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Terps will have to overcome former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison

Terps will have to overcome former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison
Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said he became "a lot more aggressive" from his time spent coaching the Ravens' defense. (Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

The approach of Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison evolved through three years of scheming and brainstorming with the likes of John Harbaugh, Dean Pees, Rex Ryan and Chuck Pagano.

Mattison was the Ravens' linebackers coach in 2008 and their defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010 before leaving to take the job in Ann Arbor, where he's built a highly ranked defense that Maryland will face Saturday.

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"I think I'm a lot more aggressive," the 65-year old Mattison said of how he has changed from his time in Baltimore. "I think in my college years prior I was a little bit more conservative. I probably didn't know as much as I learned while being the coordinator at the Ravens and being with some of the people that I was with. … All those guys broadened my [knowledge] of how to get after people, how to play good defense, and they helped me a great deal."

Since Mattison took over a unit that ranked 108th nationally in scoring defense in 2010, the Wolverines ranked sixth in scoring defense in 2011 and 20th in 2012 before falling to 67th last year.

Michigan is ranked eighth in the country in total defense this season and 19th in scoring defense.

While the Wolverines (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) are last in the Big Ten in total offense, Mattison's defense has limited three of Michigan's past four opponents to 13 points or less, which has propelled the previously 2-4 Wolverines to wins in each of those three games.

Under Mattison, the Ravens ranked third in the NFL in total defense in 2009 and 10th in 2010.

"Coach Mattison is just really good at finding ways to put his players in positions to make plays," said Michigan cornerback Blake Countess, a Reisterstown native who went to high school at Gilman and Good Counsel. "The coaching staff decided after last season that we have the players to be more aggressive, so he's changed it up a little bit, just to put us in better positions and give us better chances for the defensive line to get after the offensive line and for us to get after the receivers.

"I think he's just done a great job communicating with us what he wants to get done ... and it all starts with coach Mattison being the mastermind behind it all and just going in the lab, like I call it, and cooking up all kinds of defenses and looks for us."

Led by defensive end Brennen Beyer, Michigan has 27 sacks, including 20 sacks in six conference games, which is tied with Maryland and Ohio State for second-most in Big Ten games.

While the Wolverines will be without standout defensive lineman Frank Clark, who was dismissed from the team earlier in the week, Beyer has 5.5 sacks and Michigan will have six other players available with two sacks or more.

Neutralizing that pass rush will be among the challenges for Maryland, which has allowed the fourth-most sacks in the Big Ten (28).

Among the Terps' other offensive priorities is revitalizing a running game that has produced just 83 yards on 76 carries the last three games.

That figures to be a challenge against a Mattison-led Michigan defense that has limited opposing teams to 2.8 yards per carry.

"As I've said before, on offense, balance is being able to do both [run and pass] really well," Terps offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. "And right now we're not doing either really well, and that's a concern. What we have to do is obviously the execution. It starts with being able to execute it, get a hat on a hat and be physical at the point of attack. We have to get our quarterback [C.J. Brown] involved as a runner, and he has to make some plays for us down the stretch here in the last few games."

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