[I sat down shortly after the start of Mattison's roundtable.]
"Watching them this summer, you know, we're not allowed to be around them but I'm hearing what they've done and they've really taken care of business. They've worked really hard this summer, which shows that they have the same goals for their group as we do."
How many different places are you going to use Taco, or are you going to center in on one spot for him? And talk about what he brings to the table.
"The entire group of guys by their positions, tackle and nose, end is called 'end' or 'anchor', those are the two outside guys, they know that they have to know both positions. The reason for that is teams that trade the tight end, when you're an end you become an anchor, anchor becomes an end, that kind of thing, nose and tackle—and it helps us with our rotation. We've found this out over the years and it's happened more and more—teams that run spread offense, really one of the reasons they do that is if you have a really good defensive line or experienced defensive line, they try to wear them out, they try to get that defensive line to not have the impact that it would have in a game by taking a little bit of their gas away. So we want to have the ability to plug a lot of guys into different positions.
"Also I think whenever you are at a position and you know the other positions, you know better how to play it. I think the days are over where 'I am a this position and that's all I do,' and you're going to get in trouble doing that because all of a sudden somebody goes down or gets nicked up and you need to take the next-best guy and put him in somewhere. Experience helps you with that. These kids have heard the same techniques, the same expectations for three and four years, it's easy for them to slip into another position."
And then Taco, talk about...
"Taco will start out—he played both the anchor and the end, but we'll play him more as the open-side end this year. With him playing that position will be Chase Winovich. Chase has showed some great things this spring, having never played the position, but he's a young man that we're looking for—he's got a lot of things going for him. He's very aggressive, very fast for his size, he's gotten bigger, and that gives us the two that you're looking for, at least, at that position."
And Taco, talk about his contributions, speed and size, what he brings...
"Taco's got great leverage. He's a six-foot-five guy, so he's got long leverage, which allows you to keep separation. He plays very physical. He can run. He's an athlete, he was an outstanding basketball player. And he's got great experience now. He's played a lot of football since he's been here and now I think he really feels about about—you know, he's ready to really go."
[Hit THE JUMP for Mattison answering many questions that aren't Taco talk-abouts.]
Playing three different positions in three years isn’t usually the recipe for success, but what about defensive end works for Chase Winovich that you think he’ll fit better there?
“Well, Chase has had a very good spring. We saw that in the bowl practice, and that’s why bowl games are so important. I’ve always felt—I recruited him, and I always felt he had a real high motor, he’s a very, very tough young man, and he can really run. When we got a chance to get him back on defense we just put him in in practices and I would have played him in the game. I would have put him in the bowl game at the end except our offense did such a great job of controlling the ball I didn’t have time to get him in at the end. Then this spring, he’s added some weight. He’s got a lot of learning to do with the technique but he’s willing to, and I think you’re going to be—you know, he’s got a very high ceiling and I’m excited about it.”
How about Bryan Mone? Is he at full health?
“Yeah. Bryan’s, you know, he’s rusty; you don’t take a whole year off [without rust]. But every practice you see it getting more like the guy when he was a freshman but older, and he’s working really hard. I’m very pleased. Obviously he’s very hungry. You know, you take a year away from a young man, it’s hard. And he seems to be really excited about what’s happening, and he’s getting a lot of great reps.”
On the other side of the ball, can you talk about what you see in practice from Chesson and Darboh and Butt in terms of they’re so experienced and so talented that whoever the quarterback is how much they’re going to help that guy?
“Yeah, again, you’re talking about three guys that are veterans now. They’re very talented. I don’t follow our offense. You know, you’ve got so much to do with your own side, but they just have such a great attitude and they seem to be the ones that make the plays. And they’re leaders. They’re leaders by how they play, leaders off the field, leaders in the cafeteria. They’re big-time guys and it’s fun to be on a team with them. I’m really excited about what they’re going to do this next year.”
You’ve talked a lot over the years about how you remember coaching Chris [Wormley] and Hurst when they were really young. Now they’re old. This is the most veteran line you’ve had. Are your expectations, I assume, that much higher?
“Yeah, very high. You know, they know me that if a guy shows that he has talent that I’m going to expect him to get all the way to the top of that talent, and so sometimes things that might be acceptable some places are still not acceptable. I’m always after them for perfection. I want them to be as good as I know they can be, and that’s hard to do in a four-hour practice but they’re being pushed to do that.
“You see those guys, you know, Glasgow, he can’t go right now but he’s doing some things that he wouldn’t get injured with. But all those guys, Taco, it’s four years for them now and you’ve seen them. It’s funny because when you see a Shelton Johnson or a Carlo Kemp or Winovich, you see a young guy and you remember that’s just what they looked like, so you want to get them there faster so they can be up with them. But it’s good. The bar is very, very high for this defensive line.”
[After THE JUMP: If tickets for the Rashan Gary Hype Train weren’t already sold out…]
“We’re very excited to be invited to the bowl and sounds like it’s gonna be great, fair, honest, healthy competition. We’re looking forward to it.”
Have you decided on your defensive coordinator for the bowl game?
“Yes. Greg Mattison’s going to coordinate the defense and we’ve also hired Chris Partridge to coach the linebackers.”
With Mattison, is that just for the bowl season or is that a permanent change?
“That will be for the bowl season. And we’ll evaluate from there.”
Speaking of the defensive coordinator, do you have a timetable in mind that you’d like to have a permanent hire in place? How are you approaching that?
“We’re approaching it to win our next game. No timetable. We’ll evaluate as we go. Excited to have Greg coordinate the defense. I think he’ll do a fantastic job, and Chris Partridge- great chance to have Chris coaching on the field. He’s done a fabulous job in every task he’s been on top of. I’m excited to watch him coach and Greg coordinate.”
Is it possible that Chris could earn himself a permanent full-time job with you guys as a coach?
“Yeah, very possible.”
Any familiarity with Jim McElwain and how he runs the program and offense? Any familiarity with him?
“Just that he enjoys an incredible reputation in the profession. That would be…I think we all know that. From people I respect and know very well, he has a fine reputation as a good coach.”
You probably haven’t had time to look at Florida, but anything you know about this team, particularly the defensive side of the ball? I mean, DJ Durkin obviously coached there last year.
“Yeah, I watched probably about half of the games right now. Fantastic season they’ve had. They play with great intensity, and much respect for what they’ve done. Heck of a year for them.”
Can you update us on Jake Rudock? Do you expect him to play in the game, and what’s his health status?
“Yeahhhh, I mean, I think it’s just- I’ve talked to him a few times, I think he’ll play in the game. There was a period where- he hasn’t thrown yet, but I think he will be soon.”
[After THE JUMP: “I don’t think of it as a foundation, I think of it more like a train, more like a locomotive.”]
“How ‘bout those Cubs, huh? Is there a real Cub fan in here? I wore No. 14 growin’ up. I mean, Ernie Banks is the greatest player ever! How ‘bout those Cubs! What do you think? What’s up? What can I help you with?”
Talk about Ryan Glasgow as a pass rusher and how he’s stepped up into that role this year.
“Well, I think all the guys up front have tried very hard to use their technique to do what fits them, you know? A lot of people when they talk about pass rush, they see all the fancy type things the NFL uses and all these different type of moves. Well, some people aren’t built for that, and what these guys have embraced is moving the pocket [and] doing what’s best for them and what’s best for the defense.
“And sometimes to be a good pass rusher you have to be selfish, where you don’t really care about rush lanes and things and you kind of just say, ‘Man, I’ve got to get to the quarterback cuz getting to a sack is everything.’ But there aren’t many sacks, so the big thing is you’ve got to stay in your rush lanes and try to get to the quarterback or put stress on the quarterback another way, and I think our kids have all tried to embrace that philosophy.”
These kids developed right along, but are even you surprised at three straight shutouts?
“I don’t look at shutouts. I think what you look at is you try to play the best defense you can and do what you’re supposed to do and everybody be on the same page, and then good things will happen. Sometimes shutouts go hand in hand with special teams, hand in hand with offense and it’s not always just the defense that gets that shutout, it’s the team. There’s been some great things done special teams-wise and offense-wise that’s allowed us to play defense and play what we have to do.
“We just go out every game trying to play as hard as we can with great effort, try to eliminate big plays, and try to make sure that we play with great effort and I think that’s what our kids are trying to do.”
Connor Cook’s been pressured but he’s only been sacked four times. Is he getting rid of the ball quickly? What’s the key to getting to him?
“Yeah, he’s a very good quarterback. He gets rid of the ball quick. He sees who the receiver should be by the coverage very well, and I think that’s a lot of him as a quarterback getting rid of the football.”
[After THE JUMP: Breaking down Glasgow’s sack, talking stunts, and Jake Arrieta: defensive end?]
The play of your unit so far this year: thoughts on it?
“I think the second game against Oregon State we played more like we expect to play, which was a lot more effort and a lot more- you know, we’ve always prided ourselves here on running to the football and everybody getting to the football. And that game, I think, the guys did that at a more consistent rate.
“We still have to get better at our technique. They hear that from me every day and they’re gonna hear it until we grade out on technique like we should. We’ve got to improve that.”
Fair to say a light’s gone on for Chris Wormley?
“Chris has made some plays. You know, Chris has done some good things and there’s a lot more good things to be had and he’s got to keep striving to be as good as he can be. He’s a very talented football player. You’ve got great size, great ability to run, he’s strong, and I’m looking for him every game to get better.”
Coach Harbaugh mentioned Ryan Glasgow as a guy who played well. What did he do well last game?
“Ryan just goes out there every day and plays with very, very consistent technique. Great toughness, there were a number of plays in that game where he did what we expect our defensive line to do and that’s relentless effort to the football. Made some key tackles on plays where the guy was running and came from inside out and made some good hits. He’s just every day- one thing about Ryan is every day he has come out and he works hard and tries to improve. Been very pleased with him.”
That first drive against Oregon State: what were you thinking, and then were you automatically thinking we’ve got to make certain adjustments after giving up three big plays?
“Yeah, there wasn’t any panic. You knew it was a breakdown here and there that caused it, and you knew that we were going to make the adjustments we needed to on the sideline. DJ [Durkin] does a great job making sure he knows what’s going on in all parts of it, and he just got everybody together and said, ‘This is what’s happened. This is what we can’t let happen’ and they adjusted it and they did it.
“It’s been very good, the sidelines. After every play we’re all together and DJ will call the group together and explain exactly what and then we break it down at each position, and I think that’s been good for both ball games and can even be better.”
[After THE JUMP: Rotation, ‘handsiness,’ and just where the heck is Lawrence Marshall]
Greg Mattison returns in 2015, and though he’ll be working in a different capacity he inherits a line of which he was one of the chief architects. He talked about the functional differences (and similarities) between the 4-3 and 3-4 and the progress his linemen have made over the summer at last week’s Media Day.
[I jumped into the scrum mid-response]
“You know, one thing [is] you don’t get around the kids much in the summer. I saw him [Lawrence Marshall] today [and] I said, ‘What do you weigh?’ He looks great. All our kids- Kevin [Tolbert] did a tremendous job in the weight program and all our kids worked extremely hard whenever I had a chance to pop my head in and take a look.”
DJ said you guys are going to be multiple. How much of a challenge is that for your defensive linemen?
“It’s not. It’s not. You know, when people talk about different schemes it really comes down to techniques. You can call it anything you want; one time you play a five-technique, one time you play a four, one time you play a three. You’ve got to learn them all.”
Do you like the depth and talent that you have up front?
“Yeah, I definitely do. These kids, we’ve been together for a long time. These guys have played a lot of football and maybe before they should’ve, but now they’re bigger, stronger, and older. Now it’s our job to get them to be as good as they can be.”
You guys have used Taco [Charlton] at a couple different spots his first couple years. He’s played some here and there. He’s a junior now. What does he have to do to really [inaudible]?
“I think he’s got to keep working on his technique. He’s a guy coming out of high school that really wasn’t a defensive lineman, so I think you’ve got to continue to take the technique with the strength. Add both of those together. And he makes flashy plays, [he] makes good plays. Now he’s got to do that consistently.”
[After THE JUMP: ways the 4-3 and 3-4 are the same]