ANN ARBOR, Mich.–Matt Godin is angry. Really, the entire Michigan football team is angry, says the redshirt junior defensive lineman. They’re mad about this past season, and they should be. That 5-and-7 fumble, the one that included embarrassing losses to Rutgers and Maryland, has the Wolverines absolutely livid and determined to right their wrongs.
But they played nice during this past Thursday’s media event. Everyone was upbeat, jovial, talkative and receptive. But deep down, some of them were still fuming over 2014.
“Last year was unacceptable–it was just unacceptable,” said Godin, a 6’6″, 287-pound former Detroit Catholic Central star. “The expectations are so high, and it just wasn’t acceptable; it’s going to change.”
This season, that change will be led by the those in the trenches. Thanks to a rock-solid front four, the Wolverines have enjoyed top-15-ranked total defenses for the past two years. According to NCAA.com–they were No. 13 overall in 2013 and No. 7 overall in 2014.
Despite the losses of Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, who combined for 10 sacks a year ago, the Wolverines remain heavy on the line with the likes of redshirt junior Chris Wormley, junior Taco Charlton, sophomore Bryan Mone and plenty of back-ups, such as Godin, who’s been a reliable reliever for two years.
“We have a lot of talent, a lot of depth,” said Godin, who intercepted a pass during Michigan’s 10-9 road win over Northwestern in 2014. “It’s going to be a big year this year. I think we’re going to be pretty dominant. Everyone’s working together and we had a good offseason. A lot of guys got stronger. We’re excited.”
Part of the excitement is generated by the arrival of former Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who is very much like former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who was retained as the D-line coach after former coach Brady Hoke was fired back in December.
Mattison is the reason for the D-line’s success, at least coaching-wise. That’s not up for debate. And he’s certainly a reason why the D-line can’t wait to pad-up Sept. 3 for the season-opener vs. the Utah Utes in Salk Lake City.
“Oh, that was big for all of us–he’s a familiar face, so that’s always nice,” said a perked-up Godin of Mattison’s retention. “He coached us two years ago, too–the D-ends and all that, so we’re really familiar with him. And obviously he was our D-coordinator, too, and all that. We’re excited.”
Although they’re angrily motivated, the Wolverines are also happily motivated–if that makes sense. The possibilities with Durkin and proven results of Mattison could easily provide a harmonious balance this fall. Team-wise, though, there is a “really positive” vibe in the locker room that’s fed off this past season’s failures.
“I feel it’s all positive,” said Godin. “I mean, you don’t want to dwell in the past; but you want to make sure you think about it and keep it in the back of your head–like what happened. I think that’s important for us, especially as a defense. We’ve got to lead the team.”
The veterans have taken charge in practice by routinely setting the tone. One-by-one, the underclassmen are “gradually taken care of” when it comes to learning the ropes. So far, so good.
Everyone is angry and happy, all at the same time, together as one.
“Our goal is to be the best defense in the country,” Godin said without hesitation. “I think we have the talent to do that. We definitely have the demeanor, too. We got some guys who are angry because of our season. Especially me, and how that went. We’re ready to go.”
Video (2:50) play-by-play: Frank Clark applies the pressure during the three-man rush, tips the ball toward his teammates and Matt Godin fields it pop-up style to kill the Wildcats’ attempt to score prior to halftime of the Wolverines’ 10-9 victory.
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