“Well, first of all, you saw the game, and obviously we weren’t pleased as a defense. A lot of things we stand for and the things we set out to do each year, we weren’t successful in a number of those situations. The biggest thing is missed tackles. We can’t have that in our defense. We had way way way too many missed tackles. And another thing that led to missed tackles as you watched the tape was we had missed techniques. We’re not good enough right now to be able to not play perfect technique, and when you don’t play great technique, somebody’s going to have to make an open field tackle or somebody’s going to have to make a tackle that you hope the ability of everything to stay inside and in front would take care of. That’s really a lot of what happened in the game.”
(After the jump, Mattison talks about the secondary, Alabama's offense, linebacker technique, Air Force's offense, and the defensive line)
What does Countess’s absence mean for the defense going forward?
“It means the next guy’s going to have to step up. Blake Countess is a tremendous young man. He’s a very gifted athlete. He’s played some outstanding football for us at a young age. Now the next guy’s going to have to step up, and that’s the nature of football. When you’re in a university setting where you only get so many guys and their numbers are such, you can’t go out and get a free agent or anything like that. Now the next guy has to step up and that’s what they’ve been told every day they practice. Now you’re going to have our next guy come up there.”
Is Courtney definitively the starter?
“Yeah Courtney’s played a lot of football for us, and Courtney’s done some good things. In our mindset here, it’s whoever practices the best. Nobody’s ever given a position. Courtney’s obviously a frontrunner because of how much he’s played and some of the good things he’s done. Raymon, Delonte are young guys that have been practicing all along, and they’ll be the next guys in line.”
Now that you’ve the tape, what did you think of how Courtney played?
“You know, Courtney got thrown into a position where he’s playing corner, where most of his work has been at nickel, but he does get work at corner -- the one thing everybody sees is that he slipped. He knows it and we know that it shouldn’t have happened. He should have been on top of that receiver. You dno’t use slipping as an excuse. He did some other things that were good. That’s the one that everybody sees and that’s the one that hurts your defense the most.”
Is Terry Richardson a guy you can foresee replacing Blake, or is it still too early for him?
“Terry Richardson’s another one of the guys -- that’s our pool. You take the pool of guys you have and all of them -- the good thing is all of the guys you just mentioned that we just talked about have all had a lot of reps in camp. Terry, not as many because of the academics and the classes, but he has in the last two weeks had reps, so he now will be another guy where you’ll see who’s the best guy.”
Could you see more of a rotation opposite J.T. Floyd?
“It’s hard to rotate a corner. It’s hard to rotate -- corner’s different from other positions because corners get in there and he gets the feel for it, and the thing you always worry about putting a guy in at cornerback -- it’s a different deal. You don’t usually try to rotate corners very much.”
How do you distinguish between thinking Alabama’s offensive line is so good vs. telling your defense that this can’t happen?
“Alabama was a very good football team, but Alabama did not have the success they had solely because they were bigger, faster, or stronger. They had it because we didn’t play technique and we didn’t tackle. You know, I’ll give all the credit in the world to Alabama. Anytime a team lines up like they did and ran the football, which is really the heart and soul of our defense, which is we never want anybody to be able to do that, you have to give them credit. But then when you look at the film, you have to reinforce that technique is everything. I’ve always said that and it should up clearer than ever. When you are not a seasoned veteran and you’re not a guy that has played a ton of football here, that’ll show up faster than anything because of being in your first game, and we had so many guys on that defense that a lot of people have heard about over the years but they haven’t been seasoned starters. They haven’t been guys that have been in that game a long, long time. You look at Jordan Kovacs, for example, well everybody will say, ‘He missed a lot of tackles.’ Well, if that safety is going to be asked to make as many tackles as he is without a lot of guys around the football because of playing technique, that’s going to happen to anybody out there. Jordan would be the first guy to tell you, ‘I didn’t play like you expected us to do,’ and that’s right. And Jordan will have a tremendous year and he’ll play better every game because we’ll have the rest of the defense be there and him not have to make those plays. ”
How concerning is it that Alabama was getting second-level blockers so consistently?
“That’s part of technique. That was all technique. I mean, that’s technique with the defensive lineman not squeezing the block like he’s supposed to, just running upfield. That’s the linebacker not getting his footwork technique so that when he saw that play he would move so that guy couldn’t block him. Those are all technique things and that’s exactly why -- that’s what they took advantage of.”
You rotated in James Ross. Was that planned going in?
“That was planned going in. James Ross has had a very good camp when he’s been out there. He’s a very physical young man. Plays very aggressively. Again our whole deal is the season. You know, down the line, where are we at? We knew going into this game -- I think there were 9 freshmen that played a lot -- that’s not an excuse. That’s where we’re at. That’s what we’re going to do, and we’re going to play the best guys that are going to help us win … James Ross is one of those guys.”
After this week, how many linebackers do you feel comfortable with?
“Well I feel comfortable with all the linbackers out there. The four that played in that game for the most part, or the five, I feel very comfortable with them. You feel comfortable with everybody out there as long as they work really really hard at tackling, at technique, and the things that make this defense.”
How hard was it to watch the film? Did you look at it and think to yourself that this is months away from being where you want it to be?
“No. In fact I didn’t. I looked at it and said, ‘Oh my God, if we would have just played out technique on that play, it would have been a two-yard gain!’ The other thing that became very evident in that game is their offensive line is very good, but those running backs are as good of backs as we’ve played against. Those are big, strong backs that can still make you miss. If you’re not in perfect position, which technique makes a person be in perfect position or in winning position, you’re going to have problems tackling a very good back, and that became very evident.”
Is it concerning at all that the next game is against Air Force where technique and discipline is so important?
“Yeah. As a coach I’ll be dead honest with you. This is an offense that put 500 yards rushing -- I don’t care who you’re playing, getting 500 yards is a lot of yards. Playing a wishbone first of all makes you be unbelievably sound in technique and assignment. If you slip up one time it can be a big play. So that’s a concern. That’s what our players understand going into this game. Plus you’re playing an academy who, they play extremely hard. I’ve played agains the academy eight or nien times now. Every time you play against them, you just leave with the utmost respect. We’re going to have to be on our A game on defense. There’s no question. ”
MGoQuestion: What were some of the things you liked about your defensive line last game?
“I tell you the one thing -- and I won’t say defensive line -- the one thing that we preached so strongly about was in the second half, let’s get playing Michigan defense. Our whole thing was don’t give up a score. And if you notice, we held them to three points in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, if we don’t have the interference call on third and four, you’re off the field -- you hold Alabama to no points, no touchdowns in the second half. Now I don’t ever want to look at it [that way], but you have to set goals from where you’re at to where you can [reach]. And that’s what we talked about. We talked it constantly on the sidelines: ‘Let’s come on now, that half’s over with. Let’s get going.’ And it won’t be a time to panic. You’ve got young guys. You have guys who haven’t started. You have to teach them and educate them that, come on, you’re good enough if you play together … That could have been a successful half -- and that’s not what you measure it by -- but you have to at that point, and that would have been had there not been the interference penalty.
“Defensive line wise, I think you saw some things like Quinton Washington has probably played the best football since he’s been here. Is that good enough? That wasn’t good enough that day. He shows he can do some of the things we’re asking him to do. I thought Brennen Beyer played very well against the tight end. He was too high when you talk about his technique, and he’s the first to [admit] that, but I think he came back to what we saw in the spring. Craig Roh played extremely hard. In fact, Craig Roh -- biggest problem in that game was he was trying to do too much sometimes, which happens when you’re the seasoned veteran. You’re the guy that’s played a lot of starts and these things happen. One of the touchdowns, for example, where Floyd missed the tackle in the hole, which would have been a two-yard gain, and he got a touchdown on it. Craig Roh just tried to make the play inside and should have stayed outside. That’s just technique things. So I think there were some positive things in there. I believe our linebackers have to really really work on their fundamentals of footwork, because if you’re not a veteran or a very fast linebacker, you can’t take a false step. If you take a false step, you’re blocked. Again, if you don’t have a real experienced defensive line, every mistake that you make as a linebacker is going to be seen bigger because you don’t have a guy protecting you up front. So all those things were what you saw on film, and you said, ‘Okay, we got to get these fixed.’ And we will. We will get them fixed. This team will come out and -- we as coaches, I’m going to the first to tell you … we have to do a better job. We have to do a better job of making sure they play their technique. That’s our job. And we’ll do that.”
Is it going to take longer with the defensive line because of the position switches?
“Well I don’t know if it takes longer, but when you play against that kind of offensive line, that’s where you get exposed the most. If that hadn’t been a good offensive line, we might [be seeing] this three weeks from now. But when you’re playing against that kind of offensive line, you take a bad step, you’re done. You’re fighting for your life right now.”
Re: Air Force’s triple option. How long does it take to get used to it during a game if you haven’t played agains it before?
“Well you never know. That’s the plus of playing that is that is the first time you see it up close and to speed. That’s why we have to do a great job in practice. Our scout team will have to do walk-throughs on their own to simulate that. As quick as we get our scout team to do a good job, that’ll determine how we’ll play. When we win this football game, it’s going to be because the scout team gave us a great picture. That’s always the case when you’re playing a wishbone. That scout team can win or lose a game for you by how they give you a great picture all week in that kind of offense.”
How do your cornerbacks prepare differently for such an offense?
“Well it’s all in the scheme, and I don’t want to talk about the scheme. It’s all in the scheme that you play. If the corners are run defenders, they have to be physical. If the corners are going to pass defenders first, then you have to be disciplined at playing pass defense first and not bite on the run. It’s all in what scheme it is, and I don’t really feel comfortable talking about the scheme.”
(I'll have Borges up later this evening.)