Sophomore Kwity Paye is one of many who stepped up when junior defensive end Rashan Gary missed several games with a shoulder injury. The defense didn’t miss a beat, holding a trio of the Big Ten’s better teams (Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State) to 27 total points
“He’s another one of the guys we take pride in here, and that’s brining in great character, great athletes, kids that want to be very good football players and we just see them grow,” Mattison said. “He was a 10.9 hundred meter guy in high school at 224 pounds. Now he’s 265.
“He works as hard as you can, is a high character young man, intelligent. He’s why you coach; why Michigan is Michigan. He keeps working, working and when he needs to step up, he steps up. I’m really proud of what he’s doing. It’s going to be fun watching him grow as we keep going.”
He’s versatile, too, able to play the anchor position behind Gary as well as fifth-year Chase Winovich’s position on the other edge.
“We can do a lot of different things because he’s really intelligent and really fast. It’s a plus,” Mattison said.
Paye is one of many on Mattison’s line playing his best ball. Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Bryan Mone has quietly put together a big year, steadily getting better and “still not done” improving, the coach said. Sophomore Aubrey Solomon, apparently dinged up in the Penn State game, is healthy and also playing his best football.
“Last week in practice, Aubrey was playing the best football since he’s been here,” Mattison said.
Fifth-year senior Lawrence Marshall and junior Carlo Kemp, who has played so well he’s now the starter after moving over from defensive end in the fall, are also in that group.
The pass rushers, meanwhile, are playing at another level. Junior Josh Uche isn’t one of Mattison’s guys, but he might as well be. He’s got seven sacks in 61 plays. With Paye, redshirt sophomore Michael Dwumfour and Winovich, that group is a pass rushing nightmare for offensive lines.
“We really enjoy getting fast guys on the field. If it’s a passing situation, we’re better with speed. We happen to have some guys that are a little faster than others.
“The other thing that does is we have a lot of talent, and it keeps guys involved in the game. Mike Dwumfour, we’re three deep inside at defensive line. Mike wants to be on the field, is one of the fastest guys so put him on the field and he’s done very well.”
He’s been a big part of the nation’s top pass defense and will get more opportunity down the stretch.
• Winovich seemed to have one foot out the door before Mattison spoke with him and helped convince him to stay for a fifth year.
“This is why I was so adamant about him coming back,” Mattison said. “I felt he needed to have this kind of year, to be more than just kind of a flash in the pan like people would have looked at him as. Taco Charlton leaves, Chase comes in … ‘well, he’s not Taco.’
“All of a sudden people are talking about Chase. I’m so proud of him. He’s not just a guy that runs fast anymore. He’s a guy that plays with great technique and is very physical. He’s starting to be what we said when we said he needed another year so he can become a complete player at that position. His play on the field shows that.”