Part II: Q And A With Coach Greg Mattison

Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison is an easy going, likeable guy off the practice field, but on the field, he's vocal and intense. He's just finished his first spring practice with the Florida Gators. Here is Part II of Gator Country's interview with Coach Mattison:

GC: How far is the defense in the progression you want?

CM: Are we there yet? No. We have a lot of work to do. I have always been a believer on defense that we will play more games in the summer than anywhere else. We don't just lift in the summer. We do a lot of football related activities. Our secondary will work on coverage with each other all summer. Our D-linemen will work on basic techniques all summer. We are still just beginning, but I think by that first ball game, we will be ready.

GC: How many defensive linemen do you have the confidence to play right now?

CM: I would say seven, if they were all healthy. I would very strongly about Ray(McDonald), Marcus (Thomas), Joe Cohen, Jeremy Mincey, Mike Hill, Derrick Harvey, and Steve Harris. I want a minimum of six. That is what I have done in the past. What will happen is because they way a guy practices, I lose trust in that kid, he isn't where the bar has to be, then he drops out f the rotation and there will end up being a six man rotation.

GC: How about the odd fronts with three down linemen or Ray McDonald at an end?

CM: (In the spring game), we were in a four man line the whole time. One of our guys had to stand up and cover a guy because they were in empty (backfield) probably. There were times we were in a four man front with Ray outside. What I was looking at was Ray has the best get-off than anyone on our team. Anytime a great pass rusher can be freed up one on one, you have to do that. One way to do that is to put him at end. I don't know if he can do that all the time, because I don't know if he runs like you want a speed end to run. I know one thing, pass rushing he looks like he can really do that.

GC: What about Jeremy Mincey and his ability to play off the line and in coverage?

CM: We do a lot with our defense where we will drop our defensive linemen and technique our front. One of the things that Jeremy has shown is he is a very good pass coverage guy, he has that skill. Whenever you can get a guy that can look like he is dropping and then come, that really messes up the (protection). We didn't even put that in this spring. We will have a way where we can drop Jeremy and then a way where he looks like he is dropping and then he comes. That gives you the flexibility that you are looking for. Mincey is a prototype of what I look for. A great person, accountable in everything he does, and plays with a high motor. That is what I look for whenever I recruit somebody, and he is that to a tee. If you have five or six Jeremy Minceys, no one is going to ever score on them. They are just going to keep coming at them and it will drive them crazy. Derrick Harvey has a little bit of that in him (already). I think you are going to hear and see a lot of Derrick Harvey over the next few years. I think he has a chance to be a real big time guy.

GC: How about playing this offense for an entire spring and scheming against it, then having to play something totally different when the season starts?

CM: It is a concern. To be honest with you, that is the only negative that I can see. We have to make sure that we adjust. When you do play against this offense, you don't get hard ball I-back running plays. One thing Coach Meyer has done and a great job. All spring, he has brought down a group of offensive linemen and ran the I-formation plays against us. Now, in two-a-days, we won't be going against our offense. We will be going against two-back stuff and what we are going to play against. We are done doing that, thank goodness. Now we get back to what we need to defense.

GC: Coach Meyer's scheme is described as a hurry-up offense, they could score in maybe 40 seconds. Does that put the defense at a disadvantage?

CM: I have never worried about a team I was on that had an offense that scored a touchdown in 40 seconds, as a matter of fact, I have never been with an offense that was as adept as this at Michigan or Notre Dame. God bless them. Score as many as you want. I will get guys in shape to go out there and play. Please give me that problem.

GC: How about the pass rush, are you happy with the progress up front in that respect?

CM: That is a concern. If someone were to have asked, "What do you feel you haven't done good enough coaching this spring?" To me I feel like we didn't improve enough in the pass rush. I've always been a part of guys that have taken great pride in beating somebody one on one in a passing situation, and I didn't see that. Again, that is another thing about this offense, you can't rush the passer and play (against) the option. It just doesn't happen. All of a sudden, we are sitting there playing option and you run up the field, and they one of these guys playing quarterback running all over you. When we start playing offenses that we have to beat, that pass rush will come. That is one phase we will work extremely hard on this summer.

GC: What makes it different here so far?

CM: First of all, I really like these kids. I genuinely like working with them, because you see in their eyes and their attitudes that they want to win bad. They feel the let down that has happened over the last few years and they don't want to be a part of that. When you see that in your players and the way they respond to you, then you as a coach have an obligation to get them to be as good as you can get them to be. Charlie(Strong) and the other defensive coaches have talked about it and we wnt to win for these kids. When you get to be 55 years old, you aren't worried about going on to the next level or anything like that. This is a group, to me, I look at them and want them to stand up at the end of the year and say, "Hey, we did it." As long as they keep working like they have been, and I think they will, then it is even going to get more. That's what I like and feel strongly about.

GC: Talk about the atmosphere and everything here compared to the other places you have been (Michigan and Notre Dame).

CM: I am used to going to a pep assembly every home game where there is 11,000 people, where it is harder to get a ticket for a pep assembly than the game. But, I have never been at a pep assembly before a spring game, so I think we have a leg up here. I called my wife and told her (that). It was real exciting. I think that is what makes Florida a really special place. These fans really love their football. It's not just for social; they are here to see if you are going to win or not. That makes you as a coach have an obligation to make sure you do your best job. I don't want to compare, I will just say I am really lucky to be at the same kind of school. In other words, Michigan is big time, Notre Dame is big time, and Florida is big time. I am really excited to be a part of that.

GC: How is the co-defensive coordinator position working out as far as play calling?

CM: There will never be a problem. I have never seen a guy where two of us think exactly the same. There may be times in games where he is going to say "Hey, maybe we should run this." And I'll say, "Yeah, that's a great idea." Then I'll say, "Hey maybe we should run this." And he'll say, "Yeah, that's a great idea." When the day is done, we have two guys that have a lot of experience. Hopefully two of us will better than one at doing it. I know his philosophy is exactly the same as mine. We want to see these kids be the best they can. That is why he stayed. He has a lot invested in these kids and that will never be an issue with us. Those decisions are usually made before hand, before we get on the field. We look at what we are going to call on Tuesday or Thursday. The Gator nation doesn't have to worry about that, we will do the right thing for Florida.

GC: How about the linebacker situation?

CM: I love how they came out. It's like getting a free agent trade when we got Brian Crum and Latsko. That was probably the best trade we ever made, because I think both of those two kids are really going to help us. They gave us immediate depth where we didn't have any, and they really had good springs.

GC: Who is the vocal leader on defense?

CM: Vocally, I think Brandon Siler is the guy that will get them going. Steve Harris and Marcus Thomas are not big talkers, but they are guys that when things aren't going well, they may stand up and really get after them. They listen to Siler, because they respect how hard he plays.

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