Ryan VanBergen on showing Signs of a Great D

VanBergen talks about the little signs of a great defense, on the passion of the seniors, on the Little Brown Jug ... and ... on the 'fake voice'.

Question: We have it on good authority that you use a fake deeper voice when you come to the podium? I was just wondering if you could address that. That is coming from one of your teammates.

Ryan Van Bergen: "I have a feeling that came from Dave Molk would be my guess. He assumes that I use a different voice when I do interviews and stuff. I think it is pretty much the same, but I'll let everybody else be the judge of that. I appreciate him letting out little secrets. I'm going to have start pulling out photos and stuff or something. It's going to get ugly."

Question: Now that you have done these four games, where do you think this defense is compared where you were hoping for them to be or where you thought they might be?

Ryan Van Bergen: "We've come a long way I think since camp. It is really hard to judge that because we've only had four games. Where we are especially when it comes down to the Big Ten and stuff. The thing that is promising is that we've seen glimpses of where we can be a great defense. We haven't been great all the time. We haven't been great most of the time but when we are playing well we can be one of the best in the country. One of the things is that we got to say we can be and start actually being that because there is no reason we can't. We have enough depth, we've got enough talent, we've just got to start executing better."

Question: Can you give examples of when you've seen signs of being a great defense?

Ryan Van Bergen: "We've played really good in the red zone. We've had some really good short yardage stops, third and ones, fourth and ones. We're really good at that situation. We can kill drives. Like last game, we had some three and outs. We stepped up to the plate when we need to. We've done some good things but we are not where we need to be as far as that has got to be consistent and that can't be a question of are they going to do it this time or not. It has got to be something that we know as a defense, our offense can trust in us and our coaches know that we are going to get the job done every time we come out on the field."

Question: You mentioned short yardage stops and red zone stops is that maybe the biggest difference in your defense this year versus past year because you guys have admittedly struggled on third downs a lot last year?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Yeah. That's one of the biggest differences, turnovers is a big difference. Another one is big plays. I think the big plays have killed us. In the past couple of years, we have some plays that have gone 50, 60 and we've seen plays like that. I really think there is a shortage of those plays this year and that's just because of our philosophy on defense and we're a little bit more technique sound. That's another big difference that I think is helping us out."

Question: Why do you think you guys are better in short yardage situations on third down?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I don't know. Probably because we practice it so much. It is something that we do. We practice it a lot. We've got a lot more guys in the box. Coach Mattison is not afraid to load up the box and say try to boot out and see if you can get outside of us. We'll load the box up and we'll play your best against our best and you know where we're going to be and we know what you're running, so let's see who can get lower and push each other off the ball. We certainly pride ourselves in as a defensive line and a front seven."

Question: You said guys have practiced it a lot more. Do you practice it a ton more than last year?

Ryan Van Bergen: "When you think about it, our offense is predicated on short yardage now. Where as before, we had the spread offense, we're playing the zone read. We could play the zone read great last year because that's all we did and that's all we went against was Denard running the zone read. Were as this year, we play against our offense and who runs the power and who runs inside zone. You have Coach Hoke who is the head coach who is a defensive line guy. The defensive line is going hard at it taking on double teams. That's one of our drills that we do for 15 minutes is take on double teams. It is something that we're emphasizing more than last year and it also comes up a lot more because of what our offense does now."

Question: You guys are giving up quite a bit of yardage but not that many points, how important is it to keep teams out of the end zone while you are still learning under Greg Mattison and figuring out what this coaching staff wants?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I think it goes a long way of coaching Coach Mattison because of what he emphasized when he got here. Kind of the order of things. The number one thing was keeping people out of the end zone when they get into the red zone. He kind of went down the list, no big plays. We want to stop the run and obviously eliminate some of the yardage that teams are getting but at the same time if you're not scoring you're not going to win the game. When Coach Mattison came in, we're not going to let teams in the end zone. We have given up yards but as far as a bend don't break mentality we've been doing pretty well at it. One of the other things that has kind of been good for us. We struggle done time and I think they scored one time on a sudden change situation where we gave them good field position either on a fumble or a kick return, interception, whatever. We've been doing well in those situations in the past game. We were batting 1.000 but we drop the ball on one of them in this past game. It is something that Coach Mattison teaches us and we embrace it."

Question: This is obviously your last go around in the Big Ten. Can you talk about maybe your passion for really leaving a mark in that last season in league play and maybe overall as a team how ready you think you are to do that?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I know that I speak on behalf of the senior class as far as guys who have been here four and fives years. We're hungry to get into the Big Ten schedule because everybody that is on this has been 4-0 at one point and everybody has realized that that doesn't mean anything once you hit the Big Ten schedule. Championships are won in November and our November record is not very good. We're anxious to get into this Big Ten schedule because what we do in the next two months is what is going to be remember of our team forever and that is all we have left as seniors. I think our team is very focused, kind of has tunnel vision. There is a lot of stuff out there that could distract as far as being ranked and I think we moved up this week, I'm not sure. We're 4-0. We're playing well. Denard is playing really well. I think he has got another reward or something this week. There are all these other outside things but when it comes down to it, we just want to get W's when it comes to the Big Ten conference and we're excited to get in that."

Question: After the game on Saturday, Mike Martin said when we asked about starting the game strong and he attributed it to both intensity and a week of practice. He said that was the best week of practice that you guys have had all year. Do you feel you guys have turned the corner in that regard that it'll continue to be that intense that strong of practice and you'll come out stronger each game?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Yeah. I think we know what it takes to be prepared and what it takes not be prepared. It was a week of two opposites when it came down between the Eastern Michigan game and the San Diego State as far as how we prepared. Our practice intensity and stuff like Mike said was way better last week and that is something that as seniors and as veterans we have to control because regardless of what the coaches say or do or try to motivate you to do, intensity comes from players, attitude comes from players, enthusiasm comes from players. We have to initiate it and maintain it and build upon it. We have to have better weeks of preparation as we keep going. We've got to learn how to practice better and never be satisfied with what we did last week and now we are on to the next week."

Question: It has been a couple of years now but how excited are you to get a chance to play for the Little Brown Jug and in your mind where does that kind of rank in terms of Michigan football tradition?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I'm really excited to play for the Little Brown Jug. I was there when we won the other one, I think was 2008. I was there, but I didn't even really touch the trophy because I didn't feel like I had done anything to really contribute. I'm really excited. I've been waiting to play this game. To answer your other question, it is a big part of our tradition. That's what makes Michigan what it is, is the fact that it has these little things that we have been a part of for how long. I think it was 1905 was when the Brown Jug was lost to Minnesota whenever we bought it or whatever. I'm really excited. It is the oldest trophy game I think in college football. It is something that we have to take pride in and try and win back."

Question: Brady said he brought the trophy in on Sunday and did he give you a little history reminder of that and also how much do you think the improvements on defense is change in scheme from the last couple of years.

Ryan Van Bergen: "He brought it up. You kind of picture it in your mind what it looks like but when you see it up close, it is not the most beautiful jug that you've ever seen. For fans and stuff, whoever been close to it, I do not think you would want to drink any water out of that. It means a lot. You can tell by looking at the thing that it has been around a long, long time. Big Jon is the one that presents it, so you see two things that have been around a long time (laughter). It was really cool. I'm excited about playing for it."

"There is a lot of improvement when it comes to scheme. Just I think with the four down lineman we've playing a little bit better against the run and I think we've also generated some better pass rush. Quarterbacks aren't scrambling on us, which will be big in this game. The scheme is only going to be as good as the players you put in it and how well the guys understand it and I think that is one of the things that is different about this year is how well guys understand their role and the role of the guys around them. When you learn to compliment each other, your defense plays a lot better. When you're only playing for yourself or only playing your assignment when you don't know what the guy next to you is supposed to do, if he is supposed to turn it into you, he is supposed to spill it outside. It gets a little bit more difficult but because we've learned that and learned the roles of other guys around us, we've been a lot more successful this year."

Question: So you didn't know the roles before everybody around you last year?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Not necessary. I'm sure some guys didn't know some of the roles and some guys didn't but because there was some shuffling around and some changes in personnel, injuries. There were guys I know out there probably didn't have as good as an understanding as we do now."

Question: You mentioned the seniors approach to the Big Ten season starting, are you guys embarrassed by what that conference record has been in recent years?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Absolutely, it is not acceptable by anybody's standards. Our standard, the coaches standards, the fans standards, alumni standards, the guys who have played here before us. They left a legacy of competing for a Big Ten Championship and we haven't been close and that is something that we have to take seriously. There is no way of going around it. You can see our record against Big Ten opponents and it hasn't been anywhere near what we need it to be. The seniors have taken it upon themselves I think and done a good job. The team has taken it very seriously to the fact that who cares about being 4-0 nonconference. Yeah it would be great to be 4-0 rather than 0-4 but at the same time, it doesn't matter once you start Big Ten. It is kind of like, alright that part of the season is over. It is a new season coming into the Big Ten. That's everybody's attitude. I'm glad no one is riding high on 4-0. No one on our team thinks that we're a good team as far as where we could be. Right now we have to prepare for Minnesota and we have to win the Brown Jug back and we have to get our first win in the Big Ten. That's the biggest issue that we have."

Question: How unusual has it been that you won't play road game until October, five straight home games, is that something that everybody is talking about or you feel it…?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Nobody is really talking about it, but I'm glad you brought it up. I honestly didn't know if that was normal or not. It feels weird that I haven't played an away game yet. It is going to be interested once we finally get that away game. We'll see how we respond on the road and how our offense handles, because it is a different offense with Denard making checks at the line of scrimmage, we'll see how he handles a different environment where the crowd is not cooperating. I'm interested to see how we do. I think we'll do well, but it has been weird that we haven't played an away game. It just feels that we've kind of been repeating the same process with a different team across the sideline."

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