Full Transcript: D-Coordinator Mattison

Coach Mattison talks about the improvement of the 2011 Michigan Defense ... about Virginia Tech ... about Denard Robinson ... more.

Was the bust what you remembered it being, and talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, that was a great night. And I really didn't – I was riding up there with my wife and we were on the bus, and Fred Jackson's right next to me, and I said Fred, where was – I can't remember this. And when I got up to the hill right there and saw it, I said oh I remember this, and it was a special night because it's a special group of seniors, and you know, that was neat that that many people turned out to honor them, and you know, they've earned that. And I think that's – again – another one of those things that separate Michigan football from a lot of other people, and a lot of other places. It was a nice night.

What's it take to keep a group from kind of taking a deep breath after a season like that and not sliding back and getting ready to prepare.

Well, you know, it's always something that's in the back of your mind, but I don't think that's gonna happen with this group. This group is so hungry, and they already had talked about it themselves, that, you know, that's the good and bad about a bowl game, that you know, you'll remember that one – that's your last game, so you're always gonna remember your last game, and it's not about saying well we had a good season and that was the bowl game. That's not the case. Especially when it's a BCS bowl. So these guys are focused; they're doing everything that Brady's asked them to do up to this point, which is the conditioning part of it, and the practices that we had to get them back going again, with real up tempo, and all signs show that that's the same team that's gonna keep trying to get better and better.

How do you feel about Urban not having to coach against them in the Big Ten?

I really don't want to talk about that, you know, we – he's at Ohio State, he's a good football coach, I had great years with him, and really don't want to, I don't want to go into the Urban – the Urban/Ohio State deal. So lets go to the – let's talk about Michigan, you know, that's really what we're here for.

So, do you feel it gives you any sort of advantage? I mean, that's your big rival, and you know him.

I just said, let's talk about Michigan. Okay?

You came into this job with somewhat of expectations about how it would play out. Has this season exceeded them, met them, is it kind of different than what you expected?

Well, I don't think I'd be telling the truth if I didn't think they exceeded them, you know, I think as the season went on, it didn't exceed them; because I started seeing that this group of guys, and the job that Brady's done, and the way the staff worked, and it was a great situation, and these kids just keep – they just kept trying to do everything you asked them to do and you know, the interesting thing is forever here, and it's not a corny deal, in our team room, it's team, team, team, and that was vocal. And if you want to look at a great example of team, you know, it would be this team so far. And there may not be a lot of great great players there. There's some really good ones. But when they all did their thing, and all worked together, and the offense picked us up, and there were games when we picked them up, and the special teams picked up both sides, you know? That's what a team is, and you know, that's where this program – that's what you remember Michigan as, is team, and so as far as expectations, I think the thing they did do is they became a team, a real team, and you know, that's always a lot better than anything else.

Was some of the defensive struggles in that last game provide you with teaching points and maybe extra motivation going into this one?

Yeah, and to be honest, a lot of that was me, in that, I do a lot by tendencies, and you know, there was one tendency that on the first possession, I think over five or six games, it was 30 runs and one pass, or zero passes. So you're going to call run defenses, you know, and whenever you call a run defense, you kind of can put your secondary in a little more of a bind, and they ended up I think throwing the first seven first possessions, you know, so we'll learn from it, and there's some things we've got to address, but it isn't them as much as maybe what you called. And whenever you call a defense, you hope it's good against everything, but let's be honest here, some things it's better against than others, and I think we kind of put our secondary in a tougher situation a couple times.

Is there something specifically that you're working on for bowl prep with the secondary after breaking down things?

No, we won't make – our package is our package, and it's pretty big, so like we've done all year, we will go, after we break down – and that's what I've been doing today and since I've been in here, is look what they do, and then take from our package what would be best against them, and you know, so it's nothing that we'd throw out that we'd done all year, you know, its just, you're always going to try to say ‘this is what our game plan will be this time'.

Coach, you coached in the NFL for a few years, where do you think Mike Martin fits in in that level?

I think Mike Martin has shown a lot of the qualities that the NFL looks for, and that's a strong, tough, smart, hard-nosed football player, and you know, I'm hoping that after this last bowl game, that he gets everything he deserves, and I'm sure he will. You know, I feel very confident. And the only thing I can do is show him the film, and I know a lot of people probably want to talk to me about him, and I'm – you know, the sky's the limit for me as far as he's concerned. I think he's going to be an outstanding football player if he decides to keep playing.

Do you receive more calls from NFL guys now that you were in the league for a few years, versus before?

I don't know, you know, I don't know I get more calls, you know, I just got a lot of friends and a lot of guys that I have been with over those three years, you know, but I don't think it's that much different.

Coach, talking about your secondary, can you talk about how that competition between Troy and Countess has kind of evolved? We've seen them rotate. Where do you see that at?

To be honest, it's continuing, you know, again, it's continuing , because the good news is, we've got ten or more real strong practices, and as I've mentioned before, I mean, it's day to day, and every guy's got to do his job, and if a guy is on the bubble or he's not on the bubble, that's what practices are for, to find out ok who got the nod today, you know? I think the good thing too is, you say you got 11 starters, but sometimes when your depth gets better, you really have 13 or 14 starters, and you know, you saw that a lot in our defensive line, where guys would rotate, you know? You see it with our backers some, and that's' a good sign, when you can rotate guys in there, and not just because of staying fresh, but because they've earned the right to be in there.

Are you surprised that this defense has exceeded those expectations because you had so many young players, I mean, you played with four freshmen, I guess it was, three or four freshmen, like extensively.

You kind of hope for that, you know, I think if you're at a great school like Michigan, the difference between your senior year when you graduate from high school, and when you're in a college season is not that much difference, you know, and there's no magical year where you say ‘ok, this guy, now you're ready to play.' Some guys are ready to play earlier, and some guys are ready to play when they're juniors, you know? The guys, maybe because of lack of depth and things like that, were forced to play a little earlier, and they responded very well, and I think that's a real credit to their coaches, that said ‘ok, all of these guys that are on this defense are part of this defense, and let's get the best players ready to play. We never said ‘hey, this guy's a freshman, ok, let him sit back awhile', you know, and it's the same thing in practice. We talk about if a guy starts showing up in practice, you go ‘hey, this guy's about ready to play now', and then you just plug him in, and then the next part of it is him picking up the scheme and all that, and I think our guys have done a really good job of that, and our players have stayed – you know, in average programs, what happens sometimes is if you're a young guy, and you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, you don't focus, so when it's your turn to play, you might be ready physically, but you're not ready mentally. These kids have stayed focused, and I think our coaches have demanded that. Along those lines, Quinton Washington's a kid that Brady mentioned to keep a close eye on because he's developed. Are there other young guys that because it's bowl practice, you'll be able to maybe take a little longer look at?

Well, Quinton is a great example, you know, but he's been a guy all along that is a step away from being in there, you know? I'm trying to think of – well, you saw Beyer come on, you know. That was good. I think, you see Mike Jones starting to come on more. You know, there's where you get more linebackers, maybe when you got Hawthorne who played a lot earlier, and then you've got Desmond, and you have Mike, and those are what I'm talking about, those kind of guys. You know, Delonte Hollowell gets a lot of reps in practice, you know? Most – I think anybody who travels, you expect them to be real close to being able to play.

What do you see from the evolution of Desmond Morgan?

Well, I see him becoming a pretty good linebacker, you know, he's always been very physical. He's a real willing football player, and now he's starting to make the transition of he don't just run into that guy every time, your job is to make the tackle, and he's starting to figure that out. Before when you tell him something, it was kind of like he'd look at you like ‘what are you…' and then you'd explain it and he'd get it, and now you just have to say it once and he's ‘I got it, I should have done this.' So, that's the experience part of it. There's nothing like being in the game, you know? When you're in that game now, then you really start getting it, and he's been a real, he's been a Michigan football player. He's been a guy that's gotten better and better and better, and he has great pride, you know, that's always been a plus for him. He wants to be very, very good.

With the youth that you do have on defense and going to the bowl game where there are possibly more mental distractions, do you talk more about the mental approach to your younger guys?

Oh yeah, we'll talk a lot about that. This game is about going there to win, and that's the difference I think from day one, and it came from the players, to the players, and it came from the coaches to the players, you know, so it isn't just the coaches harping on ‘hey, listen'. Bowl games are a reward, and you can have fun, but the reason you go to a bowl game is to win, and the reason you go to a bowl game is you've earned the right to have 15 or so practices to get better. And that's what we talk about more than anything is ‘ok, this is the next practice, now we got to get better today, and everything we do in bowl preparation is to get better. And now let's see where this defense is after all these bowl practices.

In spite of that, do you use some of these practices to tell Mike Martin and Ryan VanBergen, have them sit so you can work the younger guys in more and get some look and a jump ahead to the spring?

You always, at the end of the season, your veterans don't need every rep that everybody else gets. And so we did that starting probably four weeks ago, where you're going to try to cut down on a number of reps for an established senior that is giving everything every second, and so that's what these guys have done. If a guy starts looking for that, then you probably give him more reps than he's supposed to get, just to – but those guys have been that way. And we also build in the youth practice. We build in, and Brady's done this, where you have a set number of plays where it's gonna be your young guys versus your young guys, so they get real extensive reps, and that's a way for you to evaluate them on film; for them to run your defenses rather than scout team all the time, and that's built in.

Is there a Big Ten offense that Virginia Tech reminds you of maybe? Or have you seen anything like that this year?

Yeah, we've seen – I don't know, I can't think of one specific. They're a good offense, they're a very good offense, you know? They're – I think you'd say everything starts with running the football; you know, they're going to try to run the football, and they've got a very very good running back. Their quarterback is a bigger, taller quarterback then what we've seen. He still has ability, but he's a big guy that likes to throw it, and is strong when he runs it. You know, they've got wide receivers – maybe the biggest thing is their wide receivers are bigger than other wide receivers we've played against, and they've got some big, strong wide receivers, you know? But it's just a good football team.

San Diego State is a comparison? They have a big quarterback, they got…they run…

It could be. This guy's a lot more mobile. Yeah, this guy's a lot more mobile. This guy, you know, even though he's not a scrambler first, he will take off running, you know, and – big, tall guy with a strong arm, and throws it effortless, and he looks like he's got, got good distance with his throws. He's a good quarterback.

Do you have enough familiarity with Beamer?

Yeah, I've – you know, all the years I've coached, they're one of those programs that's a very, very good program. You know, he's going to be really good on offense, he's going to be really, really good on defense, and his kicking game is what he's been known for, you know, I mean, you don't win ten games a year, or as many times as he has, without being a really good program. You know, that's a very good program.

Speaking of quarterbacks, where have you seen – from your perspective – of how has Denard has evolved this season?

Denard is, Denard is — I don't know what the word would be. He's unbelievable in my mind, you know, I mean, he's done such a fabulous job this year of just being a winner, you know, and they got to, it's almost like everybody here is spoiled, because if Denard doesn't break on a 70-yarder, well, Denard's not doing well, but just add it up afterwards, and there's a reason why the running backs are gaining so many yards, you know, I mean, obviously everybody is focused on Denard, you know, I mean, Denard is – we probably wouldn't be in this bowl game, you know? He's – the things that I said about him on the first day I got here after spring practice, I mean they're even better, I mean, this guy's something special.

Coach, when you look back and evaluate the defense, Mike Martin talked about, you have specific goals for the defense, how many points you give up and yards you give up, how did you meet those goals, did you think?

We met ‘em. We met them a lot times. I don't know the exact numbers, but we never met them all the way. The statistics, or the categories that we have that decide whether we were really really a good defense are about eight or nine of them, and I don't think we ever hit every one of them, but more and more, the ones that decide winning or losing, we're getting a lot closer. There's a day…there's a day I think every coach looks for, but there's a day I'm going to be able to say every one of these goals were met and that's what every coach looks for.

What kind of numbers are you looking at for those goals, those eight or nine categories?

Well, like points per game, you put as a set number, 17 or less and there was a time, when I first started coaching, I think it was seven. Really. And I think that's the way offenses have changed. You know, we want to be great in the fourth quarter. We don't want any scores in the fourth quarter, that's always big. 33% or better on third down. Red zone, you want to be 50%. Long runs or long passes, you want to hold them to two of each of those. Those are just a few of them off the top of my head, but they are all the ones that, kind of, look through all those, if you take care of all those, you're usually going to play pretty good defense that day.

With the exception of points per game, per season or per game or?

Per game, yeah, per game.

Was there a collective a-ha moment for this defense, was it the Illinois game? Was it before you saw that…you said at some point that they stopped exceeding that they sort of transitioned into what you wanted.

For me, I think the first time I really saw them be a true Michigan defense would have been Illinois. I think that would've…and then, you know, because of who you play, and I think that was a pretty good football team when we played them…I think Nebraska was another example that, you know, it's just, the things we talked about all year, when you start seeing more of it, then you know. Then you know. If you give up a big play, it makes it all not good. You're always looking for perfection, but you don't always get it.

When Brady was mentioned, was asked about position battles going into the bowl game, linebacker was the first position he mentioned. What kind of competition are you seeing at linebacker?

Well, there's so many guys there that have played, you know, Hawthorne's played a lot of football, Desmond's playing a lot of football, Mike Jones has really come on. I think there's a lot of guys that have shown that they've played. You can even look at Brando heron the early part of the season before he got hurt. Cam Gordon is back healthy, so he's playing, you know, he's doing some things and, so the thing you've got to try to do is find a way, when they have come back, and they do look good enough to win with, is to again, try to get them in there in certain situations.

When you took this job and you saw the numbers statistically from last season, I mean, I'm assuming you looked at the 110th in the country, did you scratch your head and think, it's going to take a substantial amount of time to turn this around or can you evaluate your coaching, I guess, is what I'm asking?

Not until after this next game. Really, I always look at it that way, and it's really…it's not my coaching. It's our coaching. I mean, it really is. No…there's no coordinator that goes in there and does it himself. You can't do it. You've got to have a head coach that allows you to do what you want to have done and back you on everything that you're doing and you have to have assistants that are right with you on every step, so I think our defense, the Michigan defense, yeah, I didn't…I felt there's no way we're going to be that way, There's no way and I don't mean that negative towards what happened before. I just know when you measure the way we measure things, you have to make sure that doesn't happen, but I think our players, our coaches, and everybody all along has had a common goal to get this back to Michigan defense, you know, and you've heard me say that a lot of times and we'll find out after this ball game if we're back. You know exactly when we talk in the Spring, I'm going to say, we've got a long way to go and we've got to start all over, that's the way it goes.

When you said ‘No way,' did you mean, no way you thought you'd get to here or no way you'd be that bad?

Well, I'm not going to say ‘that bad' because I'm not going to judge what it was. I know we have a measuring stick for what a successful Michigan defense is and I know what we are going to try to do to get there and we're still a work in progress trying to get there. I don't want to judge anything that happened before. That's not how I operate and I'm not going to operate…

So what'd you mean by no way?

If you're looking at numbers, if you said, you're going to be the 100th defense or the 99th defense, that's never been a goal of mine, and it's never been a Michigan goal, so you figure that out. To me, I don't going into a season saying, I want to be the 50th defense or the 20th defense, I want a defense that plays extremely hard. I want a defense that runs to the football. I want a defense that plays as a team. I want a defense that's good on third down. And then all of those things are Michigan defenses, so, I don't measure it by what numbers they are. You never go into a season when you're a coach at Michigan and say I want to be this. OK?

Coach, talking about the Michigan defense being back after the Illinois game, have former players since the season said, this looks like a Michigan defense again to you?

Yeah, guys that I was fortunate enough to be with the first time here, have been great, like the Jarrett Irons and Josh Williams and guys like that. They know how we tried to do it then and they know what is acceptable at Michigan and so they were excited, cause we're doing a lot of the same things they were doing. It was neat. It was neat. That's one of the big things, again, if you're a coach at Michigan, you want guys that were Michigan defensive players to be proud of what your guys are doing now. That's a big thing. Some guys worry about their stats, you know, you don't need to do that. All you've got to do is look in the eyes of the guys that played here before, they'll let you know if they think you're a Michigan defense or not, you know, and that's always been a legacy here.

Is this among your most satisfying coaching, coaching, I guess, I mean, where it was to where it is now?

I think it was…I don't know if the word is satisfying, I was maybe as proud as I've ever been for this team. Cause, as I said here earlier, seeing how hard they've worked…I keep going to the first day out there on the indoor field and hearing Coach Wellman say ‘do it again, do it again, do it again,' and then in spring ball, ‘that's not good enough, you've got to do it again,' just that the kids kept comin', they just kept doing it and there were a lot of guys that probably would have tapped out and these guys just, Mike Martin, and Ryan and Will Heininger, next day, ok, let's do it again. Let's go. So that, that makes you proud, I guess is the word, to see them, the look in their eye and how they feel about their defense, and again, it's their defense. They're going to leave someday and they're going to be coming back and now they can be able to say ok coach, what's this defense look like.

The moment we saw when you were emotional after the Illinois game, have you had a lot of those moments this year or have you just kind of…

I think it's old age. (Laughter) I do. I probably have had more this year than ever because you get caught up with them, you know. Again, just for these guys, you know, to be able to finish it now. Let's finish the job now, and you know, they're just real guys. These players are just real people that want to be considered a Michigan defense, and that's it in a nutshell and they have worked so hard to do that and it makes you as a coach feel really really proud for them when you see it in them. Makes you pretty mad when you see the ball over their head in the Ohio State game too, but that part of it doesn't change.

That was your fault though right?

Yes it was. Yes it was, and I'll go to my grave…I won't call that again in that situation.

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