Q&A: Defensive Coordinator Matt Mitchell

There were some question marks about the Grand Valley defense heading into the spring. We sat down with defensive coordinator Matt Mitchell to get his thoughts on the competition at several key spots and some of the changes in philosophy the defense is undergoing.

What is your feeling on how the spring went?
Mitchell: Defensively it went well, we started out very strong, we threw a lot of stuff at them and we have a lot of kids who have not played at all, we held Dan Skuta out, we had 11 guys out there who had not played at all for grand valley. I think we started strong, kids were learning a lot in the middle and I think we finished strong. It was a good spring. We found some kids; I think we found some players who will be names that will make a lot of plays next fall that people haven't heard of. We still have a lot of work to do, we have talent they just don't know where they fit in the scheme of things all the time.

Coming off the emotional way the season ended, what was the morale of the team like coming into the initial practices?
Mitchell: They were ready to go. Were ready to go from the standpoint of we had a lot of competition for positions. There were a lot of guys who knew that. We had the defensive line, LB, all the spots in the secondary, we had a lot of positions open but its not like with only one or two guys, we had a lot of guys who were fighting for positions so I think the competition was good. I think personally myself and us as a defensive staff realized that you can't do well in those type of big games when you give up 36 points. That was big trying to get our defense back in the mentality of where we come from and realize you're only as good as your last performance and our last performance wasn't that great, so we had to get back to that mentality.

How much progress did you make as far as determining some of the positions where there was competition?
I think we've progressed a lot, some things shook out definitely. I still think there are still decisions at some places and some of it might change a little bit week to week. There are some kids that are good at some things and maybe not as good at other things and we've got to continue to work with those kids. I think we've got some kids who are good in power running stuff, and then we get into spread stuff and their not as good. There will be some mainstays in our defense next year but I think you'll be seeing a lot of different guys playing. What we do week to week may be based on what we see offensively too.

Will there be any changes schematically or new wrinkles we'll see?
Coach Martin's working with the secondary, that's different. He was over with the offense. He's coming over now with the secondary and that's good, he's coaching them, I've got the linebackers and Coach Yoches has the line. It's nice to have a DB coach who wants to play some man and I think we've got the personnel to do it. You might see us play more man and a little bit more pressuring than we've done in the past. We were a little bit more of a base defense and I think we're going to try to be more aggressive, taking the game to them a little bit more. We don't want to have too much stuff where the kids aren't playing fast. We want them to not have to think too much and we're letting them loose I think there's a fine line between some of those things. I just think you're going to see us get up in people's faces a little bit more than people have seen in the past too.

That puts more pressure on the cornerbacks and that's a position where you have some young guys, how did they do this spring?
Did well, Chris Huley was a kid who was a junior college transfer who sat out with some eligibility deals, he had a very very good spring. Corey Edwards who played in a reserve role last year and had six picks and played in a reserve role last year when Bill Brechin got hurt had a good spring. Rob Carlisle dislocated his hips at Findlay and was out for the whole season, he had a real good spring coming back off that injury, Dominique Darden is a young kid that's got four years of eligibility that showed a lot of promise this spring and Courtney Partee, so we've got five corners that did pretty good this spring. We'll see how things shake out but Chris was very dominant this spring, so we need to continue to have him do that this summer and move on and that's another reason I think we'll be able to do some things cause we have some bigger kids who can run and play some press man and things and we're encouraged by where they're at coming out of the spring, they need to have good summers, but if they continue to progress like they have been and keep up their end of the deal I think we'll be able to play man in this league and be ok.

We will have much more on the Lakers' spring practices in the coming days.

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