Effort above all else

Mattison never lets up on technique, but his linemen must give all they have

Updated: August 5, 2012, 4:09 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

To preview Michigan's football season this year, WolverineNation takes a look at each position through the spectrum of the expectations of the position set by head coach Brady Hoke and the coordinators -- along with those who have played the position at Michigan in the past.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Greg Mattison can go back to one play from last season, even months after it has ended, to illustrate exactly what he is looking for in a defensive lineman.

[+] EnlargeCraig Roh
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioCraig Roh is the lone returning starter on the defensive line.
A former defensive line coach himself, Michigan's defensive coordinator can still see Ryan Van Bergen sprinting down the field in the third quarter against San Diego State last season, catching up to the Aztecs' Ronnie Hillman almost 30 yards later and forcing a fumble.

Van Bergen never gave up, pushed himself as much as he could and made a play. When Mattison and Michigan look for what to expect out of defensive linemen, they can throw in a DVD clip of that play.

"I remember us going over it and over it with the team," Mattison said. "Emphasizing this is how the defensive line plays. That's the expectation for the position, that's what that means."

In a word -- effort. Mattison is a constant preacher of technique and how if a lineman is technically sound he can overcome deficiencies in speed or size or quickness.

But even if a player has strong technique and is physically gifted, Mattison said it comes down to how much the player will give. How hard he will push. Considering how much Mattison's defensive schemes rely on the defensive line -- pressure from the front four is a critical cog to everything Mattison schemes behind them -- playing with extreme effort isn't really an option if the Wolverines want to have a successful defensive plan.

That comes with effort, technique and every player, in many aspects of their game, looking the same.

"He would never let me slip on my technique," former Notre Dame defensive lineman Anthony Weaver told WolverineNation last year. "When guys thought they figured it all out and let things slide, he would never let things slide. I always appreciated that."

Trying to make every defensive lineman look the same technically would help overcome any deficiencies. It also improved the pass rush by keeping linemen from flaring around.

Weaver said Mattison was a big reason why he ended up in the NFL and is still an influence in how he coaches.

Even though Weaver played at a different school than Mattison is at now, the expectation has not changed. Mattison, in some ways, will always be a defensive line coach. And what he expects from those players will never, ever waver.

"It's technique and effort. & When the ball is snapped for that first second, how you take a block on, how you react to a block, that's technique," Mattison said. "The next part of it is what separates and what we at Michigan think we hold above a lot of other people.

"When that ball does go away from you and you can't make that play, then what do you do? What kind of player are you now? Do you stand and watch? Go at half-speed? Or go hard if you're the last guy on the field? That's what I'm talking about."

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter