Greg Mattison: "It is great that it is close to game time. It seems like we've been practicing for three months now. I'm excited. I'm excited to see this defense and see what they're going to do. They've worked very hard. It has not always been perfect but every day I still say that they come out with the attitude of trying to get better and this is going to be an interesting day and a great day to see these guys go out on that field. Some of them have never played and others of them I know have something deep inside of them that they want to prove that they are a Michigan defense. It is going to be a great day."
Question: What gives you the confidence that they are going to be better than they were?
Greg Mattison: "Because I don't know how they were. All I can go by is since the day I've gotten here, watching them work in the offseason, watching them come out to practice every day and try to go as hard as they can and like I said, it has not been perfect. It is not where we're going to be but every single day they've come back in the meetings and on the field trying to do what we're asking them to do and that gives me confidence. As long as they're doing that I really believe we'll improve and become as good as we can be."
Question: The guys that were here last year, do you sense a chip on their shoulders that they do have something to prove after they've struggled?
Greg Mattison: "I don't know if there is a chip on their shoulders. I really believe that every one of them want to prove that they are a Michigan football player and we are a Michigan defense. I think they truly believe that and truly are grabbing for that or they wouldn't have led like they've led. One of the hardest things for a group of seniors is to have a new staff come in. That's really, really a hard thing. I think that is why I respect this group so much, because they have bought in from day one and they've been told that that is not right and they've been told that that is not good enough and that won't get it done a million times and they come back and try to do it the right way. I think that is what makes this senior class a group that you want to do so well."
Question: Is there a way that you're able to ease that transition because that change is so hard?
Greg Mattison: "I don't think as a coach you ever try to change the way you coach. I think they knew from day one that our staff with Brady Hoke starting at the top is that we're going to demand the right way to do it and everything they do. If they don't do it that way then they are going to know and we're going to change it and you're going to keep doing it the right way. We've got to do things that way from how you act off the field to how you train in the weight room, to how you practice and how you work on your technique. That's the only thing we'll ever be about and I think know that. I think the other thing is that when there is consistency in a staff and I believe speaking for the defense and starting with Brady Hoke our head football coach, we're consistent. We know what you have to do to be successful and we're demanding that. Every day, every second, every step they take, it is corrected or it is commented on. Every film is graded. Every film is evaluated and they watch every piece of film with the coaching staff. I don't know if they do that everywhere else, but we find time to do it and they make sure that they know what the corrections that have to be made."
Question: You talked about coming here because Brady was here and obviously you knew a lot about him before you got here, what one moment this month has grabbed you that has impressed you the most or made you the most fired up about him leading this program?
Greg Mattison: "I think there is a lot of them. I've said this before. I've been doing this a long time and when you come in every day and you're fired up about coaching, it starts at the top. I'll use today as an example. We knew we had to come out and really, really have a high energy practice and everything like that and then we've got the fight song going upstairs for an hour from 1:30 to 2:30 and I'm just bouncing in my office and it is blaring and I just kind of smiled and said, man this guy has really got it. I think that is the way to be consistent all the way through. If there are bad times, hey we'll go through them. We'll go through them and we're going to get better. We're going to keep going and going until we get to where we have to go. I know every one of us on our staff believe that and that's what we're going to keep doing."
Question: We saw the two deep, which positions are still ongoing?
Greg Mattison: "Every position battle is still going. That will always be the way it is with us on defense. Our guys know that. I don't care if you're a guy that started for four years straight, you don't play up to your ability now, there is going to be consequences. I think every one you've always got to go as hard as you can go. I don't know if there are any specific ones. The starting lineup, I don't know what that is really yet. We've got a couple of practices yet to make sure that everything is set and the one thing we're going to do is that we're always going to try and rotate people. I've said this before, I believe in two starting lineups that's how important it is. Whoever is not in there after the opening kickoff, whenever that next group of guys come in, they're just as valuable as the ones that are there and that is something that we really, really believe in. Along with that, when that second guy is in there that first guy has got to get that rest and come back and has to go as hard as he can possibly go and that is how we'll make it. That's one of the ways that we'll get where we have to get is that play as hard as you can and you can't do that 75 plays a game, you can't do it. So we've got to have guys behind them that the guy goes in and he goes as hard as he can. He may not be as good but going hard is good enough and we'll go from there."
Question: Because these guys are relatively new for this system is their maybe a greater potential for growth from the start of the season to the end defensively?
Greg Mattison: "Definitely. I think a lot of times when a player isn't successful right now in practice it is the mental part. Not understanding where all pieces fit in the defense. Right now, it is not uncommon for a younger player to just do his thing and do what he thinks is right and not knowing that he should have done this maybe a couple of steps more to the left because there is somebody over here and that — and that's where the correcting comes in. You just go hey, look you got a guy right here, you should have been… Okay I've got it now. You hope they don't make the mistake the second time. That's what we're all about right now. Every little thing there seems like there is a correction to be made and that's why I respect these guys because they've listened and they've gone okay. We've done so many walkthroughs. Every second, when the kicking game is going on, our defensive line is walking through what they're supposed to be doing. They're not standing there watching. I think from the start of special teams, every defensive player is moving and working to get better and that doesn't happen at a lot of schools. A lot of times when the special teams are going on, there is a whole bunch of guys standing there watching. That's not what we're about and I think they're getting better because of that."
Question: You guys have obviously been impressed with Nathan Brink but what has Will Heininger done to kind of stand out?
Greg Mattison: "He is a big strong physical kid that is a senior, a fifth year senior. He's been around a long time and that's what we're looking for. The two of them make one. Quinton Washington is that same thing. When he goes in that ballgame, go as hard as you can Q, as hard as you can that'll be good enough. That's all you can give us right now until you get the experience and get the technique things and then you just keep going right down the line every position. Will Campbell the same one. When he rotates in there, go. Go, you don't have to play 70 plays, go the plays you're in there, get your rest and go again. It goes right for every position."
Question: Are you happy now that you tried the NFL and are back in the college football?
Greg Mattison: "I'm happy. I don't know if I'm happier, but I'm happy. How can you coach, how can you do what we do. Think about it, I get to get up every morning, I come in at 5:30, 6 o'clock in the morning and I don't have some boss standing over me just making me feel like I'm the dumbest guy in the world. I get to see kids that look at you and go coach, coach me today. It doesn't get better than that. I don't know if it is any better than NFL or not. Coaching is a great profession when you have great kids. Now it is a tough profession if you don't have good character kids and I've been there too and that is not a good deal. We happen to have great kids here. It is a great school so how could you not be happy. Now winning is the most important thing. Bottom line is winning. We know that is what our job is and that's the next part of it."
Question: What stands out about the Western Michigan quarterback as you look at him on tape?
Greg Mattison: "I think he is a great quarterback. You'll find out when you ask me about players that we're going to play against, I'm always going to be honest. I think this guy is special. I think you're going to see this guy playing on Sunday's some day. He has got an arm that he can throw it from the hash to the sideline. The thing that impresses me about him is that he is a very, very tough kid. He takes some really, really strong hits and he comes back and he is going again. He has got mobility. He can run when has to. I think this guy is the real deal."
Question: What has Mike Jones done to move up on the depth chart?
Greg Mattison: "He's consistently come out every day trying to do what he is supposed to do. I got a feeling that Mike Jones came from a program where he probably either blitzed all the time or just played sick'em football and now all of a sudden he is getting coached every single second and some guys can't do it. He is one that I've been really, really excited about because it looks like every day he is looking to get better and he is listening and I see signs of him okay, now you did right. You stayed back, you didn't run past the hole that kind of thing. He is a sophomore. That's what should happen. A freshman, it is hard for freshman. Then all of a sudden sophomore year you should see that and then you should see the next step, and the next step, but I think that is the biggest thing."
Question: You talk about rolling that second team, how much playing time do you think those guys are going to get?
Greg Mattison: "We haven't come up with a number yet, but some guys might go six. Some guys might go six and sit two or three, some guys might go four and four, you got four and you've got four all the way through the ballgame. It all depends on how close at the end of the week that we feel there talent level is. Then we'll get that number down as we go."
Question: Do you feel that there are positions that you might go, the defensive line more so than secondary?
Greg Mattison: "The secondary you don't do that as much with the secondary and the secondary you might go one out of the four or you might go one safety for two positions or one corner for two corners. The big boys, if this is going to be a game where they're throwing the ball that wear you out right away and you can't compete if you don't go hard against this thing, so we've got to be able to do that."
Question: How is that battle between J.T. Floyd, Courtney Avery and Blake Countness opposite Troy Woolfolk?
Greg Mattison: "It is a great battle and what happens is that every day somebody different seems like they are taking the step and then the next day this guy steps. I'm hoping that all three of them are getting better. You can't ever have too many corners. Hopefully all of them as we get to the end of the week right here, we'll evaluate it and say okay this is a guy and this guy can go in any time and we shouldn't miss a beat."
Question: Thomas Gordon seems to have jumped on the radar a little bit, what have you seen from him this fall camp?
Greg Mattison: "Great effort. I think he's played with a lot of energy and he's got versatility for us. He can be in some of our packages, different packages where he can almost be a linebacker at times and then he can go be a safety and then he can go be a nickel. He has understood the defenses. He's been a guy that has been a real student and his flexibility has really helped us."
Question: How many different packages do you expect, is it pretty complicated?
Greg Mattison: "Yeah. One thing I've always believed in, is we're going to give our guys enough bullets. We're not going to go out there and play one defense. That's why our guys have really worked hard on understanding what we want from them. My belief is that you always try to give your guys every opportunity to be successful. Now if they can't pick it up, if the heat of the battle they're making mistakes than that can't work and that is why we've worked so hard on our walkthroughs and that's why we're constantly challenging them. Okay here is the call, what do you do and boom, they're stepping through chairs or stepping through bags, making sure that everything is exactly right. Like I said earlier that's why I am impressed with these guys because they understand and believe I've seen a lot of places where you see a lot of guys standing around in practice. Our guys know, okay come over here we're going to walk through this all again and we're going to get every one of these calls where you're supposed to be. If they know where to lineup and they know where they're supposed to be that's half the battle and now the rest of is it is going to be playing hard."
Question: Do you prefer difference defenses out of the same look or a lot of different looks?
Greg Mattison: "Both of them. I like to be able to run the same defenses out of two different packages, like fast guys out there compared to this group of guys and the reason I like that is because you don't ever want to get caught on the field with a certain personnel group and then you can't call some of the defenses that you want to call. Whatever you have out there you should be able to do what you want to do with your defense."
Question: If a team is running no huddle; how do you fight back with that?
Greg Mattison: "We've worked all camp on our wristbands. We will always be ready in every game. If a team is a no huddle team to be able to go immediately to wrist bands and all you have to do is just point to the wrist band and give them the number and they know exactly what defense it is and you go. We've worked on that throughout camp."
Question: What matchups are you most excited about, strength against strength or weakness against weakness?
Greg Mattison: "I like Ryan Van Bergen in there. I like Mike Martin in there. I like Craig Rob. I think those are three positions right there that we've got to win. That's what you look at when you look at your defense. We've got to win some of these positions and I think those are three guys that you got to say we've got to win these battles right here. I think I want to win every battle, but those are ones that I think you've got to say, we've got to win these."
Full Transcript: DC Greg Mattison
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