With Michigan coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison as the defensive line coaches at Michigan, the Wolverines’ D-line would likely being under the highest scrutiny of any team in the country.
But the problem is, it hasn’t looked that way. The Wolverines aren’t getting the results they want.
“I told them that on Sunday, I said, ‘It’s not acceptable how we’re pass rushing,’ ” Mattison said. “I said, ‘I’m not doing a good job of teaching you and I’m going to do a good job of teaching you because we’re going to be able to pass rush.’ And we will.”
And they must if they want to compete for a Big Ten title.
The Wolverines narrowly slipped by Akron on Saturday, allowing 311 yards passing and 107 yards on the ground. The Zips gashed the front four time and time again.
The Wolverines ended the day without a single sack, but with six quarterback hurries -- something senior defensive tackle Jibreel Black said was promising.
“Us as a defense, we still have faith in our defensive line,” Black said. “It’s not like we’re not getting to the quarterback at all. We’re getting to the quarterback, we’re getting in his face, he’s just getting rid of it, throwing incomplete passes. That’s the way it is sometimes.”
UConn’s offensive front might be the weakest Michigan has faced this season as the Huskies are still trying to figure out their starting five. That gives an opportunity for the Michigan defensive line as it returns to the basics this week.
Michigan will likely continue to filter in several players as Mattison has been pleased with the defensive line depth. Even though the numbers haven’t really backed it up, he has felt as though they were solidly three deep at each position on the defensive line.
One of the major problems might be the fact that a lot of the players getting snaps are young and Mattison said that maybe, after he saw much promise in his D-line depth last spring, that he gave them too much to handle this fall.
“Maybe I’ve tried to teach them too many things and we’ve got to go back to the way we were in the spring when we were doing a better job of it and say, ‘OK, let’s go back and do this first,’ ” Mattison said. “Sometimes, when I see good things in the practice field I say, ‘OK, I’m going to teach you this now, this will even help you more.’ Well, you better be able to master the first one first. That’s what we’re going to go with.”
Through three games the Michigan defensive line has accounted for just 30 tackles, one sack and six quarterback hurries.
And most of those numbers are coming from non-starters. Sophomore defensive end Mario Ojemudia leads the D-linemen in tackles with nine and is the only defensive lineman to record a sack.
In fact, the only starting defensive lineman who’s in the top five for D-line tackles is junior defensive end Frank Clark, who has accounted for four tackles (as well as four quarterback hurries). Backups Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley and Matt Godin round out the top five.
Part of that is scheme. Mattison said that starting tackle Quinton Washington (who has registered just two tackles through three games) and Pipkins have seen fewer snaps as Michigan has been in more of its sub package the past few games.
“We just have to go back to the fundamentals,” Black said. “When you’re always having trouble or having difficulties, you just go back to your fundamentals, back to the drawing board and really tune back in to where you started and then build from there.”