i love that you guys are getting in scheme questions and Mattison is straight up answering them like we're adults. awesome. also helps to hear him say stuff that backs up what i read at Brophy or Smart Football. the level of commentary doesn't match the level coaching, i'm sure, but it's impressive how close we can get in this here day and age.
Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-8-11: Greg Mattison
Opening remarks: “The first thing I’d say starting out is that was a tough loss for us on defense especially because when you’re a great defense, you find a way to win the ball game. When we looked at the tape afterwards, you saw a lot of really good things and things that we hadn’t done all year. Just made a couple crucial mistakes that we could have really done something. That’s what we talk about all the time with these defenses. Let’s take it to the next level where whatever has to happen, the defense has to win the game. We really felt like there was some times when we could have done it.”
Is there a good explanation for why Thomas Gordon didn’t see the field? “He and Troy have been in a battle for who’s going to be that safety. Troy had a better week of practice, and that’s how it’ll always be at Michigan. The guys who have the best week of practice are going to play. As the game went on, you felt like the guy wasn’t tired, the guy wasn’t hurt, so keep going with what you have out there. He has been a part of some turnovers, but there’s other things on film also that you may not see that we as coaches have to make a decision on who plays, and that was our decision.”
Is it hard to pull a guy who’s been so productive? “Getting turnovers is a big part of the defense, but 60 plays of how you do is what we as coaches do. And we watch it and evaluate, and our job is to decide who has the best chance to help you win in a certain offense in a certain scheme. And that’s the decision that we make.”
How is that competition going this week? “Good. Good. There’s a lot of competition. In fact, there’s a number of other guys who had really good practices today, so that’s how it’ll always be here. It’s always going to be that Tuesday, that Wednesday, that Thursday. That’s when you’re going to make the team. There’s a lot of guys that are real close.”
So is it Troy’s spot and Gordon has to win it back? “Everybody has to hold their spot every week in practice. Nobody is given a spot and says, ‘This is your spot, it’s yours.’ And that’s the way it is with every player on that defense.”
When Countess took the job from Troy, was it kind of the same situation? “That’s what we do. That’s what we do until 12 o’clock at night. That’s what we do after we’re done here. We go up there and we’ll watch every play of this practice. As a coach, your job is to make a decision who’s going to help you win that football game against this opponent. Some opponents are different than others. That’s what we do. Mike doesn’t have that position locked. Ryan Van Bergen doesn’t have that position locked. Craig Roh doesn’t have it locked. It’s what you do every day in practice.”
(more after the jump)
Did Kenny Demens play his best game for you last game? “Kenny Demens showed a lot of heart and a lot of toughness because Kenny Demens played throughout that ballgame with a hamstring that was bothering him. I venture to say there’s a lot of players that would have tapped out right there. He made some really really good plays inside the box, but you could see as he was going to the football, that speed was not there. He played with something that maybe a lot of guys wouldn’t have played with.”
Did he hurt it before the game or during? “It’s been tender. Our trainers do a great job with him. It’s been tender, and you never know during the course of a game when it will get worse or when it gets better. I respect the heck out of him. For him to go out and play as hard as he did. Again, if you watch all the 59 plays that were in that game on defense, you saw him make some really good hits inside. There were other things he wishes he could have done over, but I don’t know if he could do them over.”
Are there certain spots that are more prone to competition or change? “Yeah. Yeah, I mean, let’s be honest. Mike Martin is a Michigan guy that’s played here forever. For me to sit here and say Mike Martin’s job is in jeopardy every practice, I’d be lying to you. Mike Martin, if he went out there and didn’t practice like he should, I’d bring him into my office right away and say, ‘If you do that again, maybe you won’t start.’ Other guys that haven’t played a great deal and haven’t really -- if you looked at the grades of these guys all the way through, you’d say, ‘Man, that really isn’t a good enough grade in some instances to win with, but we won.’ You’re saying, ‘Well, you gotta get better, you gotta get better.’ And then all of a sudden another guy’s grades are a little better. He did better in practice. It isn’t always what you see out there. It’s not always the one great play or the one really good play. It’s the game, and it’s what happens time and time again. Is it good or is it bad? If those things don’t get better, and if you feel like there’s a liability at times -- and I’m not saying there is with Thomas -- I’m saying any time you make a change, that’s what your job is as a coach: in your best estimation, put the best guys on the field that you believe can win. That’s what I always try to do. ”
Illinois? “They are a very very athletic offense. They are one of those offenses that will really test this defense because they can get on the perimeter, which you know hasn’t been great for us throughout the year. They can run the option. Their quarterback is very athletic. They can also throw it and they can also run power offense. It’s like four different offenses that thye’ve been very successful with at times in games. It’s going to test our defense to see if you can make an adjustment from one personnel group to what they do in that personnel group to the next. It’s going to be a real test for us, and it’s on the road. Them having a week off, all those kinds of things, I don’t know if that helps them or not, but those are all things -- this is going to be a big test for us.”
You had Mike Martin standing up on some plays. What was the gain there? “Well you have a 295-pound guy that’s the strongest guy on your football team that’s one of your faster guys blitzing. Therefore, if somebody isn’t in the right position, you would think he has a better chance of beating a guy on a blitz. When you blitz, they aren’t always going to be open, so somebody has to beat somebody one on one. As a coach, you look at who on your team can beat somebody one on one if you put him in a position where you have a chance of beating somebody. Rather than doubling him and him having two guys doubling him the whole game, stand him up and let’s see if we can’t get him freed up one on one on somebody. We did it in the spring. You’ve seen us do it before. We’ll always try to do whatever we can to get pressure in those situations.”
Was there any coaching up of Desmond Morgan? It seemed like he had two very different halves. “I felt that same way. In fact, I don’t always see it all either until you look at the film, and there was a point in that game when I thought, Desmond’s not playing like he should be and we put Hawthorne in for four plays. When you look back at the tape, he made one play where you really were counting on him to make that hit, and he missed it. As a coach you go, ‘Ah, he’s not playing good.’ And all of a sudden you look back and he’s playing pretty darn good. I think with young guys, too, no matter how much you practice what you think they’re going to do and what they do, it’s always faster out there, and sometimes it does take a younger guy a lot longer to feel good about it. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s taken huge steps to get there. I’m real excited about it.”
MGoQuery: The first play of Iowa's third drive was an inside zone that bounced outside the end for ten yards. Roh dove inside the tackle. Was that something you called? “That would be me. In coaching Craig and watching everything they did -- I know exactly what you’re talking about -- every game that they’ve played so far this year, they’ve brought the tight end in motion, and he blocked out on the end man. Well when that tight end is in Craig’s area right there, most times you have him attack that tight end. Well they kind of wanted you to do that in other games, so now the tackle has an angle on you and he can knock you out farther. So I just told him, I said, ‘Craig, don’t mess with that. When that guy comes over in motion, just attack the tackle and hold the edge on the tackle.’ Looking back on it, I told him straight out, I said, ‘Craig, they changed. They did the same thing Michigan State did and they hadn’t done it all year. They kind of influenced him to keep him from being able to attack that tight end. That’s not him.”
MGoQuery: Was Desmond Morgan supposed to scrape over the top? “Desmond Morgan’s supposed to stack behind him. He’s not running outside of him. Because Craig didn’t play through the tight end like he probably thought he should have, and I wish I would have told him to do that, the guy got knocked back a little bit and got kind of in Desmond’s way and he got caught up in the trash. That’s what happened on that one.”
MGoQuery: What happened on Keenan Davis’s catch and run with Kenny Demens chasing him en route to a 44-yard gain? “That’s cover-2. Kenny Demens doesn’t have him all the way to the sideline. Kenny Demens has him to the hash and we should have had a corner that should have rolled up on that.” Was he Courtney Avery’s assignment? “No. [Avery] was the nickel. He was running with the vertical. When you’re playing that coverage, any time No. 2 runs up the field, he has to run up with him. So it comes all the way to the corner. The corner’s the flat defender. He turned his back trying to be physical with that guy, and the guy was by him by then.”
As a defense, how do you recover after giving up the big play? “That’s something we preach constantly. You can’t be a great defense if you give up those kinds of plays. You’re not good enough to give a team 40 yards on one shot. Again, usually what it comes down to is tackling and everybody getting around the football. They had a scheme, and in that scheme probably where there was somebody one on one and didn’t make his play and then he had to get a tackle. The thing you have to understand now, when you play better teams, you aren’t going to slam the door on them and all of a sudden walk out of that game and say, ‘Okay we held this team to 50 yards.’ I’m here to tell you that isn’t going to happen right now. Someday maybe it will, but right now it’s now, and what we have to do is make sure we’re not giving them 40 yards. There’s going to be some 12-yarders. There’s going to be some of those. There’s going to be some crossing routes. The NFL -- they’re supposed to be the best in the world. How many times do you see that happen? And no, I don’t like it. The thing I’m proudest of our guys? They came out today and practiced probably harder than they’ve practiced all year. Am I happy with us losing that football game? No way. Could we have played better on defense? Yes. And will we play better? Yes. The reason I say that so emphatically is because they’re practicing hard and they’re working hard. Can I do a better job coaching? Yes. That’s the next thing you look at. That’s why that game hurts so much, because we could have gotten that game. We could have gotten that one, and that’s why I’m proud of these guys. They came out today. It hurts. It hurts them. They came out today and got ready to practice today, and we’ll move forward.”
You’ve struggled with bigger receivers this year. How do you compensate for that against a receiver like A.J. Jenkins? “Well, I know what you’re probably asking. Yeah, we could double him and then you’re going to put single on two other guys. When teams do that and have the ability to do that, usually you have a lot of other guys that can do it. I don’t know that we’re ready to do that right now. We’ll always do what’s best for the best scheme, and we have some things that we have in mind for him, but for me to tell you are we going to double him or take him out of the game? I wish I could say yes on that.”
Is he a bigger challenge than McNutt? “McNutt was pretty good. The one I gained a lot of respect for McNutt was the fourth down where we pressured, we came completely free, we didn’t get there fast enough, and [Vandenberg] just threw it and [McNutt] made the one-handed catch. I mean, that was a fourth-down play. You stop them right there, they don’t get that touchdown. You’re talking about a lot of little instances there a game’s made up of. McNutt’s pretty good.”
How do you feel about matching up a specific cornerback with a specific wide receiver? If you had someone like Charles Woodson or Leon Hall or Marlin Jackson … “I love that.” Would you do it with a kid like Blake Countess or J.T. Floyd? “You can do that, but you better be a real sophisticated secondary because now all of your rules and all of your schemes that involve all four of them get compromised. There’s a lot of chances for you to make a big mistake because of everybody. You’d almost have to do that every single play. Now you’re saying, well we’re going to play man every play, and we’re not ready to do that. Someday, someday -- what you were saying with Charles Woodson, I was here when we did that. That day will come.”
How did Blake match up with McNutt last week? “Made some really good plays. Made some really good plays. There’s a couple plays that I wish he had back, but he made some really good plays. He’s a young freshman that went in there and did some good things.”
Is that a growing experience for him? “I think when you’re a corner, boy that’s a tough job out there now. For him to compete, and I’ve said this all along -- the one thing about him that you feel like he’s got a chance to be pretty darn good is he doesn’t have a conscience. That play’s over with and he’s ready for the next play. That’s what the great ones all have.”
Getting after mattison about the stack - nice! Who else asks questions during these? It's obviously not wojo or Angelique, who else had the brains to parse this stuff in real time?
Also, what did you have to eat?
I co-sign your comment and only add a not of thanks to Heiko for noting which questions were MGoQueries (or MGoInquiries in the other presser). Is great to know where the questions are coming from!
what you were saying with Charles Woodson, I was here when we did that. That day will come.
I'm not sure if there was a blitz on 4th and 7 but the QB had too much time to throw the pass. Teams will have to pay for going on 4th! I'm surprised the defense did not get any interceptions or fumble recoveries. These may have turned the game around if the D would have had a couple or three turnovers. At times they are playing very well. I liked the 4th Quarter short yardage stops! Brings back memories of when we had a good defense!
Am I the only one who saw "MGoQuery" and immediately thought the WTH does Mike McQueary have to do with Mattison's presser?
I thought this was my only safe harbor from the PSU madness infecting the board, and here it is... 5 posts in. We're all doomed.
I am sorry to say that I thought the same thing very briefly. Fortunately, the presser was very professional and only about football.
I'm very happy to hear about the ongoing competition for starting spots and PT.
Heiko, good to see the questions probing for more detail. Keep up the good work.
And is Week 1 National Defensive Player of hte Week Herron still injured?
Huge, enormous props to you guys for asking schematic questions.
Too much sportswriting is about trying to find a narrative to explain the way the game went. In most instances (probably all instances), the game is about mothing more than execution. And these are the questions that really count. What was the call? Was it good, or is it the coaches fault? If not, who didn't execute, and why?
And, not to steal your thunder, but Mattison gets to share in those props. He actually answered. The bad news is that aside from you guys, no other media outlet will touch those answers. They wouldn't know what to do with them. Which is why most sportswriting is horrible, most fans remain ignorant (even if they don't want to), and people continue to love a game they know next to nothing about, making comments at the level of, "Throw the ball," or , "I woul'd have run an outside play."
i'd be curious to know what the reaction of the other writers in the room is to the presence of more technical football questions thanks to mgoquery. are people surprised? do they talk to you afterwards? what is the atmosphere like in there?
Also, I remember Brian trying to ask technical questions to Rich Rod's staff and they just said "I'm not going to answer that." Which is understandable.
What's mind-blowing is how Hoke's guys are all about answering these questions. Does Hoke's regime LIKE how MGoBlog covers the team (covering what happens on the field) or is it more "well shit, they aren't going away, we better treat them with some respect"
That Borges and Mattison are handling the technical questions differently. It might be the nature of the questions, but Borges seems less likely to give info than Mattison. In reading these two pressers Mattison seems to enjoy the "teaching" aspect of the technical questions, as if he gets to be a coach when he answers rather than use coach-speak of "we played tough".
I'm guessing it's the questions though, and Heiko might just be in Borges's dog house with the "I'm not saying 1 word about bubble screens" and other scheme based questions... or dare I say Suggestions that have come from Heiko.
I think you're right, but I wonder if this has something to do with the difference between offense and defense. Especially at the college level, disguising defenses is not necessarily central to the gameplan, whereas offenses generally only work when the defense isn't sure what's going to happen. Personally, I'd be a bit worried if Borges was explaining all of the technical principles behind his playcalling in pressers.
I would HATE if Borges answered questions about play calling.
But I would like to see him answer questions about play execution.
I played a bit in college, and even players, who are charged with executing the plays, would never dare to question the calls. First, we trusted the coaches. Second, we felt that we should always be able to execute, against any front in any circumstance. And we were the players. What the hell does the press know?
But, I wouldn't mind seeing Borges talk about why a particular play worked or didn't. Of course, the problem with that is that it highlights the mistakes of individual players, which is something a coach should NEVER do in public. So, there's a fine line there.
A few things (for those of you who are still reading this comment thread):
- the technical questions that sound smart are mostly from Brian so that he can verify what he's seeing while he watches the film and does the UFRs. I rewatch those plays just to make sure I know what I'm asking about, but don't give me too much credit for those.
- these types of questions are a break from the normal flow of these pressers, as I'm sure you can tell. Not many of these quotes are useful for their stories, so I guess as long as I have just a couple, they're not so much annoyed as they are amused.
- the atmosphere at the press conferences is interesting and not what I expected going in. I'm not sure I can describe it succinctly here. Maybe one day I'll write a recap of what it's like to be an MGoReporter.
His hamstring injury explains why he pulled up on that early 1st quarter play around the end.
I find it amazing that he played so well on interior run defense during this Iowa game.
He is one tough dude!
I feel like this is a breakthrough moment for MGoBlog. Those questions and answers are just....TREMENDOUS.
Excellent all around. I love that Mattison seems forthcoming and honest. There's always going to be a certain amount of coach-speak but these are the few pressers where I feel like I'm actually learning something.
Remember when GERG hosted those fireside chats and broke down the D's performance and patiently explained the schemes? Me neither.
Mattison simply knows his stuff and has the confidence to talk about his successes and failures. Gotta believe his players have immense respect for him. I feel like I'd run through a wall for him.
And I'll add to the kudos for the Blog's intelligent questions. Honestly I couldn't follow every detail but it made me want to learn more, to be a smarter fan. Keep it up.