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Akron v MichiganWhen head coach Brady Hoke brought in defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, just about everyone thought that the Wolverines would have lethal defense. However, since Mattison has joined the coaching staff, the defense has been anything but lethal. Nevertheless, after an impressive three week camp and equally impressive performance during the open practice, it’s safe to say that many people are excited about this year’s defense.

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I must admit, I am also excited about this Wolverine defense, walking out of Michigan’s open practice a few weeks ago, I was highly impressed with the growth of the entire defense and I’m not the only one, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is also very excited about this year’s defense and he is making it no secret that he expects this defense to succeed this season.

“I’m really excited about this defense and excited about these young men we’ve had an opportunity to work with.” Mattison said. “Every day we’re around them in camp, I feel more excited. I really like the direction it’s going.”

Now when it comes to the direction of the depth chart, it’s pretty clear that Wolverines have plenty of depth, starting with the defensive line and linebacker position. Going into their game against Appalachian State, Michigan currently has senior Frank Clark as a starter at weak-side defensive end, while Brennen Beyer is starting at strong-side end. After that you have Willie Henry and Ryan Glasgow who are listed as the team’s starting defensive tackles.

At weak-side linebacker, Michigan has listed that it could be junior Joe Bolden or senior Desmond Morgan. Then at middle linebacker, Michigan listed that it could senior Jake Ryan or Desmond Morgan, while at strong-side linebacker, Michigan lists that junior Royce Jenkins-Stone or junior James Ross III could start.

Then when it comes to secondary, the Wolverines have listed senior Ray Taylor or sophomore Jourdan Lewis and junior Blake Countess as the team’s starting corners, while true freshman Jabrill Peppers is listed as the starting nickel, ahead of senior Delonte Hollowell. Then behind them you have Junior Jarrod Wilson, who will start at free safety ahead of sophomore AJ Peasron, and sophomore Jeremy Clark lands at No. 1 at strong safety, ahead of sophomore Dymonte Thomas.

After seeing this defense in action during the open practice a few weeks ago, I honestly feel Mattison and the Wolverines have plenty of reasons to feel very excited about this year’s defense, especially when you consider their level of talent and experience. While many people expected this year’s defense to be much improved,  Mattison said that he also made changes with his coaching methods, starting with moving his focus from the defensive line to the linebackers, which allows him to have a greater focus on his defense as a whole.

“I thought long and hard about it and in today’s football you have to make adjustments during a game and make a lot of spur-of-the-moment decisions,” Mattison said. “You need to be able to tweak a blitz or be able to bring pressure and I just felt being with the defensive line you’re not with two-thirds of your defense at all times.

“Most of the other times I’ve coordinated, I’ve always been with the linebackers in the middle. I just felt it was the best way to go. We also felt very strongly in today’s football with so many spread offenses, you need two guys in the back-end. That was really a big part of it.”

According to Michigan defensive end Brennen Beyer, the Wolverine defense is already buying into what Mattison is trying to do and they are quickly excelling in this new scheme and Mattison’s says he feels very strongly about the young man that they have.

“I think we understand the concept of what coach Mattison is trying to do with us.” Beyer said. we all know where each other fit, we play off each other really well and we just really understand the scheme and how we’re suppose to play it.”

“We feel very strongly about the young men we have.” said Mattison. “As a coach, what you have to do is make sure that everything you’re teaching them, they understand. So we’re all on the same page when we’re out there. If we get these young men to go at the level they should and will, then you’re going to have something exciting.”

Keep in mind that Mattison’s goal for this year’s defense doesn’t stop with a new change of focus and scheme, he also expects to play at a faster and more aggressive pace compared to last season.

“I would expect to see guys playing at a faster pace,” Mattison said. “Not because they’re faster but because they’re older and more experienced. People don’t realize that even though you’re a sophomore and playing, you’re still really young.”

You obviously can’t speak about being fast and aggressive, without bringing up freshman corner-back Jabrill Peppers, who is expected to start at cornerback in the nickel and play as a punt returner ahead of Dennis Norfleet. Although we haven’t been able to speak to Peppers, since freshman are allowed to speak to the media, there is no doubt that his team is doing enough talking about him, starting with Mattison and ending with his teammates like Funchess and Beyer.

“Jabrill has come in and bought in right away, bought into playing the scheme and trying to do exactly what [defensive back coaches] Roy [Manning] and Curt [Mallory] are telling him to on the back-end,” Mattison said. “He’s played tremendously fast and has great confidence. He’s a very confident young man…He loves to play the game of football and he loves Michigan. So far, with everything that we’ve done in practice, he’s really been what we thought he would be.”

“{When it comes Peppers] I think first about the energy he brings. He loves football and he loves the game.” Beyer speaking on Peppers. “Everyday early in the morning, afternoon practices, he just comes out excited to be on the field and excited to play and when you have that type excitement, that helps a lot. [After that it’s just about] being able to understand some defenses, because knowing where your suppose to be allows you to play fast and he plays fast.”

“I think the same as Brennan.” Funchess discussing Peppers impact on the field. “He brought a lot of energy the first day we came out there and he carried that energy throughout the whole camp. He is just one of those guys who loves football and will do anything to play the game. So I guess he is a competitor and he competes with the best of us in practice.”

Overall, I am every excited about this year’s Michigan defense. If you ask me, I think it is a possibility that this year’s defense could very well become the best defenses to be on the field sine Greg Mattison’s has come to Ann Arbor.

NOTES:  Sophomore safety Delano Hill, who broke his jaw before the start of fall camp, will visit the doctor Monday to determine his status for Saturday’s game. During the media press, Hoke said Hill hasn’t been ruled out to play against Appalachian State, but he isn’t listed on Monday’s depth chart.

Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit

For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.

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