Coordinator Full Transcript: Greg Mattison

Coach Mattison on big plays, on getting better every week, on Posey and Miller, on the key things the D has to do ... more ...

When you were considering coming back here, was one of the things that you really thought about, this week and the opportunity to participate in it?
No, honestly, I can't say that. I mean, I'd like to say ‘yeah', but that goes with coming back to Michigan, you know? If you coach at the University of Michigan, playing this game is the biggest rivalry in college athletics, you know, but I don't think you think about that – you don't say ‘I'm going to come back so I can coach in that game', you know?

Do you have any memories of this game that stick out to you?
Oh yeah, Oh yeah, you know, I can remember this game probably better than any other game. Had the opportunity to play them six times, five times here, and it's – they're a good football team, there's no question about it, and that's what college football's all about – this game, and you know, it's - you always remember those games.

Everybody talks a lot about scheme. A lot of what good defense is is simply tackling. How do you tackle that?
By getting a lot of people to the football. I think if you watch any defense and you see one person trying to make a tackle, you'll see a team that's not a very good tackling team; but if you see a lot of people around that football, then you see teams that do well tackling. And that's – the big thing is that it closes space – it closes the opportunity for a running back to cut.

Is that more effort, or is that more scheme, or is that…how…?
No, it – I think, I mean, most of the defensive football is effort. I think wanting to get to the football, you know – and we talk about it all the time – when you look at somebody to pursue, you know, you always have to talk about why are you pursuing. Are you pursuing because that coach says you're supposed to run to the football, or are you pursuing to try to go make a tackle? And I think that players understand that after a while, that ‘hey my job is to tackle the football, so I've got to pursue to get there', and that's effort.

Was playing the team that you played last Saturday, against a quarterback that can move and a good running back, a decent preparation for this, what you're going to see this weekend?
Yeah, there are some similarities. You know, I never look at the team you're going to play, how does that compare to the last week, because everything we do is off of breakdowns; everything we do is watching them; but if you did look at it, you know, they had a very mobile quarterback; they had a very good running back; they had a big offensive line; but I don't think the offensive scheme is as much. I think – Nebraska was a lot more option, lot more option than – even though, this game will have some option in it.

This defense has gone from 107th in scoring last year to I believe now 6th. How blown away are even you by that drastic of a turnaround?
Yeah, I'm not a stat guy, and I said that the first day. You've got to believe me on that. You know, when you coach defense, the number one thing that you always have to put as a priority is scoring defense. You know, I mean, that is something that you – and I wouldn't be able to tell you where we are or anything like that – all I do is look up at that scoreboard and one touchdown is too many. But that's how you judge a defense. I mean, we've all been part of defenses where they go up and down the field. But if you can play great red zone defense; if you can give me a place to stand and not let them in the end zone, then you have a chance to be a good defense, and our guys have bought into that, you know? And there's a lot of factors that go into that too, and probably the biggest factor is big plays. And I've always said this – it's hard for teams to score if you make them go 80 yards, you know? You start giving guys 50 yard chunks, now they get in there pretty quick. Or if you start on a short field, you're not quite as good a defense as you were if you started on the 20 yard line, you know? But you know, whatever the stats are, they are. The only stat that matters is this next game. That's the only stat that matters. You know, so, I mean, after the season's over with, we'll evaluate where we were, how we did, where we have to get better, and that's kind of where stats come in – you can kind of look and say we're not very good here as compared to the best – and I don't ever look at it compared to the league. I look at it as who ended up being the best, and now that's what we're shooting for, so we have to get this up here; and that's what we'll do.

Obviously ‘getting better every week' is a big sports cliché, but these guys, if you look at what they did the first couple weeks to what they're doing now, they're really buying into that. Have you ever had a defense that has really gotten better every week like these guys are doing?
Well, I hope that every defense you're ever associated with gets better every week. This defense, you know, it'll go down, you know, you'll probably remember this defense more than any other defense because of how they have bought in, how they have come out, and I've said it all along. These kids come out every day, and in every meeting, to get better, and everything you talk to them about, and every drill they do, they try to get better, and they've done it all year, and I'm happy for them that they're having some success, because it shows that its worth what they're doing.

Bo Pelini said yesterday that he's sort of seen a trend in college football of defenses using injury delays and injuries to slow opposing offenses. Is this something you have a comment on?
Well, I better not talk too much about…the only thing I can tell you is, I never have and we never will have someone fake an injury, and for somebody to even say that to me is absurd, but I guess if that's what people feel, then that's fine. But you're talking about Jordan Kovacs, I think, who missed two weeks or three weeks, who, a lot of places wouldn't even be on the field, and played a great ball game, and Jordan Kovacs would never do something that was not ethical or was not part of what Michigan teaches. So whatever a guy wants to comment a guy can comment, I don't care about that.

Do you teach them to lay down so that the ref sees them and stops the game?
Yeah, now that's something you do tell your players, now if a guy's injured, and he's trying to limp off the field, and he' s trying to drag a leg to get off the field, don't hurry and hurt yourself more doing that. You know, that's part of the rule, you know, if you don't feel like you can get off fast…I mean, we don't substitute for Jordan Kovacs so I mean, and he's never raised his hand and said ‘I'm tired', so he was hurt, and something – I mean, that knee or whatever it was, you know he did the right thing. And we tell every one of our players that: ‘Do not try to run off the field when you're injured – you could hurt yourself worse'. That's amazing…

How hard is it to prepare for someone like Posey, who, you really don't have that much game film for this season?
Well, he's a great wide receiver. He's a great talent, you know? And that's funny; the thing about wide receivers is they kind of all get lumped in. The really good ones are really good, you know, and the other ones are just guys, you know; but he's really good, and so, you know, it's somebody that you know you have to pay attention to every time, and you know I think he's just a very very good wide receiver.

Watching Braxton Miller on the film, what kind of unique skills does he have?
Well, he's very very explosive, and he's a very competitive quarterback. I mean, he's not timid in any way, you know, and he has the ability to take off at any time. He also has a very strong arm. Watching him throw, he's a real talent, you know, and we respect him, watching him. This is a guy you have to make sure you do a good job on.

What kind of challenge is he going to face, being a true freshman quarterback starting in the game?
Well, I don't know… I think everybody's different. I know – I think my first Michigan-Ohio game was – I know one thing, it was as big as I'd ever been a part of. Other guys might be different, you know? And it can be the sixth or seventh Michigan-Ohio game; it'll be as big as it's ever been. You know, this game is football, this game is college football, and, you know, I don't know how he'll react. I don't know…our whole concern is how our guys will react, and that's what our job is.

When you're facing a dual threat quarterback, and you saw quite a few this year, do you go into it saying ‘we want to take away his arm first, or his leg first, and then work on the other' or what is…?
Our approach in everything we do, no matter who we're playing, is always stop the run first. You know, whichever way it comes, and then obviously you have to get off the field on third down, but you know, to be a good defense, you have got to be good against the run. There's no gray area in that at all, so that's the challenge that we have, you know? Their runningback has posted some pretty good numbers against Michigan, and I mean, he's a very very good runningback, a very hard runningback, and he's got some explosion, you know, and so that's always a test for a defense, because no defense that really believes in what you should believe in as a defense – and that's toughness and all that – it all goes back to stopping the run. And you always want to take that into the game and say ‘this is what we want to do'.

How do you keep your players focused on this game, and this game alone, as opposed to any build up or frustrations over the last couple…?
You know, we just look at this game as being the next game, and it happens to be the last game. I mean, these guys have done such a great job, you know, we don't have to go in and talk about anything. They know. They wouldn't have worked this hard all year if they didn't want to get to this game, and do what we are hopefully going to do in this game. And, you know, so we don't have to talk about it at all. This is business as usual. When we get done here, there'll be some players trickling in for some individual attention on film, then we go to the installation, then we go to practice, and go right on, you know? But this is a different group – I don't know if it's different than anything else because I don't know what the other ones are like - but this group has become a very very invested group, and so we don't worry about them.

On that point, Van Bergen said yesterday that Sunday the building was very serious; he thought very serious and focused. Did you detect a difference?
Yeah, it was very businesslike, but it was also very…upbeat. It wasn't doom and gloom, it wasn't guys acting like ‘Oh boy', you know, it was guys coming in and going like ‘Okay Coach, what are we going to run, what are we going to do', and ‘Okay let's watch the tape', and we might have watched the tape longer than we usually do, and all that kind of thing, but you know, it was just very upbeat. But it was very businesslike also. That's the way they've been all year though, I mean, you know, it's like you say, is it going to be different? I don't know, I mean, these guys, like I said, every time you meet with them they're ‘Okay, what do you want us to do, what do we have to do?'

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