Boasting a star-studded defensive line loaded to the brim with four seniors, Michigan bullied opposing offenses into submission with their unparalleled work in the trenches during their 2016 campaign, leading to a No. 1 ranked finish in total defense.
Now, after reaping the benefits of having four seniors lead the charge, the Wolverines must turn to the mastermind behind all of the team’s success in the trenches to rebuild their defensive line – Greg Mattison.
Entering his seventh consecutive season with Michigan, Mattison has built the Wolverines’ defensive line from the ground up, allowing his four seniors from a year ago to all enter the 2017 NFL draft with high expectations tagged to their respective names.
Headlining Michigan’s group of graduating defensive linemen, defensive ends Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley are both expected to go before Day 3 of this year’s draft after building their productive resumes beneath Mattison’s tutelage.
Flying off the edge of the Wolverines’ defense, Charlton put forth his best efforts as senior last season, notching 40 combined tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 11 games en route to first-team All-Big Ten honors (coaches and media).
Wormley recorded 123 total tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in 51 career games (30 starts). He also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors (coaches) and second-team All-Big Ten honors (media) after his senior season in Ann Arbor and was selected to the All-Big Ten third team (coaches) in 2015.
Mattison is now tasked with replacing his senior studs with four new defensive linemen, all of which he has groomed since being recruited to Ann Arbor.
Named the 2013 ESPN RecruitingNation Recruiter of the Year, Mattison is highly regarded for his ability to seek out high school talent along the defensive line and refine their respective skill sets in the few short years he has them at Michigan.
Soon-to-be seniors Chase Winovich, Maurice Hurst and Bryan Mone are all expected to take over as starters in the trenches, while young phenom Rashan Gary is expected to lead the group.
The Wolverines’ four projected starters had 30+ tackles as primary depth players last season, which should help them transition into a premier starting roles along the defensive line.
Mattison is confident this new starters in the trenches will pick up where his previous seniors left off, but he has yet to find truly talented depth players to earn the “right to rotate.”
“We always talk about ‘You earn the right to rotate,’” Mattison said, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. “Two things can happen if you don’t earn the right to rotate. Now you’ve got four guys playing the whole time and they’re never gonna play as good as if you have guys to rotate for them. So that’s a big thing for us, that some of these guys behind them have got to close that gap fast, and they’re working at it.”
If history were to repeat itself, Mattison will soon earn his right to rotate when his younger players like Carlo Kemp and Donovan Jeter get up to speed.
Mattison noted that both Kemp and Jeter “have stepped forward at times” during spring ball, hinting at their increased roles next season.
Regardless of who steps forward for the Wolverines, as long Mattison is still at the helm, Michigan’s defensive line will sail smoothly in 2017.