Tony Ding/Associated Press
In 2013, Michigan had the No. 13-ranked total defense, despite giving up 40 points three times. It may not be so "bold" to say it'll finish in the top 10, but let's take baby steps with the first forecast.
That's the only way to describe Michigan's defense, which returns nine starters: Frank Clark (DE), Willie Henry (DT), Brennen Beyer (DE), Jake Ryan (LB), and Desmond Morgan (LB), along with James Ross III (LB), Jarrod Wilson (FS), Blake Countess (CB) and Raymon Taylor (CB).
Needless to say, Greg Mattison, who enters his fourth year as defensive coordinator, has been raving about his players for months. He was excited about them in June. He was excited on media day about three weeks ago.
And he was excited during Monday's presser at the Crisler Center.
"We feel very strongly about the young men we have," said Mattison, who made it a point to emphasize specifics with further detailed walkthroughs during the offseason and fall camp. "So as a coach, what you have to do is make sure that everything you're teaching them, they understand. So we're all on the same page when we're out there. If we get these young men to go at the level they should and will, then you're going to have something exciting.
"That's the way we feel."
Mattison and the Wolverines should feel "very strongly" about this fall. With the level of talent at his disposal, they have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
However, Mattison said that works needs to be done—the defense is by no means a finished product. But overall, he's quite confident in his athletes' abilities to get the job done.
About a week ago, Michigan's D-line looked like a wave of bulldozers during the "Under the Lights" scrimmage. The corners and safeties had 17 picks this past season, and the top contributors (Countess and Taylor) are back for more, along with Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis.
Linebackers are abundant. And that's putting it lightly.
Could this be Mattison's best maize and blue defense?
For the sake of predicting boldly, let's say "yes." On top of that, it'll finish among the top 10 in the country.