Tuesday Presser Transcript 8-28-12: Greg Mattison Comment Count

Heiko August 28th, 2012 at 9:50 PM

Greg Mattison


Can you talk about Quinton Washington emerging at nose tackle and moving Will Campbell to the 3-tech?

“What we’re looking for is getting the best four guys to be available to play inside. Q’s had a really good camp. Will’s had a good camp. So you kind of interchange those two to see which one makes that defense better, whether it’s one of them at the three and the other one of them at the nose. With so much trading and shifting and things like that, they both have to play the same position when they slide over, so it gives you an opporutnity to hopefully make yourself stronger rather than just having a true nose and that’s all he can play.”

Brennen Beyer is third on the depth chart. What does he have to do to move up?

“That group of three right there is never etched in stone. Brennen Beyer, I think, started out camp not as -- I don’t want to say tentative -- but not really realy playing as fast as I wanted him to play. Now the last week, though, he showed signs of being the Brennen Beyer of the spring. You’re going to see him play a lot. There’s no question about it. We got a group right there of guys, again, in the opening game, I don’t know how many plays you’re going to play -- you better have guys that can go in there, especially at that position because there’s a lot more running there. That’s a position that’s a defensive lineman sometimes and it’s a linebacker at other times, and he’s always got to run the farthest to chase the ball down … he has to be a guy that can run.”

Are Richard Ash and Nathan Brink at a point where they can play some quality snaps?

“Yeah. You know how Brady is and we all feel the same way -- anybody that makes that trip on the defensive side of it has got to be ready to go in at any time [whether it’s the] second play of the game, the 32nd play of the game. We feel that anybody that makes that trip, if they go into the ball game, we expect them to play Michigan defense.”

Do you like the amount of pressure you’ve been able to get from the front four?

“You know, we’ve worked hard at it. The hardest thing is you don’t ever know if you’re getting pressure or not because that guy who doesn’t tie his shoes all the time just takes off running, and that makes what you’re doing -- you go, ‘Well, I don’t know if that would have been successful or not, but against him, I don’t think it will be.’ That’s one of the hardest things that we have to judge on defense because we do want to be a pressure team. When you’re pressuring, if a guy like Denard is taking off, it makes it look like it’s not a very good defense sometimes, but you can’t gear everything towards stopping Denard. That’s what we on defense have to always talk about. We have to get ready for the season. We can’t worry about what he’s doing to us.”

When did you make that change in mindset?

“That was last year. I think the first time we brought blitzes at Denard, when I first got here, I said, ‘Whoa! You don’t see that in the NFL.’ I said, ‘Well, we’re going to keep blitzing,’ and you keep blitzing and he keeps -- it’s kind of neat because the officials … Brady will blow the whistle and you say to the official, ‘He would have been tackled.’ And you’re looking on tape and you go, ‘I don’t think so.’ That’s something we have to work through. That’s something we can’t, on defense, get shell shocked or get nervous because of what you’d do against Denard because Denard can make you look really stupid.”

Alabama’s offense?

“Well they obviously have great speed at wide receiver. Anybody in the SEC will always have great speed, but Alabama shows that they have great speed at wide receiver. They have a tight end that’s 280 pounds. He’s a returner. I think he has 20-some starts in his career. He’s obviously a very established football player that can catch the ball. Whoever their running back’s going to be, it’s Alabama. That guy’s going to be the next guy, so we know that the offensive line is a very very strong point. The quarterback is a very good football player, but the other guys are very good players also. You’re just going to have to play the way we play and make sure everybody’s doing their job.”

What about their offensive line makes them so good?

“To me, they’re so good at their combination blocks. Without getting too technical, but always in a defense, there’s a person who is shaded so he will get help with a guy slamming down on him, and sometimes a guy stays on him, and that frees up the linebacker. They’re really good at slamming down and coming right up on the linebacker as if he went to the lienbacker right away. I think they’re as good of a combination blocking offensive line as I’ve seen. Obviously a lot of that comes from playing together. Tremendous experience from strength, where you don’t have to overextend yourself to do your job because you know you’re strong enough to be able to do it with just a little bit of help.”

How do you counterract that and prepare for it in practice?

“Yeah we work on it every day. That’s always a part of practice that we work on because our defense, we’ll always be in a position where those kind of blocks will always happen.”

Are you doing it more than usual?

“No. No. That’s just the nature of our defense.”

Because Alabama’s so fast, have you done anything in practice to prepare for that?

“No, I mean, we always preach here, and we always will at Michigan, you always have to keep the ball inside and in front. That’s something that we’ve preached since we’ve gotten here. There’s going to be times when the ball will break. Your’e not going to stop every play at the line of scrimmage, but if you can always get your safety over the ball and get your corners cupping it like they’re supposed to, then you’re going to have a chance to play another down. We’ve really emphasized that. Not any more than we would have, but it’s constantly emphasized because that’s what makes a good defense, a defense that doesn’t give up big plays.”

What do you remember about Alabama when you were at Florida?

“You know, obviously coach Saban wasn’t there then. I know it was probably my first away game in the SEC and I kept looking back at Michigan and places like that, and I went, ‘This is no big deal,’ We were driving through town, people were all dressed up, I went, ‘This is not like going to Michigan where it’s just unbelievable.’ And then I went into the locker room and there was hardly anybody there. I remember coming out of the locker room and a friend of mine was on the staff, Charlie Strong, the head coach of Louisville now, had been in the SEC a long time, and he said, ‘Just wait. Just wait till you see this.’ And I said, ‘Charlie, this is nothing. I mean, compared to Michigan, what, are you kidding me?’ We came out of the locker room and I went, ‘Whoa! Where did all these people come from?’ It’s just like they just dropped in there before game time. Alabama, the SEC, that’s a good conference. They take great pride in their conference. The Big Ten is a great conference. This is what it’s all about. The Big Ten vs. the SEC and Michigan vs. Alabama. We look forward to that.”

Is it difficult for the defense to practice against Denard all fall and then turn around and prepare for a guy like A.J. McCarron?

“Well, Brady does a tremendous job at this. If you’re at some programs where you want to run a spread offense, your defense has the capabilities of possibly becoming softer because everything goes sideways. Brady from Day 1 has established that we have set periods where we go against typical Big Ten hard nosed offenses so we can always keep our edge that way. As we get into the week, like game weeks and stuff like that, we go less and less against our offense and more and more against the team that we’re playing.”

How much have the linebackers improved in pass coverage since the spring?

“I think they’ve improved a lot. Now that’s what the game’s for. But I know watching in practice, I feel like they’re much more aware of the quarterback, they’re getting deeper, I think our backers are improving a lot. Now we’ll see how much, and that’s what a first game is all about. You come out of that game and you see exactly where you are, and you go from there. It’s never as good or never as bad. That’s the great news about it. It’s the first game and it’s Michigan vs. Alabama, and that’s what makes it really exciting.”

You’ve said throughout camp that you’re not ready. The game is on Saturday. Are you ready yet?

“You know me, and you’ve got to know me now. We’re never ready in my mind. You know that. And that’s why we will be coaching right up until that kickoff. We’ll be coaching right through that ball game. One thing I do believe, and I noticed it the last three or four days, our players seem to be a lot more intent on the little things. Maybe it’s because we have the freshman who aren’t in class anymore and the whole team has been together now -- all of us and not just parts of us. But I’ve noticed that. I’ve noticed a game week type atmosphere, where you bring up little things that can possibly help them. They seem to say, ‘I got that. Okay, I see that,’ instead of, ‘Well this is just another thing coach is trying to tell me.’ I do feel that a little bit.”

James Ross is listed at No. 2 at the Will linebacker position. What do you like about him?

“Well, I liked his physical play. Again, I would have loved to have James Ross for three weeks. I mean, wow, he has made some plays, and then he’s made some freshman mistakes. Some freshman not checking, some freshman not communicating. I look at that as a guy that’s only been here a week. So we look at him as a possibility of him getting better and better as he’s with us the entire time.”

Is that going to be different in terms of how you approach it with the freshmen?

“That’s not my call. I’ve got all I can do to try to get them lined up on defense.”



August 28th, 2012 at 9:57 PM ^

I don't think I've seen this much quality content on the site over a 1-2 day stretch since Ace's finger-bleeding nightmare.

Also, both coordinators used the word "tremendous" in their pressers today. Love it.

Nick Sparks

August 29th, 2012 at 12:03 AM ^

Not really a focus of this article, but Mattison and Hoke have said on numerous occasions how good technique could trump the size disadvantage our d-line is facing. 

I have complete faith in our coaches, but that point was a bit hard to really wrap my head around until I caught this video on Reddit:


If anybody can upset this Alabama team, it's this coaching staff. Go Blue! Beat Bama


August 29th, 2012 at 7:02 AM ^

It's well-known that Mike Martin learned a lot about leverage from wrestling, but the problem with wrestling is that you can use the floor.

Americans often think of sumo as weird, but the fundamentals are very similar to football line play.  You can't give up too much ground (if you step out of the ring you lose), and once you're on the ground you're done.  There is a LOT of emphasis on footwork and hand placement.

The other thing people often don't notice about sumo wrestlers is speed.  People look at the gut and turn their brains off, but even the big guys are deceptively fast.  The biggest wrestlers don't do very well because they lose leverage to the quicker ones.

Mr. Yost

August 29th, 2012 at 12:06 AM ^

I feel like naturally you'd learn to be a litte less aggressive so he doesn't make a big play against you. We have to come SCREAMING to the football --- especially from the DE position. No hesistation.

We have to be able to pressure QB's without blitzing every down.


August 29th, 2012 at 7:29 AM ^

On the upside, Denard probably helped improve the line's edge contain.  It was a weakness in the first half of last season, but to be fair they had a LOT to learn and edge contain is one of the tougher things to master.  But toward the end it was a genuine strength.  Michigan is probably one of the best defenses against the spread now because Denard is the fastest QB in the country.  If you can handle him at all (and despite what he says above I know Mattison's a proud guy), anyone less is in for a long day.

On the downside, the best passer on this squad is Denard, and if you take away his legs he's not even mediocre.  He softens his own coverage with his threat to run and even against defenses with 7-8 guys in the box he wasn't doing all that great.  Michigan hasn't faced a first-round pick-'em-apart QB lately and won't this year, but Denard was SO bad (tho to be fair he was starting over) that the secondary basically figured it out on the field and NOTHING helped them prepare for DeVier Posey.  Thank FSM the secondary is experienced now.  Let's hope Denard's improved as well, because that impacts the pass defense as well as the running game.

oriental andrew

August 29th, 2012 at 2:04 AM ^

"the SEC, that’s a good conference. They take great pride in their conference. The Big Ten is a great conference. "

Yeah, damn straight! 

As a Georgia native and Michigan alumnus, I can say with all my heart:



August 29th, 2012 at 7:56 AM ^

The key to beating a team like 'Bama will be mental toughness.  They'll get pushed at the line, they'll get beat, and they'll get frustrated.  They are going up against what is no doubt a team superior in talent and depth.  We could be down by two touchdowns at halftime and that's if Michigan plays perfectly.  The reason why I wouldn't lose hope is because not even the most disciplined defense in the country can stop Denard & Borges forever.  RRod's offenses were explosive but if you keyed in on the right things he was exposed and shut down.  Borges isn't as flashy but the only person who really stopped Borges was Borges, and he seems to have learned from the Iowa debacle.  Mind you, Alabama's defense scares me more than the O-line (it held LSU to 9 points in two games FFS) but it's a new year and I don't think they've faced an offense quite like this.  If Michigan can score at will against a Ohio State defense, 20+ isn't outrageous against Alabama.  But this will depend on Denard not throwing picks (gulp).

The key, and I wouldn't trust this with any other coaching staff, is to keep those guys patient.  Instead of giving up 2-3 yards a play, they might be giving up 7-8.  On offense, they CAN'T afford to turn the ball over but a half a dozen punts won't kill them.  Like in the VT game, as long as they don't crack, they can keep 'Bama out of the end zone.  As long as they don't give up the big plays, if 'Bama's offense needs 10, 15, 20 plays to cross the field, they'll eventually make mistakes.  Not even NFL offenses can operate perfectly for an entire game.  This is what Hoke means by playing snap to whistle, and where Mattison's emphasis on technique and effort is significant.  We may not recover a fumble; Alabama is a very conservative team.  But a slip here, a late move there -- all the little things will matter.  If ANY defense can do it, it's one prepped by Mattison.  And the great news is that the back 7 -- the ones in charge of limiting big plays -- are experienced.  They're not great, but Alabama can't count on any freebies.

What I'm leery about is that the line will be severely tested, and they're the least experienced.  I'd give Michigan a 40% chance even if Martin and RVB were still here.  I want to believe Big Will has changed, but even if he has, it's a lot to suddenly throw him up against the best OL in the country for four quarters.  Mental discipline and consistency are what will win this game for Michigan and the D-line is unproven in both.


August 29th, 2012 at 10:36 AM ^

Michigan's offense was fine in a pragmatic sense -- productive if not perfect -- against ND and Iowa once Borges gave up the power I-form.  MSU was a combination of freak weather and an inability to adjust.  VT was an injury that completely robbed Molk of lateral movement.  So, there were explanations for everything; "lack of talent" was never the limiting factor.  My point is that last year, no defense stopped Michigan by itself.  Either they got lucky or Borges (by his own admission) got stubborn.  So IF Michigan's offense brings its A-game and the defense can hang tough without cracking, they have a chance against Alabama.

But those are the ifs, but we gotta start there or there's nothing ot discuss.  If Borges is dumb enough to try to run right at Alabama's D-line, Denard unleashes the dragon or Michigan's D-line loses its composure, this won't be a contest.


August 29th, 2012 at 9:38 AM ^

I found this passage to be particularly interesting.

“Well, Brady does a tremendous job at this. If you’re at some programs where you want to run a spread offense, your defense has the capabilities of possibly becoming softer because everything goes sideways. Brady from Day 1 has established that we have set periods where we go against typical Big Ten hard nosed offenses so we can always keep our edge that way. As we get into the week, like game weeks and stuff like that, we go less and less against our offense and more and more against the team that we’re playing.”