Question: From a talent standpoint can you tell what you have to work with and you are encouraged with what you have to work with?
Greg Mattison: "I'm really encouraged by the attitude and the want to of the guys that we're working with. It has been a very interesting group because they come to practice every day to try and get better and there hasn't been a lot of moping or hanging their head. It is like, okay coach I'm going to try and do what you're asking me to do. The one thing that has been rewarding is that the corrections that have been made, you kind of see that happen the next day. Throughout the first six practices I had a lot of heavier of an install plan. I wanted to put a lot more in and as we got going I decided that we're going to make sure that they get what we're putting in before we move to the next thing. Because it is all new to them. It is a totally different scheme, I think it is a lot of different things. Their grasp of the defensive probably hasn't been as fast as I thought it would be, but their want to and their desire to do it has been really good."
Question: People talk about experience and you have a lot of guys that have played before but does that experience mean a whole lot given that they haven't played in what you want to do?
Greg Mattison: "No. I think they the one place where you see that more than anywhere is the linebacker position. There is not a lot of minutes that have been played by those guys and definitely not in that scheme where they have to react, they have to adjust, they have to do some things instead of just blitz a lot. I think that maybe is what a lot of them had done somewhat. Now we have to train them to read run/pass to take the perfect steps and when it is pass to drop back and now do I drop off a number two or do I drop off a number three. All those things have been first learning from them. I preface all that with they have worked extremely hard to learn it. I have been very happy with that."
Question: From a physical standpoint who has stood out to you the most?
Greg Mattison: "Mike Martin obviously. For a guy who has played as much as he played and had the relative success that he has had, he is another guy that comes out every day as if he is a rookie, as if he is a freshman. He comes out and says okay I'm going to do and change this technique. If you think that is the way we should do that is what we'll do and he has worked hard at doing that. I think Craig Roh has had some signs of okay. He is kind of getting to what we want him to do. His hand is on the ground and to play the position we want him to play, he has got to be a very physical football player so he has worked at that. Jibreel Black has shown some signs of being an explosive type guy that we're looking for. All the guys have had their good moments. I don't know of a guy that we've had getting a lot of reps that you'd say, oh boy, this guy is really, really never going to play. I wouldn't say that. They're were they should be, not execution wise and all that, but they are where they should be after six practices of saying you're still in the mix to be good football player here. Now you just got to keep going. Will Campbell is showing signs at times of being the guy who comes off the football like we want him to. Then there are other times when he doesn't and that is kind of with every guy. In the secondary, I have been pleased for the most part with that group and maybe because there is carryover there as far as what they are playing. I think Carvin (Johnson) has had some really good days for us. He is a guy that has done well. Thomas Gordon has done a good job. I hate to name guys because you're leaving somebody out, but that position has done a pretty good job."
Question: Is it tough because perhaps your two starting cornerbacks are recovering from injury, does that make it difficult?
Greg Mattison: "It's difficult if we were playing a game today, but I tend to look at that as a positive in a way if those guys are players, which they have shown that they are at times you get a chance to get some depth and you get a chance to bring these other guys along and you get a chance for those guys to prove that they could be guys that could help you."
Question: How would you say Quinton Washington is competing at that spot with Will Campbell?
Greg Mattison: "Very well. In fact, he has been neck-and-neck with him. Where if one guy doesn't do quite what we're supposed to do, the other guy goes in there. All of them, the entire defense has tons of work to do on basic techniques, but I would have said that about any team that I've had unless they are perfect at their technique, I'm not satisfied. This group has to work very, very hard on just basic steps, punch, blow delivery, those kinds of things. The very, very integral parts of being that type of player."
Question: How tough can it be on a defensive when an offense scores a touchdown in three to four plays and obviously I'm talking about the offense last year, Denard (Robinson) have explosive plays and the defense was right back out there.
Greg Mattison: "I don't know about last year. If you are saying how tough is it on a defense if our offense scores a touchdown in three to four plays, is that question you are asking?"
Greg Mattison: "Great. I hope we score in three plays every time we're out there, because our job is going to be to get off the field in three plays. What our offense does can only be a position unless they fumble the ball or turn it over. I wouldn't care if our offense scored in three plays or two plays every time. They're scoring. It isn't how much of a rest you get, it is the kind of defense you play to give yourself the amount of rest and that is why for us third down defense is critical. If you look at a team and I'm not talking about this team, but I'm talking any defense, they put their own parallels on themselves, because if they are not getting off the field on third down, now your at six plays and if you don't get off on third down again, now you're at nine plays and that is on you. Your job is to do what you're supposed to do on third down to get off the field."
Question: The linebackers, you referenced the play there and we know where some people are slotted, can you kind of rundown who is where and how that competition.
Greg Mattison: "(Kenny) Demens is not in there because of the shoulder and he is probably the most experienced of the guys. He has looked good in the drills that he has been able to do without contact. He has picked up the scheme that we're doing and how we're supposed to be related to receivers and all that kind of thing. Mike Jones has shown some great improvement. From where he was day one until the sixth day, he has improved quite a bit. Isaiah (Bell) has shown, from day one I was a little bit worried about his movement and now all of a sudden he starting to understand it a little bit better and he is coming a little bit faster. All of the backers have improved, it is just the rate…thy have to improve faster than anybody else. The linebacker position in our defense might be one of the most difficult because you got to do all of it. That is where a lot of the improvement is going to have to happen."
Question: Is Demens for instance at the MIKE?
Greg Mattison: "We really do not have a depth chart yet. One thing about our inside linebackers is that they will always be interchangeable. One thing we will always ask our WILL linebacker, weakside linebacker to always play the MIKE linebacker, because if somebody gets hurt you want the next best player in there and you don't want to say that this guy has never played this position. The one guy and I should have mentioned this earlier, but the one guy probably who has improved the most and I have really become excited about him is Cam Gordon. I really have got high hopes for him. This is a guy that played safety obviously, who is now playing a SAM linebacker up on the line, playing against tight ends. This guy I think has a chance to be a pretty good football player and has a tremendous attitude. He wants to do everything right. He runs to the football, he is very physical and he has been playing the SAM linebacker position and I think he is a kid that you're going to see a lot of."
Question: Brady is obviously a defensive-minded coach, what is his involvement in terms of you or is he pretty hands off?
Greg Mattison: "He's hands off as far as the scheme. Brady is a defensive coach. He refuses not to coach, so he works with the SAM linebackers and he is like anybody in our defensive room. I said this once before and I've said this everywhere I've ever been. It is not a Greg Mattison defense. It is a Michigan defense and we've got really, really good football coaches in that meeting room and if anybody ever sees something that they think might help our defensive be successful, they know their responsibility is to bring it up. Brady is the same way, obviously he is the boss. If anybody saw something then I better be able to justify why we're doing it or we change it or add to it. That's he way it will always be with our defense. It is the Michigan defense and we all have input."
Question: You coached with Urban Meyer?
Greg Mattison: "Yes, three years."
Question: Did you get to catch up with him yesterday?
Greg Mattison: "Yes. It was great. Urban and I were very close. We coached together for three or four years at Notre Dame. In fact, we lived right across the pond from each other and we used to hit wedges at each other and we would yell at each other in the morning and everything like that. When he got hired at Florida, then I went and worked with him there for three years and we had great success. He's a great head coach and a great friend."
Question: Should any of this be interpreted as disappointment? You said they have not grasped it as quickly as you thought.
Greg Mattison: "No. There is no disappointment whatsoever. In fact if anything, I get excited and more enthused every day we meet just because of who you're working with and it is like taking guys and molding them like you want them to and they come to…I think I mentioned this to my wife. I said, I can't ever remember coaching where you come in a meeting room and those players just sit there and say okay coach what are we going to do today and they know in our film session. I'll bet you Craig Roh went a whole hour without me saying a positive thing on his technique and all that and when he got done, it was like, ‘okay coach I'll see you tomorrow'. They're all that way and that's why we have a chance to do something with this defense."
Question: Brady said last week that Al (Borges) would like to get 60%. Can you quantify how much of your defense you want to get installed in the spring?
Greg Mattison: "Originally I wanted to get all of it in and I'm not going to say that spring has been a success or not a success based on how many defense calls we have in. We're starting now to be able to get into our sub package, which is bringing a nickel in the game and taking a SAM out, which is a big part of our package because of our belief in being great on third down. So in order to be really good on third down, you got to have the best players on the field that can cover people and blitz and all that. So we're starting to get that in, so we have three weeks to be able to keep doing that. I'm excited about us getting towards that package more."
Question: I know Curt (Mallory) said that the safeties are going to have to play both. You referenced Thomas Gordon is he concentrating more on than the other?
Greg Mattison: "Right now they have to be able to play both. I would not say that he is the guy is coming down in the box or he is the more run defender. He's done a really, really good job. The one thing he's done is he now working at the nickel position for us, which is a real credit to him because it shows that he can go from playing safety to all the adjustments that have been made at that position. That's a key thing."
Question: What have you seen from Marvin Robinson?
Greg Mattison: "Marvin has had class one of the two days that we practice during the week, so we only get to see him on Thursday and Saturday. Last Saturday was the first day that I really saw him where he kind of understood the defensives and made some really good plays. He's got the range and he's got the ability to run and he hits. Now it is just a matter of getting him the defenses that we need and make sure that he knows what is going on. I was really excited about him. He's a good looking athlete that plays hard and will hit you. I like those kinds of guys."
Question: Are there a lot of guys who have class?
Greg Mattison: "No. What Brady has done is we've adjusted our practice times to make sure that we get almost everybody there. I can only think on defense maybe one or two guys."
Question: Are you seeing things that get you encouraged about a rotation on the defensive line, there is some depth building in there?
Greg Mattison: "Yeah. You mentioned Quinton. When you see Quinton Washington and Will Campbell battling for a position that says great, because now we can roll them, because I believe in that, I always have. Will Heininger has stepped it up. Now all of a sudden you have the possibility of he and Ryan (Van Bergen) rotating. Jibreel Black some days looks as good as Craig or better and now you can rotate those guys. We want to be able to establish a really, really good backup at every position when springs over that would a goal. Whatever freshman come in, you see who are the best of those guys."
Question: Is the defensive line the most important unit on the defense?
Greg Mattison: "It has to be. You can't have a great defense unless you have a really good defensive line. In order to play, really, really good defense, your defensive line has to be one of the strongest points so that is a must. What happens these next nine that will be determine that and you'll see the same thing in our recruiting. We're going to recruit defensive lineman that has to be huge for us because that will always be our philosophy here, you've got to have a great defensive line."
Question: You said that Brady is working with the SAMs, is he as excited about the potential of Cam Gordon as you are?
Greg Mattison: "Yes. Believe me, Cam is really a long way away but as a coach you see things in a young man, this guy really could be one of those really good players one day. You're talking about a safety who has never lined up on a guy this close away and now he is in there every day battling with guys a lot bigger then him. His aggressiveness and toughness really stand out and he has always been able to run."
Question: How much bigger would you like to see him get?
Greg Mattison: "As big as he can get, as big as he can get and still run. There are a number of players when they ask what size do you want me. I always tell them, I want you as strong as you can get. We don't believe in supplements or that kind of thing. So just work out the way Aaron (Wellman) wants you to work out and you'll be where we want you to be."
Question: As a freshman last year, Courtney Avery really showed some promise when he stepped in for JT Floyd; have you see him grow?
Greg Mattison: "He's another one of those secondary guys who has really improved. He's working extremely hard with Curt and the things that they are doing back there and he's done a nice job."
Question: I noticed you have your Michigan ring on, do you use that as an incentive to the players, a reminder?
Greg Mattison: "I use that as a reminder of how excited I am to be here to be honest. I assume that any Michigan player has rings and really I put that on, as soon as I was hired here. In fact, it was still back in Baltimore, my son was still there before he came to Mishawaka. I said Brian go in my case and make sure you get me my Michigan Rose Bowl ring and he goes, come on dad, you don't need to have that. I said, ‘Get it, I want it.' So he was driving back to Mishawaka and that was one of the first things I got. To look down and to see…really how proud I am to be back and that was a special team and our goal is to get more of those."
Question: When you earned that ring a lot of times it came down to Michigan and Ohio State, now you're coming into a situation where you have to beat out teams for a division title and then go into the championship game. Your thoughts about that aspect of it that changed since you were here.
Greg Mattison: "I love the conference playoff. In the SEC, we had that and I'll tell you what, it gives teams a great incentive to be able to play for something besides just a bowl game. These players are going to find out that that championship playoff game is bigger than any bowl will ever be. When you get ready for that game that's for all of it. Bowl games are great unless you're playing for a National Championship, but to play for the Big Ten Championship in a bowl game. I'm betting that that game will be bigger than any bowl game, attendance wise and everything. That is what will happen with it. I know it was that way in the SEC. That game in Atlanta was unbelievable and that is the way it will be here too."
Question: You said a few weeks ago that you and Denard (Robinson) were trash talking, has he had the upper hand on you?
Greg Mattison: "If the darn kid would throw the ball rather than run all the time, I mean anybody can scramble (sarcastically said). I'll tell you one thing, if you're calling defenses against him….I said after one of our days, we rushed four and played regular coverage and you're asking for trouble. When he drops back and you're not perfect in your lanes, it's going to be a first down. He beats somebody and he is going to beat you inside or outside. I didn't realize how fast he was. There are guys that had perfect angles and all of a sudden I look and their past the stakes. He really is something. I've had to kind of been very humble around him lately. The other guy I'm starting to get on a little bit so he's been getting hit a couple of time so I can get on him a little bit."
Full Transcript: Greg Mattison Presser
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