Defensive Q and A With Coach Mattison

Coach Greg Mattison is the co-defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators along with Coach Charlie Strong. Coach Mattison came to Florida from Notre Dame where he was part of Coach Ty Willingham's staff. After the Orange and Blue Game a couple of weeks ago, Coach Mattison answered a series of lengthy questions. Here is Part I:

GC: Earl Everett sat out the spring game, why was that?

CM: He is huge for our program. Earl Everett is as good a linebacker as I have seen in a long time and he didn't need to show us any more in the spring game. He is going to be a big part of our blitzing attack and our ability to blitz and cover people. He was key guy to keep out of the game. Other guys we didn't keep out, needed more work just to be out there. Siler needed some work in order for him to keep going. It is important for him to be in there, he plays a little different position that Earl does.

GC: Talk about Steven Harris….

CM: Steven Harris had a great spring. I told him the other day that whoever the starting four is, he is considered a starter. There is no question. Putting him at nose this spring, has really helped us. Now you have Marcus (Thomas), if he comes back successfully like he should, now you have a player that can roll with him. I feel strongly that Steven Harris can play the 3-technique and the nose. He could play end also, he has played so much end since he has been here. I wanted him to play a position that he really hasn't played a lot of and he acted like he played it his whole life.

GC: What about playing Steven Harris at multiple positions?

CM: When you play shades, when you play on the edge of a guy, it doesn't matter. We talk about it all the time. When you play defensive line in our scheme, the only guy on the field is the guy you're over. The concept is easy, I'm going to play the guy I am over, it doesn't matter if I am an end, a nose or a 3-technique.

GC: How is it going against the Meyer offense?

CM: This is a good offense. I pity the people that have to try and sit back and play it. You have to sit back and say hey, "Am I going to blitz this offense?" If you blitz this offense, you better hold on. We're on defense a little ahead of the game. We understand a little how to do it and have had some reps in doing it. But you saw today, if you try and play a little man to man defense and some fire zones against this offense, you are asking for a long afternoon.

GC: How has the defense progressed over the spring?

CM: I am really, really pleased with one phase of our defense, and it was probably my biggest phase coming in. It was to instill in these kids, the desire to run to the football. I showed them clips from other schools I have been at, some I have played, and some of them from last year, and I would point out to them that this is not going to be tolerated. We will be a defense that runs to the football. If you don't run to the football, I told the guys, "I will never hang you guys out to the press, but I will tell them is you either you got sick, or you pulled a muscle and that is why you didn't run to the football. So, when that happens and someone goes in for you, don't worry, just stand by me until you get rested, and you may go back in." The kids have bought into it. On their behalf, when a guy like Ray or some of the veterans say, "Coach, you know you can't go 75 plays full speed to the football." I told them it was my job to make sure we have backups. That is why I always believe in rotating in. And there will be such pride that when a younger guy goes in that he keeps the game going like it is. We even explained it to them, "if you go in and we start getting beat up a little bit, you hurt this whole defense, because that guy can't rest."

GC: That has been a big deal for us. Progress with depth?

CM: I mentioned earlier we have five starters, I think Steve Harris is a starter. Mike Hill has gotten my trust. I believe in him that right now if we were playing Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, someone like that, I can throw him in the game and the game would continue like it was. That allows Ray to have someone behind him. Derrick Harvey has had a great spring. Where he plays next year depends on how big and strong he gets in the off-season. We would like to have one end to play the end and the Fox and roll right through, so we would have a three man rotation, maybe even four-man at that position.

GC: With new guys evolving, does that put pressure on them all in the off-season?

CM: No question, they know my belief in just three months here. I don't care if you have started for five years or never started the best players are going to play, and they are going to do it the way we want them to.

GC: Can Brandon Siler fill the leadership shoes of Channing Crowder?

CM: Well I never was with Channing Crowder and I don't know much about him other than watching him play. But, I know that Brandon Siler, when he gets in there, he leads by example. He leads and does the right thing, so people can't look at him and say, "well he did this, why didn't he do that?" Brandon Siler does it the right way all of the time. He will be and is a great leader. What we need is a defense full of great leaders. You can't have one guy expect to be the leader. Dee Webb has got to be a leader. These kids that are seniors that are doing a lot of playing have got to be leaders. It is not acceptable not to lead.

GC: Anyone on the line project as a leader?

CM: No question, Steve Harris, and my short time with Marcus Thomas, I expect him to be a leader. Steve Harris is one of those guys that no one in the room messes with. When he comes in and says something, that's what happens and they are going to do it the right way. That is leadership also.

GC: Did Ray McDonald answer Coach Meyer's challenge?

CM: He answered my challenge. He showed me that he is going to run to the football, because if he wouldn't, he wouldn't play. We talked about times last year where I thought it took him more energy to stop and not run to the ball than it did for him to run to the ball. He is too talented. I mentioned to him, "You have more talent than a lot of football players in the country, but if you don't use it, then you are wasting." I am not going to let him be out there and waste that talent. He did, show me this spring, that he ran to the football. In fact there was one scrimmage where I stopped the whole thing and I told everybody, "look who's running to the football here." A couple of the other guys that were playing couldn't believe it. I think he answered the challenge.

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