My apologies for not posting last night -- was out and about -- but Michigan coach Brady Hoke announced the hiring of seven assistant coaches, including both coordinators.
We already knew Hoke was bringing offensive coordinator Al Borges with him from San Diego State. The big move came Tuesday night as Hoke named Greg Mattison as his defensive coordinator. Mattison most recently served as Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator and returns to Michigan, where he served as a Wolverines assistant with Hoke in the 1990s. Mattison coached Michigan's defensive line from 1992-96 and served as the team's defensive coordinator in the final two seasons.
"He has loved Michigan since working there earlier in his career," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. "We will miss him because he's a great coach, but also an even better person. The students there are the lucky ones. Not only will he teach them football to the highest level, he will influence them to be the best persons they can be. Greg is one of the good people you are fortunate to meet in your life. We are disappointed that he will not be coaching our defense, but we know that he is following a true love by returning to the Wolverines."
The thing that jumps out about Mattison is his experience:
14 years as a defensive coordinator (12 in college, the past two with the Ravens)
served as co-defensive coordinator and D-line coach at Florida from 2005-07, helping the Gators win a national title in 2006
has held positions at three different Big Ten schools -- Michigan, Northwestern and Illinois -- in addition to spending eight seasons on Notre Dame's staff
Mattison has seen just about everything in his career and faced all sorts of challenges. He encounters a difficult one at Michigan, which comes off of the worst defensive stretch in team history.
The Wolverines ranked 110th nationally in total defense this year and finished 108th, 77th and 84th nationally in points allowed in the past three seasons. Youth and lack of depth certainly played roles, but Michigan also had players who simply didn't improve, and that falls on the coaching staff.
It will take more than a good scheme to get Michigan on track. Mattison and his defensive staff must get back to the basics (tackling, alignment, angles to the ball). They inherit some good pieces like nose tackle Mike Martin, defensive end Craig Roh and cornerback Troy Woolfolk, but their real work takes place with the younger players to build depth.
I like the Mattison hire. Michigan needed a coach with loads of experience and a promising track record. He'll command respect from the players, and he understands the difficult task at hand.
In addition to Mattison and Borges, Hoke announced the following staff additions:
Dan Ferrigno (tight ends and special teams coordinator)
Darrell Funk (offensive line)
Jeff Hecklinski (receivers)
Mark Smith (linebackers)
Fred Jackson is the lone assistant retained from Rich Rodriguez's staff and will continue to coach running backs
Aaron Wellman takes over as head strength and conditioning coach
Aside from Mattison and Jackson, all the staff members are holdovers from Hoke's staff at San Diego State.