Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-15-11: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on November 15th, 2011 at 10:52 PM

Greg Mattison

From today.

Opening remarks: “Well. We have another big one ahead of us. This next one, I guess you’d say that every game is really really big, but I think this one will pose a real challenge to our defense because they’re like three offenses in one. They’re a power attack -- their running back is a really good downhill runner. They go from that to being able to be an option attack with the quarterback. I think they have 4000-some yards, and 3000 and some of those are the quarterback and the running back. You see where their offense is. It makes the defense have to be sound in all phases. You can’t load up and play the power because you may be getting optioned. You can’t go in there with an idea of being a finesse or assignment totally or you’re going to get the power run right at you. This is going to be a big test. And he can throw it. He’s put some yardage on people. The last thing they do that challenges your defense is they have a fast pace, so they do that to try to get your defense so they’re not in great alignments. Just to be a little sloppy because they hurry up and if you’re not a real disciplined defense, you don’t get set correctly, and you know as well as I do that we’re not good enough to not be perfect in our assignments and our alignments.”

After rewatching film, are you still as happy with your defense? “Yeah. I watched the film and we were very very cirticial while we were watching film, but Michigan defense is built on … up front, you play aggressive. You knock them back, you are physical, you rush the passer. [In the] secondary, you challenge receivers. As a defense, you swarm and tackle. For the most part our guys did that during the game. It’s never perfect. Obviously coach always wants us to have a number of clips good and bad to show the whole group on Sunday. Yeah, I probably could find some bad ones to spend more time than he gave us. There was improvement. I just really was proud of how hard we played and to be able to go back out there and stop them again and stop them again. That’s what Michigan defense does, and that’s what we’re going to be called upon to do if we’re going to be a Michigan defense.”

How big of a concern is tempo with Nebraska? “That’s a concern. Any time a team tempos you, you have to find out how mature your defense is. You have to be a very disciplined defense, and you have to be a tough-minded defense to know that you’re going to get the call at the spur of the moment, and you have to line up at the spur of the moment, and you have to play. That’s something our guys have already addressed with them.”

Does chasing Denard in practice prepare you for Taylor Martinez? “Yeah, it’s a different deal, though. Chasing Denard around is really -- that’s after the fact. It’s a different play. For us, it’s going to be getting set, play your assignment, and then if you have to chase him around, chase him around. That’s why it’s different. Brady does drills with our guys every Tuesday after practice -- chasing the rabbit drill with our defensive linemen. That’s emphasizing what you have to do, but that doesn’t happen in the game like that all the time. It’s a lot better playing against a Denard than it would be playing against a drop-back guy all day for sure.”

(more after the jump)

Does it help that you already played Northwestern? “Yeah. There’s a number of teams we’ve played that run parts of that. That’s one thing you find when you play teams that run a form of the spread that you’re going to get those components. There’s some carry over. But, like I said, this team’s going to line up in the I and run power. Their favorite running play is the power or the sweep, so you have to be ready to play that also.”

Ryan Van Bergen said he was freelancing a bit on the D-line. Can you talk about what he was doing with Mike Martin in there? “I’ve always done this, and when you have guys that have earned the respect and earned the trust -- I shouldn’t say respect, I also respect these guys, I guess it’s trust. Trust to know that they’re not going to put themselves ahead of the team and that they’re very very intelligent. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen are as vested in this defense as any players. They’re the ones that have gone the long road and stuck with it and battled and now have been the leaders. We said to them in the game, I would call possibly a four-man pass rush game, and that might waste two guys. So you always want feedback from guys like that. Ryan and I have a very open relationship as Mike and I do. I said, ‘Guys, you’re out there playing, and I’m not. If there’s something that you see, then let’s talk about it.’ Well he came off and said, ‘Coach, we can call games ... just inside the two of us; you don't have to call four-man,' then 'Great. Go ahead.’ They did a great job of it.”

MGoInterjection: Is that what happened on the safety Mike Martin got against Purdue? “No that was just great technique by him and him coming off the football.” Mike mentioned that Van Bergen tipped him off about how Purdue's O-line was going to slide their protection. “That’s the maturing process that you’re seeing. Great defenses, if you’re ever out there with them, it sounds almost like a stock market. Guys are saying, ‘This guy’s up! This guy’s up! The tight’s split! Tight’s split! Closed split! Closed split.’ And you have the linebackers saying, ‘The back’s far, the back’s near.’ That’s great defenses. That’s what happens. And then the secondary’s talking about ‘Cut split! This guy’s split!’ Well, first few weeks it was like a morgue out there. I mean, come on, talk! And the guy’s going, ‘Oh my God.’ Now you’re hearing it. Now you’re starting to, when they get the signal, you can hear guys talking about, ‘Hey, this guy’s here.’ Well, they’re putting in time. They’re coming in whenever they can legally and sitting down with their coach and going through film one on one. I mean, that’s the thing you mention after the game why I’m so proud of this team. Because they’re becoming a football team. They’re becoming a defense. Now, we have to show it again Saturday. We have to do it again Saturday. We all know that. But where they come from to becoming a defense not just knocking somebody’s head off out there. It’s talking and taking care of your buddy, and when you make a mistake, not hanging your head, coming off and getting ready for me to rip them, but them saying, ‘Okay, coach, I got it.’ And then you not having to yell at them because you know it means something. That’s what happens when you have a group that’s come together, and that’s what this team is starting to do.”

You’re starting to move Mike Martin everywhere like you did in the spring. Is that part of the trust process? “No, that had nothing to do with trust. It has to do with scheme. We always want to put our best guys at the best place where they can best help that defense, and we felt that Mike Martin playing in some certain different positions than just over the center might be harder for the offense. He’s always been intelligent enough to do it. He showed it in the spring right away when we got here. We really didn’t want to do that all year. We wanted to save some things and gradually just throw something in every once in a while. You don’t ever want to give a team the exact same thing. We try to do that where there’s always something a little bit different that maybe causes them problems, you hope.”

Do you allow your linebackers or secondary to freelance a bit like that? “You don’t ever want to do that with linebackers or with the secondary. Secondary you can do it a little bit by changing where you align and going back, but you do it more with the defensive line. And linebackers, you almost have to be in a perfect alignment to get the job done. Secondary can disguise a little bit. I don’t know if we’re ready for that yet. I think you still want to play really really sound football. I’d kind of like sometime to get out there and call the same defense about 30 straight times and just see how good you could be. Then you know you really have a good defense. But offenses nowadays won’t let you do that anyhow.”

Has J.T. Floyd evolved as a corner? “There’s been a lot of plays throughout the year -- JT Floyd’s been out on an island all year playing against usually the best receiver all year. You know, there’s been some good and there’s been some that haven’t been so good. This happened to be one of them, but that’s a real credit to him. Here’s a guy that every step he takes, he gets coached on the practice field. Everytime he doesn’t go hard, he gets coached. All of a sudden, everything went pretty good for him. Wasn’t perfect, but it went pretty good for him. We’ll find out what happens this next Saturday. You’re really a good player and a good defense when you do it week in and week out.”

Is it different that you’re going to be playing two teams that aren’t able to throw the ball as well as some of the others? “Well, you wouldn’t say they’re going to throw it all over the park, but then it makes JT be a run defender. Now we’ll find out if you’re that kind of a football player. It’s the same thing. He’s got to switch gears and go now from just a cover guy to being a physical football player. One thing these wide receivers are is very very physical, almost past the limit. So that’ll test us.”

How would you assess Kovacs over the past month? “Pretty darn well. He, like I mentioned Mike and Ryan -- in the back end, there’s Jordan. He’s one that if you heard that, if you were out there in the middle of that field, you’d be hearing him talking almost as if he’s a coach out there. He’s the guy that is real vocal as far as where to be, how to get lined up, and I mean there’s a guy that maybe some guys would have just come back this week whereas he’s played a couple weeks already. He’s a tough kid.”

Is that maybe more important than his raw production? “I don’t think you’d ever say it’s more important. That allows a guy to play up to his ability. Intelligence is one of the biggest things a defender has to have. It allows him to play at his best ability then.”

What kind of growth have you seen from Van Bergen? “Well I think the whole group, I wouldn’t use Ryan just as an example. I’d use that whole defensive line. We preach it all the time. Technique. Technique. You sit and watch them in the games, the same way they hit the sled, the same way they do the drills is what you see on film. That’s football. Nobody in this league is good enough to play without technique. Us especially. Jerry Montgomery does a great job with the defensive line, and they get the head football coach at the University of Michigan coaching the position. That’s a pretty good deal. Brady happens to be one of the better, if not as good as there is a defensive line coach there is. You’ve got pretty good emphasis right there.”

With Martinez and the option game, how much of a focus is gap integrity and containing the edge? “Huge. Whenever you have an option team, responsibility and doing your job is critical. You saw it last week. We had a couple of times where we didn’t take the quarterback. Well, those two kids that that happened with took it probably 70 times in practice. After practice, individual -- did it perfect. And then all of sudden there’s that moment in the game where that back looks real intriguing and they want you to bite on that cheese, and they did and the quarterback kept it. So you have to be really disciplined playing a game like this.”

Did you have to break Van Bergen like you broke Craig Roh? “No, just be consistent with -- the difference with Craig Roh is I have him one on one. One thing that you appreciate about this defense, and they know this is how it’ll always be here -- you can’t have skin like a baby rabbit in our room now. If you do you won’t make it. We even put up a picture of an armadillo early in the year because you better have that kind of skin. It’s never personal, but I don’t care if you’re a four-year starter and an All-American, the bottom line is what you see on film, it is going to be corrected, and it is going to be addressed. That’s what you kind of appreciate about these guys is they’ve gone through the transition of not having their feelings hurt and going, ‘Coach, I got it.’ Okay, here you go, and you move on. That’s Michigan football. Brady does it with the coaches. You better not have skin like a baby rabbit around him. He’s going to tell you you didn’t do a good job on that. That’s all you ever want when you’re working is to be told what you can do better.”

Is there a moment you had to do that with Van Bergen? “Oh yeah. Van Bergen’s sat in that meeting, and he’s heard us all say that’s not good enough. Why are you doing that? That’s not good technique. There’s not a guy on that defense that’s had 100% on their grade sheet yet, so there’s going to be some corrected.”

Has Brady done that to you? “Oh yeah.” What’s that like? “I know one thing -- if he ever does it with me, he’s doing it to help this team, and that’s all we ever care about. I mean, he’s not going to say, ‘That’s the worst job I’ve ever seen.’ Now he could. He’s the boss, and thank goodness. He says, ‘What do you think about this blitz?’ Or ‘Why are you doing … ?’ You’re going to listen. That’s how you listen.”

Is it weird that you were his boss at one point? “No it’s not weird a bit. Not the job he’s done. Are you kidding me? Whatever he wants to say, I’ll listen. We’re here to try to make this [team] successful and win games.”



November 16th, 2011 at 9:48 AM ^

I know what you mean, but please don't use the word "savvy" to describe Mattison.  I know you mean it as a compliment, but I think he's better than that.  Mattison's the real deal.  He doesn't talk in platitudes or talk like a polished car salesman.  A lot of coaches try to hide weaknesses even if they're screamingly obvious.  There isn't an OC in the Big Ten that doesn't know by now that edge contain and pass rush are this defense's main weaknesses even if Mattison didn't mention them.  Mattison could try to be deceptive or snow the crowd, but we'd be on to that.

What Mattison's good at is respecting people and communicating, and that carries over into his coaching.  People respond to being respected and told it like it is (which is frankly a lot tougher than most people think).  He's not going to waste people's time by eating up presser time trying to hide what anybody who matters already knows.  He's not going to yell at a kid who's already beating himself up.  But that's not "savvy" to me.  I work with sales for a living; I know a pitch when I see it.  Mattison doesn't pitch.  He's really not controlling his presentation at all.  He is controlling information somewhat -- anyone whose job involves media relations needs that -- but otherwise he's really just playing it straight.  And that's downright refreshing.

Blue Ambition

November 16th, 2011 at 11:32 AM ^

Why wouldn't "savvy" be a good thing?  You seem to imply that media savvy somehow means obfuscation or distraction.  But that's not the case--somebody can just be good at his/her job and also good at communicating with the media about the job.  You can also be good at your job and lousy with the media.

The antonym for savvy would be something like "unsophisticated" or "awkward" or "clumsy."  Mattison isn't any of those things in his dealings with the media.

It shouldn't be a slight to call a coach media-savvy.  Part of RR's problem was that he wasn't media savvy.


November 16th, 2011 at 1:12 PM ^

To be fair, you're right; "savvy" doesn't necessarily mean deception.  However, to me it implies an ability to control the discussion, to frame it.  But people who do that generally have an agenda.  It's distinct from simply being comfortable.  Mattison doesn't seem to approach these pressers with any sort of objective; he's as open a coach I've ever seen.  So while he may be savvy, I don't ever get the feeling we see that side of him.

I don't think "savvy" is a slight, but I just don't feel like it's accurate either.  To me, Lloyd Carr was more "savvy".  He wasn't deceptive either, but he definitely went into press conferences with very clear objectives, to hell with what anyone else's were.  He was far from what I'd call bad; his modest goal was to get the media off his players' backs and keep his cards close to his chest.  And while he didn't say anything controversial or overly insulting, you can tell he very deliberately dictated the terms of the interviews.

Anyway, we may have to agree to disagree before we get too off-topic.


November 16th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

this exactly. 

Maybe this is on dragonchild and I but when I hear savvy I think someone playing games or manipulating things or walking a line carefully -- not what the poster meant, I'm sure. 


These guys are GREAT interviews. They're straight forward, they take ownership of the failures and talk to reality as they see it. They're not blowing smoke at anyone which even some of the best coaching staffs do from time to time. These guys value the reporters' time. Maybe they just like doing this and we're not used to it? I know Lloyd hated it and I would imagine that permeated through his staff...Rich and his staff were either clueless or always too much under fire to give a straight, honest interview. it was always a defensive posture. 


November 15th, 2011 at 11:44 PM ^

Reading his presser summaries, you understand why Mattison is recognized as such an effective recruiter.  Can you imagine having this guy in your living room with your parents telling you why you should come to Michigan?  How could you possibly say no? 



November 15th, 2011 at 11:58 PM ^

Greg Mattison could call me the worst person and I don't think I would be hurt--when someone you respect tells you "you failed here; fix it" it goes down a whole lot smoother than if its some jackass with a complex.


November 16th, 2011 at 11:37 AM ^

I think the whole point is that Mattison and Hoke don't do that in the first place, though.  What they do is take an effort you're proud of and pick it apart all day.  When you're putting in maximum effort that can be hard to take -- hearing your best wasn't good enough, I mean -- but the best are their own worst critics.


November 16th, 2011 at 12:13 AM ^

Reading these pressers from GM makes me wonder how some of the players that left during RR's tenure would have panned out. Several players jump to mind but I would have loved to see what they would have done with Justin Turner. I know it doesn't matter now, but man I can't help but think we would have seen a few more players make some drastic improvements.


November 16th, 2011 at 2:12 AM ^

What does he mean when he says, "It’s a lot better playing against a Denard than it would be playing against a drop-back guy all day for sure."? Is he saying that it is easier to play against a running qb like Denared a Martinez, or am I just reading this wrong? If I am not, maybe that's not the best thing to say about your starting qb. Still love Mattison though, and love what he and the rest of the defensive staff have done with the D this year.


November 16th, 2011 at 9:37 AM ^

This is just a guess, but from a D-line's standpoint, Denard can imitate any sort of QB.  You can always pretend he's a Tom Brady, have him step up in the pocket and throw that strike, even if he can't do it in games.  As soon as the ball leaves his hands, the D-line's job is done so accuracy's a non-issue.  And with Borges trying to teach him to be more of a pocket passer anyway, meaning Denard's changing his footwork, it's relatively simple for Mattison to "borrow" Denard for a couple downs and test the defense's response.

On the other hand, a pocket passer can't hope to imitate a Denard.  The quickness just isn't there.  You can try to pretend the QB's faster than he is or maybe put in a cornerback with some QB experience in high school, but it's going to be a pathetic imitation of a real FBS option QB.


November 16th, 2011 at 10:33 AM ^

He knows defense. I'm sure Greg Robinson and Scott Scaffer were also passionate about defense, as well. They just didn't know the first thing about it, or how to teach it to kids effectively.

And more important than all of that is that he is passionate about Michigan.


November 16th, 2011 at 11:20 AM ^

Actually has a pretty good track record over his career.  I'm not saying he's at the same level as Mattison but I don't know if it's fair to lump him in with Gerg. 

I also get the feeling the defensive position coaches that UM has now are a huge upgrade over what UM had with RR.

Mr. Yost

November 16th, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

Well...I don't know jack shit about how to run a defense either, but I know that having 3 DLmen and 5 Safties is NOT a good start.

Even if we had this year's personnel. Playing:

Roh-Martin-Van Bergan

Hawthorne-Demens-T. Gordon


Kovacs-Woolfolk-M. Robinson


That lineup, even if we played it this year, with this coaching staff...isn't going to hold up against MSU, Iowa, Nebraska or OSU.


We put ourselves at a pure numbers disadvantage from the beginning. You make your DL useless by only having 3 guys, and 3 guys behind them...1 of which is a safety, another is a SS/WLB hybrid.

Ugh, why am I even talking/thinking about this. Sorry. Mattison rules. Everyone on defense in the past 3 years drools.


November 16th, 2011 at 12:06 PM ^

Gerg might know schemes, but he either didn't or couldn't coach the kids to think.  It's easier to tell people what to do than show them how to think, but if the defense is completely dependent on you guessing correctly 100% of the time, you're going to give up big plays.

What Mattison excels at is grooming defenders.  Defense is reactionary, so as he pretty much says here, he trains them to figure out the defense and communicate their assignments on their own.  He's not completely hands off, of course, but I think the way he sees it, the less directly involved he is, the better.  I'm sure he's got a cookbook full of blitzes but he'd rather see the line get a pass rush on their own.

The difference here isn't schematic.  Pretty much all good coaches know to teach kids instead of just yelling at them, but I don't think it's easy.  It takes a well-controlled ego and steel patience to delegate your performance-based responsibility to a bunch of twenty-year-olds.

Mr. Yost

November 16th, 2011 at 10:45 AM ^

This is GERG vs. Greg at its finest. I have to be dreaming.

I feel like it's almost unfair to have Mattison, the man simply knows what the hell he's talking about. I feel like I'm listening to the creator of defensive football. Seriously.


November 16th, 2011 at 11:02 AM ^

Mattison should just sit down with Heiko/Brian one-on-one each week and then broadcast the result to all the other news outlets.  The viewing/reading public would get more useful information that way rather than resorting to the stupid questions asked by the average reporter.


November 16th, 2011 at 12:26 PM ^

Brady does drills with our guys every Tuesday after practice -- chasing the rabbit drill with our defensive linemen.

I want to know more about this drill. It sounds awesome.


November 16th, 2011 at 4:55 PM ^

But usually it's like a relay race around a set space, where you have two teams, starting on opposite sides, and each guy passes the football to his teammate in relay till one team catches up to the other going around the circle. It can be a circle, square, if shapes like a figure 8 or something to "chase the rabbit".  With Defensive linemen, that sounds like quite the workout.

I've also heard of rabbit drills, where you have a defender try and tackle a RB or WR in open space, with another DB "rabbit" chasing him, for open field drills, but I don't think that's what Matty was talking about.