INDIANAPOLIS – When Rashan Gary was asked what Ohio State should expect from new co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, he paused for a moment, tilted his head to the side and sighed.
Before Chase Winovich began talking about what Mattison could bring to the Buckeyes, he paused and sighed, too.
Mattison spent the past eight years as an assistant coach at Michigan, including the past four years as defensive line coach, a role in which he helped a multitude of defensive linemen – including Gary and Winovich in this year’s draft class – become NFL draft prospects. Now, however, Mattison is working for the Wolverines’ biggest rival, serving as one of the leaders of Ohio State’s new defensive coaching staff.
Yet even though Mattison will now be wearing scarlet and gray, which can be a sore subject for those who played for him in maize and blue, both Gary and Winovich had nothing but good things to say about their former defensive line coach when they were asked about him at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday.
“Greg Mattison was like a father figure in my life. He cared for me as a man on the field, but more as a man off the field,” Gary said. “So I love coach Matty.”
Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary on how Greg Mattison, who was Michigans defensive line coach and is now Ohio States co-defensive coordinator, has been a father figure in his life. pic.twitter.com/08nylyr8U2— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) March 2, 2019
Winovich described Mattison as “one of the best coaches in football.”
“One of the best life mentors,” Winovich said. “He just gets it, and he’s very thorough in what he does. Ohio State’s going to get a great coach.”
Both Gary and Winovich described Mattison as a coach who expects greatness from his players, saying he pushes his players hard in order to get the best out of them, never allowing them to settle.
“He knows what you’re capable of, and he’s going to push you every day to be the best player that you can be,” said Gary, a two-time All-Big Ten defensive lineman who is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Winovich, also a two-time All-Big Ten defensive lineman who is expected to be an early round draft pick, said he believes Ohio State’s defense “will make a lot of gains under coach Mattison” because of the high expectations that he will hold himself and his players to and how hard he will work to achieve them.
“Every day, you get a very consistent coach Matty in the sense that he’s always showing up to work,” Winovich said. “There’s no days where he’s not ready with just wisdom about what you could do better. He’s never going to let you settle. Not only are you held to your own standard, but his standard’s always going to be just as high matching that, if not even more.”
“He knows what you’re capable of, and he’s going to push you every day to be the best player that you can be.”– Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich on new Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison
Mattison isn’t the only new Ohio State assistant coach who crossed the border to join the Buckeyes; Al Washington, who was Michigan’s linebackers coach in 2018, is now Ohio State’s linebackers coach. And while he was at Michigan for only one year, he helped a player become a top prospect for this year’s draft too. Wolverines linebacker Devin Bush is projected to be a first-round pick.
Bush said Washington brought “extreme energy” to the Wolverines during his one year in Ann Arbor, which helped motivate players to perform at their best.
“He was a guy that was a big competitor. We could be losing 100 to zero, but you’re going to finish the game,” Bush said. “He’ll walk around, he’ll clap his hands in your face, motivate you, talk to you, pull you to the side. He just keeps it real with you. He lets you know what you’re doing wrong, what you need to improve on, and he was very picky about your craft and your technique.”
Michigan linebacker Devin Bush on new Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington and co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who were both previously assistant coaches at Michigan. pic.twitter.com/WyU8joqeCZ— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) March 2, 2019
Washington and Mattison are now part of an Ohio State defensive coaching staff that also includes returning defensive line coach Larry Johnson, former NFL secondary coach Jeff Hafley and new assistant secondary coach and special teams coordinator Matt Barnes, who spent the past three years at Maryland. With the Terrapins, Barnes was primarily the linebackers coach but also became the special teams coordinator and added defensive play-calling duties last season.
Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr., a projected middle-round pick in this year’s NFL draft, said he learned a lot about how to play defense from sitting down with Barnes and having the opportunity to pick his brain.
“He’s definitely one of the best football minds I’ve ever been around. That’s a guy who he literally knows the playbook, the schemes, the adjustments inside and out,” Savage said. “And having a coach like that just allows you to play really fast, because you know what you’re doing. You don’t have to waste time thinking about your assignment or anything like that.”
Maryland safety Darnell Savage describes new Ohio State special teams coordinator and assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes, who was previously the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Maryland, as one of the best football minds Ive ever been around. pic.twitter.com/xdJz2p4s3t— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) March 3, 2019
Savage also said Barnes “brings a lot of charisma.”
“He’s real enthusiastic. He’s real excited to come to work every day. He’s real excited to come work with us,” Barnes said. “You can feel the energy when he walks in the room.”