The bar was set for the Michigan defense when defensive coordinator Greg Mattison arrived at Michigan, and it will be there until he leaves.
Last year, goals were written on a board and displayed to the team. That is where the bar would stand. With a defense that had struggled mightily under Rich Rodriguez, that bar -- clearly visible and measured by expectations -- would measure whether their group would be able to become a "Michigan defense" or not.
And in Mattison's second year, the bar is back. The height is the same, and it is up to the players as to how close they will come.
"Those goals are set that if you reach those then you're playing Michigan defense," Mattison said. "Every team that comes in has to get to that level to be able to do that. We don’t lower our standard for what we see on the practice field. We have to raise the practice and the talent and all that kind of stuff to get to that goal."
Last year, defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen explained some of the defensive goals to WolverineNation, and even though he and two of his starting teammates are gone on the line, the goals don't change.
Likewise, even though the Wolverines return nearly all of their starting linebackers and defensive backs, the goals were set when Mattison came in and they are the same.
This season, the Wolverines will still try to hold opponents to 17 points per game or less with no scores allowed in the fourth quarter. In order to get to that point, Michigan's defense wants to hold third-down conversions to 33 percent or less and success in the red zone to 50 percent or less.
The D-line will try to hold opponents to 2.5 yards or less per carry, and the linebackers and secondary will attempt to limit long runs and long passes to two or less per game.
Those expectations have already been made clear to Mattison's defense this season, and several players already are acquainted with where the bar is and how hard they need to work to achieve that status.
With players such as senior safety Jordan Kovacs, senior linebacker Kenny Demens and senior defensive lineman Will Campbell working with the younger defensive players, Mattison expects his scheme to catch on a bit faster than last year.
"Because there is carry-over, they're a lot more alert and they understand it better," Mattison said. "Last year at this time it was probably like they were taking a foreign language. Now, they kind of understand it and when that happens, you can get into the little things that make that defense even better."
But the goals will remain constant. For a coach who has been involved in football for so long, he has his ways and knows the ingredients for winning defense. And his formula is set, so his bar will remain high and unmoved.
"You don't put the goals as to what someone perceives as your talent level," Mattison said. "You put the goals of whoever is playing defensive football [at what they] have to do to be successful. I would imagine out of 124 NCAA a lot of them would have the exact same goals."