Week 3 Coordinators Chat: Greg Mattison

DC Greg Mattison on the blitzing, Big Will, Craig Roh, Cam Gordon and LB injuries, Brandin Hawthorne, Marvin Robinson, Troy Woolfolk, the last ND TD, more.

Greg Mattison: "I guess 2 and 0 is a good way to start. I think we've got to still play much, much better on defense. I think we've got to correct some of the mistakes that's allowing some yardage and the one thing that I wasn't happy with -- a lot of things -- but the one thing I wasn't happy with was one of the bigger plays that broke on the run. That was the first time all year we didn't pursue like we had to from the back end, and that was something that we talked about that they had been doing a good job so far, and we've got to continue to corral that football and make that ball be inside. But it was a great win for the program."

Question: Did you see flashes from Brandin Hawthorne that gave you an ideal that he might be able to do that?

Greg Mattison: "Oh yeah. He showed some things in the spring. He showed some things in the fall and then he sprained that ankle and has been gimped. The one thing I was impressed with him is that even when the ankle was not good earlier, he came out and practiced hard and limped and tried to do everything he could; and he shows that he is a tough kid; and I was happy for some of the things he did. It really helped us."

Question: Are you disappointed that you're having to blitz this much because you're not getting pressure from your front four alone?

Greg Mattison: "I don't know if you say I'm disappointed. We'll always blitz and we'll always pressure. You'd like to make sure that we can get pressure from a four man rush on more of a regular basis. To be able to do both, then you really have it. That is something that we've addressed and something that we're working on right now."

Question: How much have turnovers kind of bailed you out sort of speak and make your defensive performance maybe look a little better than it was?

Greg Mattison: "No question. I think our ability to get those turnovers…this was a really good offense. Make no mistake about it, this is a very, very good offense that we played against. There is a great deal of experience in the offensive line. We won't face a better wide receiver than Michael Floyd. The tight end in my opinion is a big time football player. Their offensive line is all older. That did help us a great deal to be able to, but it is a mindset that we've tried to build that no matter if teams are moving the football on you, if you have a place to stand. As long as you have a place to stand and the ball is not in the end zone, something good can happen. Our guys have…the other thing when you're getting turnovers -- some people say, was it lucky. I think when you get turnovers that means you're around the football. We've all seen times before when the ball is laying on the ground and there is nobody there to get it. We've got to keep doing that. It is something that we've got to keep doing it until we get better at our fundamentals and until we get more seasoned."

Question: Notre Dame's last touchdown was that a communication breakdown a little bit?

Greg Mattison: "No it wasn't. We didn't execute it exactly like we want to -- and I'll be dead on honest, there are sometimes calls that a guy makes that you say afterwards, I wish I hadn't made that call. That was the same call that we got the interception on earlier in the game. It looks exactly like the blitz and we had blitzed right before that and they knew we were going to blitz the closer, they got down there -- and so I just thought to myself, maybe we can do the same thing. Show that blitz and come out of there. We didn't execute it as well as we did the first time and they hit it. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not always 100% and if was all over again I probably wouldn't have called that."

Question: How much more of disguising your coverage in college than maybe it is even in the pros?

Greg Mattison: "The thing about disguising, you've got to be pretty experienced. A lot of times out there you're just saying, guys make sure you're in the right place. Disguising is the next phase. The first thing we have to do is make sure that we don't bust on coverages and make sure we're in a position to make the plays that we can make, and then from that point, as they get more seasoned and as they get better then you can say, okay now you got that down, now let's make it look like this and go to this. We haven't been able to disguise as much as we'd like to and we'll get there."

Question: As far as linebackers go, how many of them right now do you feel comfortable and how much is that number grown since….?

Greg Mattison: "I feel comfortable with anybody on that football field. Anybody that practices and goes through what they go through. We feel that anybody on the field for Michigan I feel comfortable with, because that means they're the best. We just got to keep trying to get them healthy, trying to make sure they're 100%, making sure they keep improving. You've got a number of linebackers there that haven't played a lot of football. You get thrown in a ballgame like that, for them to make some of the plays they made, I was proud of them. Now there's always mistakes. The one thing I've said all along that I'm so proud of this defense about is they come in everyday after the game's over trying to correct those mistakes. I hope there's someday where we don't have to correct those mistakes but that's what we're working on right now."

Question: There were a couple of longer runs where Mike Martin had dropped back into coverage, how do you shore up the middle of the field to make sure that they don't break that?

Greg Mattison: "The same blitzes that hit the quarterback from Western Michigan, they obviously saw that and didn't want that pressure to come at them, so what they did was check to a run whenever they saw that look. We have defenses that look exactly the same that are run defenses. It's the same thing, I called the pressure thinking it was pass, and in the back of my mind, I'm thinking I should have called the pressure for the run because maybe they're going to do that, and sure enough they did do it. The next one they ran it on third and seven. If a team's going to run it on third and seven, you aren't ever going to pressure if you're worried about it. And some of those when there are overloads on both sides, they aren't great run defenses. The one thing we have to do is, when we hear a team check, not maybe drop out as fast -- but now all of a sudden if a guy doesn't drop out as fast and they hit the pass, I'm going to say why didn't you drop out as fast. That's the thing that happens a lot of times or sometimes when you are pressuring."

Question: What do you see from Martin when he does drop back in practice?

Greg Mattison: "He's a very good athlete. He's a very intelligent football player and that's what it takes. A bigger guy like that showing that he's a defensive lineman and then dropping out, can cause problems. You can only do that if a guy is an athlete enough to do it. I don't want to do it too much because he's a great run player, and all of a sudden he's dropping out, and they're running the football all day on you, that's not very smart."

Question: What did you se out of Will Campbell and does he earn a bigger opportunity this week because of what he did in limited time on Saturday?

Greg Mattison: "I thought that when he went in, he gave us a spark. I thought he played with a lot of passion, and like I've said all along that's a big body that can move. Again, everybody buys in and everybody steps up the way we want it at different times and at different levels, and he's one that when he was out there, he said, okay, I'm going to do it the way they want it done. I do believe he'll probably get more playing time. We're rotating anyhow, but I do think he's earned it by what he showed right there. The biggest thing the guys have to do is earn by how they practice. The game is the reward for how you practice, so they've got to continue to practice hard and then go out there, and that'll be their reward."

Question: How has your linebacker rotation been changed by injuries?

Greg Mattison: "We felt there were a number of them that are all fairly equal and so that's the good news. If a guy for some reason gets gimped up for some reason, whatever happens, the next guy has got to be ready to go. That's always the way it'll be here. We'll never say this happened because of an injury. You can't do that. The guy who is the next guy to go in has got to live up to that standard and play up to that standard."

Question: Did a healthy Cam Gordon allow you to do some different things with the linebacker, maybe put him in coverage?

Greg Mattison: "Yeah, I mean he is an ex-safety, and a very good athlete, but all those are factors. Most of them are pretty good athletes and can cover. I don't think we ever think, well Cam's not in there, we can't run this defense."

Question: When Will Campbell plays like he does and he is next to Mike Martin does that give your defensive line its best potential on the field?

Greg Mattison: "I don't know if it gives you your best potential. Anybody that plays up to their ability gives you your best potential. I think he's very talented and if he comes in and plays hard at 6'5", 300 and some pounds, you've got to feel pretty good about it. I'm looking forward to him improving each week and getting better and getting more playing time."

Question: What have you seen from Craig Roh? In the last two games, he has not really shown up in the box score.

Greg Mattison: "Craig played much better. Craig played much better in this game than he did the first game. I think Craig's another guy that all of a sudden he sees that the bar is higher than maybe he expected it to be. What he thinks sometimes, and this is for everybody not just Craig, what they think is acceptable is not. He's bought in. He's going to be an outstanding football player. I've got all the confidence in the world. Just to see the way he's practicing since that first game and then played better in this game, I look forward to him playing much better again this game."

Question: In both the Western and the Notre Dame games, the opposing offenses seemed to move the ball very efficiency for the first couple of drives but then the defenses figured them out kind of and stopped them. What goes into that?

Greg Mattison: "Maybe I'd better do a better job with the pep talk. I looked at that, and I don't know if it's us adjusting. I think every game you have to adjust. I think that's part of coaching, and that's part of the players really understanding our whole package. There were some different things and that's why I've always talked about bullets. If something isn't working, then you've got to have something else to go to. We were fortunate enough to call a couple other defenses that the kids executed very well, and got some big plays off of them. I don't know if that's adjustments, that's maybe just the way defense is; that is, if you have enough in there, don't stay out there and let yourself continue to not do well, but change it up. Do something until you find that mix. And luckily our players kept playing, a real credit to them. They believed all the way, and they played all the way and that's why we're going to be good. That's why our defense is going to be a Michigan defense. We're not there yet, by any means, but as long as those players keep doing that, then we're going to be fine."

Question: How much of what you've wanted to get in and install did you actually get in and do you put any more in now or is it just wrinkles?

Greg Mattison: "We'll always put in different things each week. We'll never going into the game with the same game plan, and usually it means pressures. I don't think you can say, this is our package in the spring, and then it's the same thing you run throughout the whole year. I don't think you do that. So we'll always tweak things, we'll always add some things, we'll take something out. We kind of have a number that I kind of look up on the board, and say okay , this is the amount of defenses we have to have in this game, no more, because you can't get enough practice time on them. I kind of look at how many times I can call a defense in a practice to decide whether I can call it in a game, because you don't want to put a defense out that they aren't prepared with."

Question: Does that number change per week?

Greg Mattison: "No it's usually a set number. It all goes by what they can handle, but I don't know what you'd say the number is, but I know when I look at that board, if I see too many defenses on that ready list, I'll be taking them down by tonight or tomorrow, saying, no no, we can't…this is too much. I'd like to do it, we'd all like to do it, but it isn't going to get called. Or if you do call it, you're hoping it's run right, and that's not fair to the kids."

Question: How much can they handle at this point would you say?

Greg Mattison: "I think they've done very well at picking up the system, much, much better than the spring. One because, they've really bought in. They've become very much students of the game, more than I think they've ever been. They're starting to communicate and that's been a real negative -- and again, when you have a lot of young kids and a lot of kids that haven't played much, they're kind of just taking care of themselves. They're really starting to communicate, and until you communicate on defense, you won't be as successful as you should be because you've got to make sure everybody is on the same page. I think they've really improved on that."

Question: Brady said he wanted to use Marvin Robinson after week one; how did he do last week in that regard and how is he doing so far overall?

Greg Mattison: "He's doing better. He's got to do much better on the communication part of it. Again, Marvin and a lot of guys, it's them feeling really comfortable. A lot of these guys are playing positions that they've never played before and in a game like this last one. All of a sudden, they're thinking, I just got to do my job. It's important when you see something that you tell your buddy and take care of the whole group, and that's something we're really tried to install in the group, and they'll get better and better each week."

Question: Are you hesitant to play Troy Woolfolk because of the cast?

Greg Mattison: "No, no. In fact, after watching the film Troy Woolfolk played an unbelievable game for a guy with one hand. He made one tackle with one hand right there that might have broke. I was proud of him. He's a Michigan man and he came up before the game, you can count on me, I'll go. I think there is a lot of programs where people, seniors and all that kind of thing might have said, ewww I can't go. Not him. I'm proud of him for doing that."

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