When Brady Hoke hired Greg Mattison I was excited but still cautiously optimistic after watching three years of the worst defense in the history of Michigan football. I know I was thinking, how much could Mattison accomplish with the hand he had been dealt? Turns out more than anybody could have possibly expected. Mattison turned around the defense instantly. He took a group that could only be described as moribund and transformed them into one of the best defenses in the country statistically.
One of the reasons why Mattison has been successful are his NFL style blitz packages. Mattison does a great job of disguising his blitzes. He confuses the offense by showing similar looks that have a myriad of different calls, keeping the offense off balance and guessing.
In the first example Mattison shows six on the line of scrimmage indicating to the offense that a blitz is coming. While it looks like pressure from the alignment, Michigan is actually playing a full zone and only rushing two.
Later in the first quarter Mattison dials up a similar look to the first example. From the seven Michigan defenders on the line of scrimmage the alignment again looks like it will be a heavy blitz, but it’s not. It’s another full zone and Michigan is only rushing four. Michigan brings three rushers to the short side of the field. The idea is to get one on one matchups for their pass rushers, or get an overload rush if Ohio State slides the protection the wrong way. Braxton Miller gets confused by the call and has to throw the ball away.
What those two calls have done is set up the opportunity for Mattison to bring the heat from the same look. Michigan shows another six man front on the line of scrimmage. This time Mattison is bringing heavy pressure in the form of a zero blitz. A zero blitz means that Mattison is bringing one more player than the offense can block and playing straight man to man behind the blitz.
Braxton Miller and the Ohio State coaching staff see the same look that has brought no pressure in the previous two third down situations. They obviously believe that Michigan is going to play passive again. They don’t change the protection, or account for the extra rusher coming from Miller’s front side in the form of Frank Clark, who’s only job now that Mattison has him coming unblocked is to seek and destroy the quarterback.
Mattison has Miller guessing. Due to Miller guessing wrong Clark gets a kill shot on Miller that forces fourth down and long, ending the Buckeyes’ drive. Miller did an unbelievable job just to hang on to the ball. Most times this would be at a minimum a turnover and quite possibly a touchdown for the defense.
That’s the brilliance of Mattison. Not just being able to put together and teach multiple defenses from the same pressure look, but knowing the precise time to dial up the maximum pressure blitz to make a big play.
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