Bob Redman: We're here with Co-Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Greg Mattison. Coach Mattison let's talk about this spring three weeks away and you don't have a whole lot of bodies on the defensive line.
Coach Greg Mattison: You know when you go in that meeting room you see Ray McDonald, Jarvis Moss, Steve Harris, Joe Cohen all those guys gone you kind of go wow. You know, where'd they go? But yeah I'm a little excited about this group. You know sometimes when you've had these older kids it's really refreshing to get a new group of kids that are hungry and want to prove that they belong. And one thing this last group did for us is they set the bar really high. And we said that the day we got here that we wanted to be one of the best defensive lines in the country and every game we had to prove that and I think the National Championships game they kind of really put their stamp on what they have done at Florida and showed how a defensive line is supposed to play. This young group coming behind them knows that, that's what they have to live up to.
Coach, I guess you watched some of the combine stuff this last week. Can you talk about that and have you talked to any of those guys?
Yeah we talk. I text the kids and talked to all the guys before they went and they text me back and forth while they were there. (I am) really, really proud of them. In fact I have that NFL station just for that purpose and my wife and I watched eight hours of it Saturday and last night was really good because it was the defensive line. It was kind of neat to watch some of the other player's defensive lineman compared to ours. And I was really proud of Jarvis and Joe Cohen had a great turn out, he did 34 reps at two and a quarter and I think he ran a 5:07:40 at 312 pounds. So the things we've said all along that if they do the right things in this program and play the kind of football that they're going to play here, great things are going to happen for them. And I think that's the example that's about to happen for all these kids.
For the young guys that are here for the spring, the guys that are on campus now, it looks like you only have three defensive ends in scholarship wise right now for the spring. That would be Derek Harvey who had a big year end game in the national championship, Jermaine Cunningham and now Trent Pupello moved over.
Right. One thing you do in the off-season is you get a chance to watch every play and every cut up. You know during the season we're so focused on the next game that when you watch a player or watch a game you don't spend as much time as you should watching it. And it was really rewarding because we had a chance to watch our defense play every snap throughout the season and a guy that really stuck out in our mind was Derek Harvey. You know I think everybody, rightly so, talked about Ray and Steve Harris and Jarvis Moss, but play in and play out Derek Harvey played so hard that sky's the limit for him. We think that he has the chance to be the next really, really great defensive end. And obviously he's got to prove it, he's got to do it again in the spring and then do it this fall. But you know he had a great year last year, so that gives us somebody to really build on. And the other guys, we moved Trent over from offense, because we think he's a good football player, we think he's a strong kid, and we think he has a great opportunity to play there, and so we're just watching him this spring because he did it some as a scout teamer at the end of the year last year. But never really had the meetings or anything like that. Jermaine Cunningham this is a key spring, he's at the same kind of position that Derek was a couple of years ago where he has to prove every day in practice that he deserves the right to play. And he has the skill, he has the talent, it's just a matter of being mature enough to do what we ask him to do there.
Derek Harvey he's one of the very few upper classman on defense now, is he a leader type?
He's a leader by example. He's a leader by the way he does his drills, he's a leader by how he executes his assignments and I think if it ever comes down to somebody needs to be a vocal leader he will step up. He won't do it every day just to do it but I was seeing it the other night during skills and drills. (I was) telling some of the younger guys do it like Derek does it. Do it with the effort that Derek does it. If you don't do it to that level you're not up to the bar that we have set for you. So he's a leader right there in the way he's doing it.
Ok, let's talk about your inside guys. You have a few more numbers there, a couple of older guys and then some real young ones and one got a little bit of playing time last year.
I think the guy I'm really excited again after watching film from last year, Javier Estopinan….really has the chance to be a good football player for us. He had a really good game against Alabama, better then what people really would know if you didn't watch him closely. And it's a shame he hurt his knee in that LSU game because I think he would have really, really played a lot throughout the end of the season. But he is rehabbed and done everything asked of him to get it stronger than it has to be. I think we'll see him in the spring some, ahead of schedule. Brandon Antwine is a very talented football player that we obviously didn't red shirt last year. That again is going to be a young guy like Jermaine that has to mature, he has the talent, he has a lot of God given ability but now he has to play up to the bar that we have set for him. And that's going to be every day of the spring that he has to show that. Lutrell Alford has been a young man that has been there and has helped up and I've been around a lot of teams where all of a sudden you loose a lot kids to graduations a guy like him steps up out of nowhere. I'm excited about him playing in there. Teron Sanders it's his turn now. He spent a whole year on the scout team and now he's got to mature and play like we want it. Lawrence Marsh is a guy that could play either the inside end or a tackle position. He's done very well in the weight room; he's a big strong kid that shows a lot of talent in practice. But he hasn't been in there when the bullets are flying at him yet. So I think we have a lot of guys that can get it done for us. Clint McMillan has started before, has played a lot of football before for us so there's enough inside there that we can get the right guys playing and get guys to rotate.
And you have a number of guys and we won't go into all the names and everything, but a number of young guys coming in on the defensive line this year in the fall. Can you just say as a whole what kind of stuff are you getting from that group?
Well I really think that this is a very special group. I've been doing this a long time and I can't ever remember signing six guys that have this kind of attitude, this kind of talent, this kind of family background, all the things that you look for, that love being Gators, that were proud to be a Gator and this is going to be a special group. I've never, never worried about playing freshman, playing sophomores, juniors, seniors it doesn't matter the best players play. And the way we play defense where effort is really, really key, a young guy can go in and play a number of plays early. I think there's going to be six guys fighting for positions coming in. And we aren't putting a red shirt tag on any one of those guys coming in and so we're going to have 2 ½ to three weeks of summer ball where ok whose the best player? And go from there. I think we helped ourselves after the graduation and we got some really talented football players that want to play early. Now it's just a matter of when they're ready.
That's the past tense in recruiting, now we have to focus on a little bit on next years recruiting class, and I know you can't talk specifics on players but how important is the Northeast Florida Southeast Georgia area to recruiting to this team?
It's everything. When I was hired by Coach Meyer, he and I had worked together a number of years at the University of Notre Dame and we've always taken great pride in recruiting and when he hired me he said, "one of our very, very top areas has always got to be the St. Augustine-Jacksonville area". And he said "I want to put you in that area". I look at it as a real compliment because that's an area that has talent; we've always had great players from there and have to continue to get young men from there. You know in recruiting and being a parent of a player, it's so important that your family can see you play. And when a city and a community like St. Augustine and Jacksonville are only an hour and a half away, it's a real plus to be able to go to a great school like Florida and jump in a car and be here anytime you want to be here. So it's within distance, it's far enough that you're still away from home but it's here whenever you want to be here. And obviously we have a great program so it's a great mix. We always will recruit that area as hard as we can.
Ok now on to the season. The next season looking forward, nine new starters on defense is that something scary or is it something you really look forward to?
Well it's something I look forward to. I think if you've done your job, which I know we have in our recruiting that when you lose great players, the next guy (has) got to come in and step up. There are going to be some kids in this class that are going to surprise everybody. All of a sudden they'll say where'd this guy come from? Obviously we don't have the veterans that we had last year and that national championship was won because of 22 seniors. Now they have set a bar, they have set a level of play that is only accepted by our defense. So these kids are working harder than they ever thought they could work. And we know we have to push them hard we probably got to make these freshman and sophomores', juniors and seniors before they want to be. But that's what Florida's all about. As a staff we are really excited about the challenge and can't wait to see these guys go.
Thank you Coach, I appreciate it.