Greg Mattison: Michigan's DL Back to a Full Second Rotation

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Greg Mattison: Michigan's DL Back to a Full Second Rotation

Football

Greg Mattison: Michigan's DL Back to a Full Second Rotation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Good news for Michigan fans, bad news for offenses: the Wolverines defensive line is back to having a full rotation.

What does that mean?

Well, like in 2016, when the “starters” — Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow, Matt Godin and Chris Wormley — were spelled by the “backups” — who are pretty much the starters now (or at least last year) — Rashan Gary, Bryan Mone, Mo Hurst and Chase Winovich — that’s the situation Michigan’s defensive line finds itself in yet again.

Some of the names might be different now — Michael Dwumfour is expected to start now that Mo Hurst has moved onto the NFL, and former five-star Aubrey Solomon enters his second year at nose tackle — but the concept is the same. Just when you, as an offensive line, think you’ve started wearing down the defensive front, think again. There’s a whole new wave of players that have been licking their chops from the sideline, ready to take you on with a relentless zeal.

Wolverines defensive line coach Greg Mattison is excited about his prospects in 2018. It wasn’t exactly the case in 2017, and it was evident when players like Chase Winovich refused to come off the field — against Purdue, he literally didn’t.

But now, Mattison says he has a full second line that can come in. And, actually, it’s something that he demands in order to optimize the line’s performance all game.

“The thing that I think we have on our defensive line is like two years ago – I talked about that all the time – we might have eight starters,” Mattison said. “We may have the ability with our defensive line this year to be able to tag themselves out.

“In other words, in some places, you have to say to a person, ‘That guy looks tired now, we better put this guy in.’ Well, when you have a group of young men who have earned the right to play, I like to be able to say to them, ‘You rotate yourselves. You look and watch that guy, and if it’s going to be four plays or three plays, or however many we decide, you rotate on your own throughout the game.’

“I look at this defensive line of having seven starters possibly, and then you go from there. And that’s how important it is. And when you have that, then, when you’re out on that field, there’s no time to take a play off. There’s no time to not go 100%. Because if you’re going to be out there playing, and your buddy wants to be playing, and he’s earned the right to play, then don’t you dare go out there and not go hard.

“That’s what we had two years ago, and we’re working towards that again this year.”

So who makes up that depth?

On the inside, you already know about Michael Dwumfour and Aubrey Solomon. Bryan Mone, in his fifth-year, is your run-stopper. But there’s a couple other names in the interior line that perhaps haven’t gotten as much publicity.

Yet, Mattison thinks of them as being starter quality.

“The five guys would be – you’ve got Bryan Mone, you’ve got Lawrence Marshall, you’ve got Dwumfour, you’ve got Aubrey Solomon and you’ve got Carlo Kemp,” Mattison said. “You’ve got five guys that, I believe, starting in the spring last year and right now through this camp, have really earned the right where you say, ‘Okay, we trust you! When you go in there, we think you’re going to play the type of defense we expect you to play.”

But that’s not all, of course. You have the end positions — anchor and end (or strong-side and weak-side, respectively) — where the starters — Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich — really are entrenched. However, there’s a litany of guys who fans should expect to see this season, including a true freshman.

Though, the name that Mattison brought up the most is second-year end Kwity Paye, who he says has shown a lot on both sides of the line.

“The guys who have played the end position that have rotated and done a lot of things – obviously you have Rashan, and then Carlo’s been there some,” “You’ve got Kwity Paye who had a really good camp. Kwity’s shown us the ability that he can play both the end and the anchor position. And then you’ve got Aidan Hutchinson, who’s showed us some really good things as a freshman.

“So that gives you the ability to rotate again. You’ve got guys that can just go through there.

“And then, on Chase’s side, you’ve got Kwity again, and then you’ve got Reuben Jones. A junior that has played some football here before. So you’ve got all guys that have worked really, really hard.

“If you ask, ‘What’s your starting lineup? Who’s the guys…?’ I don’t know! I don’t know! That’s why you have Tuesday – that was yesterday – you’ve got today. We’ll find out now. You’re all starters. This who’s going to take the first snap – and that’s what we always talk about: you’re all starters. You’ve earned the right. If you’re gonna earn the right to rotate, then you’re a starter. Okay? So let’s say, who put on the grass the first play – alright, if you want to call that a starter, that’s a starter. But in four plays, there may be another guy that’s playing just as an important part, a role as anybody else.”

The Wolverines defensive line might just be the best unit on an elite defense. We’ll see for sure just how good they are this upcoming season, starting with Notre Dame on Sept. 1 at 7:30PM.

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