Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-5-13: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on November 6th, 2013 at 11:55 AM


Opening remarks:

“All right, on to Nebraska. You know, last ball game, it was a tough loss for us obviously. It’s time to move on. I thought for a lot of that ball game our kids competed, played very hard. Obviously there’s things we had to do better. Can’t give a score up before halftime like we did. But watching the tape, I thought our guys fought very hard. It wasn’t good enough.”

Brady expressed concerned on pass defense. What needs to improve?

“We have to be tighter. We have to compete more. There’s a difference between being in the right place as a secondary guy and competing. The bottom line is everybody on that field has a job to do and has an alignment and has a responsibility. And then you’re either successful or not successful based on what happens in your area. It’s like a five-technique defensive end. You can play the C-gap, and if you open that C-gap up too much, then it’s going to make it harder on somebody else. I’m not saying the secondary is the reason. Everybody has something that they have to get better at. One of the things that we have to get better, and it always goes with pass rush and getting to the quarterback, is tightening our coverage up and contesting throws a little better.”

Are you concerned about how you competed? The defense seemed to keep you in the game.

“I was pleased with how we competed until the very very end. I would have liked to see us try to find a way to get the ball, get a turnover, and keep trying to give the offense a chance. You’ll never hear me say, ‘Boy I thought we played pretty good. It’s too bad we lost.’ If you’re a great defense, you find a way to do something. We had the ball on our sideline, we could have gotten that one. Who knows what other turnovers you have to try to – as far as effort, as far as them being prepared, as far as them doing the work they had to do to be in the ball game, I guess they did that. When it came down to it, at the bottom line, it’s a team [effort] all the way. If you’re a great defense, you find a way to win that. We didn’t do that. I’ll never say we’re pleased when you lose the ball game.”

Raymon Taylor had good numbers. Did he play well?

“There were some good things, but there were some things we have to get much better at. Whenever you look at tackles, you want to find out where those tackles were. Was it a tackle right when he hit them, or was it a tackle after he got dragged for five yards? So I don’t ever go by stats that way. I think he, like a lot of our players, have got to be more physical. We have to play harder to the football. We have to compete harder. I think that’s all of us. That’s everbody in the defensive program. The coaches, the players, everybody.”

You mentioned tightness in the secondary. Why hasn’t it been tight?

“I don’t know. It’s got to be. If I knew that, I would probably feel a lot better about that, but we have to. We have to get tighter in coverage. We just have to. We have to contest more balls. And that’s what we’ll work on very hard this week.”

Did you see Willie henry play another step?

“Willie Henry played a very very good football game. I hate saying this, but Willie Henry played the best game since he’s been here and showed the signs that if he keeps working and keeps being hungry – he’s a very talented young man. He’s a redshirt freshman that played very very hard. Jibreel Black played very very hard. Brennen Beyer. I could go through – I thought the linebackers may have played the best game as a linebacking crew that they’ve played. The inside linebackers. They were getting off blocks. They were very very physical at the point of attack. There were a number of bright spots, but we’re not in a position to have some good bright spots. We’re in a position where we better do everything right so we can win the football game.”

MGoQuestion: Coach Borges talks a lot about self-scouting and self-evaluation over the bye weeks. How involved are you have during that process? Do you have any input towards the offense?

“No. We work day and night for two weeks for our game plan defensively to be ready for Michigan State. I don’t have any time to ever go on that side of it or have somebody go on that side. If there’s something glaring – you know, we’ve got some great coaches here, and they’re going to see it without somebody like me saying, ‘Boy, that should be done there.’ I’ve got all I can handle on my side.”

MGoFollowup: When your defense goes against the offense in practice, are you able to identify any of the problems on the offensive line?

“I don’t look at it. I don’t – to be honest with you, throughout an entire practice, I couldn’t tell you who the offensive guard is or who the offensive center is. All I’m trying to do is watch my guys and watch our guys to make sure our guys are improving the best they can. I couldn’t even tell you who was in there. And I really don’t know. It’s really true. If somebody told me that somebody was moved to this position, I’d go, ‘Really? I don’t know.’ Other than our side. And I’m being honest.”

Chris Wormley’s development?

“Chris Wormley continues to improve. He still needs to turn it loose more. There’s times when you see him and you go, wow. That’s just what you’re looking for. And then there’s other times when you say, ‘Turn it loose!’ Again, there were times in that game when you said, ‘Yes, that’s what we’re looking for up front.’ It’s just got to be consistent. I don’t care how many plays it is. It’s just got to be consistent no matter who it is. Every guy has to be accountable each and every play.”

What would you see them improve as a group?

“As a group, what I want to do on film is go through all 11 guys and say, ‘You were accountable to the other ten’ and not say, ‘These nine did a great job. What happened to you two?’ That’s when you have a championship defense, when they’re all accountable to each other. We weren’t that way. It was a lot of really good things. But we’re not there yet, and we have to get there.”

Is Dymonte Thomas close to cracking the lineup?

“The thing with Dymonte is Dymonte is at a position where he’s behind Blake [Countess]. Blake has been pretty consistent. That’s what hurts Dymonte in terms of getting into the rotation.”

How does Taylor Martinez’s absence affect how you prepare for Nebraska?

“They’re all good enough quarterbacks. Number four for them runs the same offense Taylor Martinez runs. It’s the same plays, same offensive line, same running backs, great running back, great receivers. Taylor not being in there, I mean, their quarterback that we play against will be very good.”

How often do you practice hail mary defense?

“We do that every Thursday. When I saw [Nebraska do that against Northwestern], my heart dropped because I was here against Colorado, and I remember it. I think defensive coordinators wake up in the middle of the night seeing that. When you’re part of one, you just hope that no coach has to be a part of that on defense.”

Do you coach your players to knock the ball away rather than try to intercept it?

“Yeah. That’s why we put Funchess back there. You know, the one of the things that you learn in that situation is they’re going to beat the guys running down the field. The guy behind needs to ride that guy all the way out of the end zone. You can’t stop and play the football there. When you’re on that guy, you need to keep riding him and stay on him. Don’t stop and try to jump, because when it’s a jump ball, it’s anybody’s. You don’t want to put yourself in that position. That’s why we put a guy like Funchess back there.”

Who would you compare Ameer Abdullah to?

“I’m not into comparing. All I know is he’s really really good. He’s fast, he breaks tackles, he’s a really good athlete, he steps over people. He could be one of the best running backs we’ve gone up against. In my opinion he can do it all.”

How much do you think the touchdown at the end of the half contributed to Connor Cook’s confidence in the second half?

“That’s the other part of it. If you harass and you play really really tight on guys, pretty soon that gets into the quarterback’s head, too. A quarterback trying to throw the ball into a small window is a lot less accurate than a guy that’s got a guy pretty open. That’s what we have to get better at. That and getting hands up and getting into the quarterback’s face. A lot of quarterbacks don’t throw very good passes when they get hit.”


Ron Utah

November 6th, 2013 at 12:30 PM ^

Maybe it's because he respects him.

While it doesn't fit into the nice, neat narrative of AL BORGES - SUPERVILLAIN! the fact is that Borges has bailed-out Mattison's defense on many occasions: ND, NW and OSU in '11; Air Force and NW again in '12 (and nearly South Carolina); and ND and Indiana in '13 (probably Akron too).

Our offense isn't terrible, despite the assertions that it is, and while Borges is guilty of not always putting the best product on the field, Mattison has had some bad days, too.


November 6th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

that stupid? State's weakness was their offense and Michigan's defense let them close and open halves with scores. State started these drives at their own 25 and 30-something. Those two scores played right into State's strength by giving their defense that much less fear of a score off a mistake of aggression.

Michigan is young and developing on both sides of the ball. Calling for Borges head week after week while giving the defense a pass is stupid.


November 6th, 2013 at 12:49 PM ^

Maybe because he knows his D shares some of the blame?

We gave up 29 to an offense that managed 13 against ND and seven (!) against Purdue.  We let them convert 9-18 third downs, including a 3rd and 15 and 3rd and 12.  You can say that the offense put the D in bad positions, but that's true for a lot of teams that play MSU, not just us.

Likewise, we gave up 34 in regulation to a PSU team that needs two games to score that many against everyone else.

I like Mattison, but this has certainly been his most disappointing defense of the three so far.






November 6th, 2013 at 3:24 PM ^

Just a polite warning - let's try to show a little more respect than that. I get that people are frustrated, but wondering whether or not one coach should / would do violence to another out loud in a public forum is really not the most productive or rational way to vent those frustrations. Please choose some more restrained words next time. 

matty blue

November 6th, 2013 at 12:22 PM ^

...he didn't scream, he didn't tear at his own clothing, didn't weep.  obviously has no passion, no interest in improving the team.  same as hoke and borges.

just thought i'd get ahead of the curve, there.


November 6th, 2013 at 12:25 PM ^

It's interesting how he says "we" even when he's talking about a specific player. It's like how one would talk to a little kid, so he doesn't feel singled out. I would think it wouldn't be a bad thing to single guys out - not in a critical way, but so that they feel a sense of ownership of their position and their play. Maybe it's a different story in the locker room. 


November 6th, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

He needs to lead the team in being a united front with the public.  But yes, I'm confident that players are given individual criticism from both Mattison and their position coaches in private...There is always a double-edged sword in team sports in that you want players to take personal responsibility but also want them to measure success based on what they do as a unit - yet you also don't want them trying to do too much...so maybe it's a triple-edged sword.

FWIW, I like that Mattison says "we."  To paraphrase the philosopher-linebacker Lawrence Taylor, a defense needs to go out like a bunch of crazed dogs and whoop some ass, and dogs hunt as a pack, a "we." 


November 6th, 2013 at 1:51 PM ^

Craig Roh's difficulties when Mattison walked in the door.  Craig didn't like being told he was doing things wrong and it took him a while to be receptive to the coaching.  So, the players get plenty of "you are doing it wrong" during the week and I'm sure they don't get any "try to do better next time" praise during film sessions.  Really....


November 6th, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

For asking these good questions and to Mattison for being so candid in his response.  I just now wonder if this coordinator independence (indifference?) is pretty typical of most coaching staffs (in which the the head coach needs to be the one to see the whole picture and coordinate communication when needed) or if this a unique situation that's contributing to our problems?  

Ron Utah

November 6th, 2013 at 12:34 PM ^

IME, football coaches are very territorial dudes, and have plenty to do when focusing on their role.  Defensive position coaches will often make recommendations about tweaks to the DC, but rarely does a coach on one side of the ball tell a coach on the other side of the ball what he should do.

In fact, I've witnessed some stubborn independence by position coaches who won't even take advice from other guys on their side of the ball.

I can't say for sure what it's like at the top levels of college football, but I suspect they are so busy with their jobs they don't have much time to tell other people how to do theirs.


November 6th, 2013 at 12:45 PM ^

aren't looking for constructive review, then that is a serious problem.  It doesn't matter whether we're talking top level college football or a lemonade stand, independent review can never be bad.  If GM is seeing something about the O that his D can exploit and he doesn't mention it, that is being petty and selfish. 


November 6th, 2013 at 1:10 PM ^

These coaches are very busy and their time is tightly scheduled. Mattison doesn't have time to do film study of the offense. That is Borges' job. If the OC sucks then the answer is to fire him not to have the DC baby sit him. I'm sure if Mattison saw something, he'd mention it because they are all on the same team.


Painter Smurf

November 6th, 2013 at 1:44 PM ^

One thing coaches defitely share across the line is tipping of plays.  If Mattison is coaching DL or LB's to read the stance of OL's, he'll make it obvoius to the offensive coaches that one of their guys is tipping during scrimmages by vocally pointing it out to his guys.  They may also make comments to each other on the side about this guy being good or that guy getting whipped.  But I agree there is no way Mattison or his guys are reviewing defensive tendencies of other teams or giving tips to Borges on which plays would work best or how something should be blocked, for example.


November 6th, 2013 at 12:30 PM ^

How often can his four man rush get to the QB during practice?  How often does the D stone the run and or TFL during practice? 

Either way, somebody is getting a false sense of accomplishment.


November 6th, 2013 at 12:39 PM ^

The defense played well last week. And Mattison said there was more the defense could have done. I'm not sure why you think they're getting a false sense of accomplishment. 

The defense gave up 16 points on the first ten MSU drives... 5 of which started at midfield. 3 of the 16 points came from MSU's first offensive play on a derp throwback for 50 yards. Michigan gave up 3 yards in 3 plays after that and forced a FG. 


November 6th, 2013 at 1:03 PM ^

Well, my apologies for that. But do the first teamers go up against each other?

I would think that freshman and other nonstarters would be responsible for giving the first team a scout team look to prevent injury and things of that nature.

Then again, maybe they hold practice differently from what I would expect.


November 6th, 2013 at 2:02 PM ^

The first string units take a handful of snaps against each other every day at the end of practice and when doing situational drills (red zone, goal line, two-minute). Positions groups will go against each other by depth chart, too (starting receivers against starting corners, starting O-line vs. starting D-line). I'm pretty sure the coaches are fully aware of what matchups they like to have in practice in order to give everyone the best looks. 


November 6th, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

He sends 4, because he believes that 4 should be able to get there. It's a goal that he thinks is achievable. Maybe it won't happen this year. Does it help the young LB's and and DB's to become accustomed to playing a defense that they won't be playing in the future? They are trying to get as many players solidified in their positions so that they are ready to perform when the pass rush arrives. Hopefully we'll get guys like Hand that can help us in that department soon ... combined with the development of guys like Taco, Mario, Wormley, and so on. It's also possible that we never get there with 4 and our whole scheme is crap, but that is where you have to maintain faith that Hoke & Mattison know what they're doing. It's frustrating, but there is no quick fix. We just don't have enough talent right now.


November 6th, 2013 at 12:44 PM ^

I liked the MGo question on whether Mattison ever evaluates the offense.  I'm a little surprised he doesn't or that may have just been coach speak. Not that he needs to run to the OC's office on a daily basis but I can't imagine that w/ the way the O-line has struggled that he wouldn't have some valuable insight as to how to shore it up or toughen our pass protect. Isn't that what he does on a weekly basis prepping for the next opponet, study them find their weaknesses?  


November 6th, 2013 at 12:44 PM ^

Heiko asked my question!  In a thread a week or so after the PSU game I asked if the tackle over was something the D was stopping regularly and if so, would Mattison say something to Borges about it.  

FWIW the real answer matched the Board's answer......no.


November 6th, 2013 at 12:56 PM ^

We're not great this year in terms of talent but you can always trust Mattison to get at least a B level performance out of them for the year.  They are not explosive, but they are dependable.  With a couple elite athletes (Peppers, Dymonte as he matures) in the secondary and a nasty D-line (Taco, Mone, Pipkins, fingers crossed on Hand) they will be elite in a year or two.  Just no clue what will happen with the offense in terms of both development and scheme as like most the board I don't trust Borges.