for us."
Redshirtijunior wide receiver Roy Roundtree has just five catches in five games this season.