Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-4-12: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on September 4th, 2012 at 3:15 PM

Greg Mattison

Opening remarks:

“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.)


Blue in Seattle

September 4th, 2012 at 4:51 PM ^

But everyone can always improve their technique.  Size and speed are almost entirely genetic, at least assuming everything is even in the weight room, etc.  So Technique is really the only thing that is independent of genetics.

Now the thing about coach speak is that they always leave out the part about the other player using their technique to prevent your technique.  Within every scheme there are 11 individual battles being won or lost.  Mattison brought up a key battle between Roh and his opposing OL.  Roh had decided that his LB and Secondary team mates would not win their battle, and he decided to alter his role in the scheme.  When he failed, it meant the scheme failed.

The other reason he emphasizes technique is because there were times when Michigan stopped Alabama.  But those times were less frequent than the times Alabame won the battles.  That, and what else is he going to say?


September 4th, 2012 at 7:17 PM ^

Modern workout techniques have figured out how to improve speed and power in combination.  It's only been done in the last 20 years or so, and resulted in some amazing athletes.  The whole "linemen are bigger than ever before" thing is a myth; they've had 300-pound linemen for 30, 40 years now.  They just generally weren't good (and usually didn't play in the NFL) because beyond 200 pounds there was a dramatic and ever-declining drop in speed.  Back in the day, the answer to a 300-pound lineman was to just run around him.  Now they're almost as fast as linebackers and tailbacks.  The amount of kinetic energy on the field downright scares my inner physicist.

I digress.  You can increase speed, and I'm sure they try to do so in the weight room.  But you can't do it quickly.  You can add bulk in a single offseason, but fast-twitch muscle is difficult to develop.  Adding 20 pounds of muscle is easy.  Adding 20 pounds of fast muscle is very, very grueling.  It's just something you don't discuss when preparing for the next game.  That's like, oh, my plane's running out of fuel so I'm gonna radio my friends to build an airfield.  Yes, your problems would be solved with an airfield and they're not impossible to build.  You just flat-out don't have the time, so when you're already in the air there's no point in talking about airfields that don't exist.

I'm sure the coaches look at ways to improve speed, but it's not relevant to game planning.

P.S. There is a genetic limit to "speed", but it's a body frame issue that makes the issue more vague.


September 4th, 2012 at 7:26 PM ^

I think you missed the point. It's not that a players speed can't be improved, but you can't coach speed. But you can coach technique and effort. You can show a kid to step there and put his hand here. You can convince a kid why he needs to do it at full effort. You can teach a kid a proper tackle.

I think that's why the coaches harp on those things, because that's the stuff the coaches are teaching them. If he says that a player just isn't fast enough, it's like he's blaming the kid. If he says we're not playing disciplined enough or with proper technique, then he can take the fault and work on it from week to week.

Mattison can tell a D end that he needs to keep his eyes down the line of scrimmage and to get less depth when coming from the weak side. He can't tell a player during film, "do exactly what you did, but do it twice as fast next time. Also, try to be about 30 pounds bigger when you do it."


September 4th, 2012 at 7:32 PM ^

My post supplements yours; it doesn't disagree with it.  If anything I'm just nit-picking.  Point is, increasing speed irrelevant to game prep.  We agree on that, no?  By the time you're looking at tape, you can't count on any speed increase.

BTW, technique can improve speed.  Your running form, etc.  But it's fundamental enough that most kinks are worked out early on, so it's irrelevant to this discussion as well.

Getting back on point, speed really only matters when you know what to do with it.  Speed is used to get into position faster.  But if you don't know where you're supposed to be, all speed does is take you out of the play more quickly.  On the other hand, all the speed in the world doesn't help the other guy if you've sealed him by being in the right place.

I shouldn't even question Mattison at this point, but even when I have my skeptic's cap on, we wind up agreeing on everything.

P.S. Not everyone who doesn't agree with you 100% is disagreeing with you


September 4th, 2012 at 8:02 PM ^

I think everyone is usually disagreeing with me 100%, so I'm used to that. 

I just think when it comes to speed, Mattison leaves that part to Wellman, and it's usually an offseason thing.  Once the season starts, guys are as fast as they're gonna be that season, so Mattison worries about the things he can control.

Blue boy johnson

September 4th, 2012 at 5:13 PM ^

I think the coaches would agree with you.

In Hoke's hierarchy speed is below technique and physicality. In particular, I have heard numerous concerns on this board and elsewhere about Desmond Morgan's speed, but I don't think it is a concern for the coaches. They love what that kid brings to the D.

As Bobby Bowden once said about speed (paraphrasing) "sometimes all speed does, it gets you out of position faster".

Blue boy johnson

September 4th, 2012 at 4:00 PM ^

It was nice listening to Mattison, if only for the fact, he sounds healthy. Listening to Borges and Hoke was painful, and watching Borges struggle with the bottle of water was agonizing. C'mon Coach  Borges, just unscrew the damn cap and take a drink.

Johnny Blood

September 4th, 2012 at 4:10 PM ^

After reading this, I do feel better.  Good to get that game out of the system and get it all on tape... now the coaches can use it to teach the guys on how to improve (especially the young ones).  And I do trust these defensive coaches on their ability to teach.


September 4th, 2012 at 4:27 PM ^

You know, I got the same impression watching the game a second time (I'm a gluten for punishment), it wasn't that we were getting pushed around or left in the dust. Alabama was just able to be consistently half a step ahead or get just enough of a block where a form tackle becomes an arm tackle that gets broken. There were so many plays where we were so close to shutting down a play only to have it string out for six, seven yards.


September 4th, 2012 at 4:37 PM ^

I think the struggle of Kovacs in the game summed up Michigan's struggles.  I mean, the guy never whiffs on anything, plays with picture-perfect technique, and is Jordan %@&ing Kovacs.  But he missed on several tackles that he normally makes without blinking.  Basically says it all - nothing went Michigan's way all game.


September 4th, 2012 at 4:48 PM ^

were Kovacs attempting to make a diving tackle. There was no option to use proper technique and I think Mattison alludes to this. The biggest issue I had after re-watching it is with our LBs either taking themselves out of the play, not being able to disengage or getting trucked - man did Demens get rocked 


September 4th, 2012 at 4:39 PM ^

He has to get sick of saying that word. I got sick of reading it. He can stress technique all he wants, but at some point it's just an excuse. You can do everything absolutely perfect, but if the guy across from you is better, you're fucked.

Bama was flat out better everywhere. You can't out-technique that. The old line goes: it's not the X's and the O's, it's the Jimmy's and the Joe's.


September 4th, 2012 at 4:51 PM ^

And I think what Mattison was getting at is that his players weren't outmatched from a talent standpoint but from an execution standpoint.  Michigan has the players to be successful, but they didn't play well on Saturday was the message I got. 


September 4th, 2012 at 5:07 PM ^

Exactly.  Playing "perfect" technique evens the playing field a bit when the other guys are just better athletes.

Plus, I think (based on what I've heard Mattison say) Mattison really enjoys that element of the college game -- coaching the fundamentals and the techniques.  I can only imagine the satisfaction Mattison feels -- a player comes in busting with potential but lacking those techniques.  Then, over time, the lessons sink in and one day in practice it clicks and the player is doing the right things.  As a teacher -- and Mattison is every bit that -- it must be a very rewarding experience.


September 4th, 2012 at 5:05 PM ^

But when your Jimmy 's and Joe's are not only slower and smaller, but sloppier too it really doesn't help your chances. You can't ask people to be someone else, but you can ask them to play to their potential. I think that's Mattison's message.


September 4th, 2012 at 5:18 PM ^

Yes, the native athletic ability is something that can't be taught.

However, I would submit that a well-coached and disciplined team with no weak links, and "B" grade vs. "A" grade talent, will usually win. "C" grade talent and you lose.

Alabama has BOTH solid coaching, and solid initial athletic ability. Michigan will get there.

One of the best things about the 2011 season is that it bought Hoke, Mattison and Borges a little more time to get everything in place a few years from now.


September 4th, 2012 at 5:03 PM ^

If there is one player I wouldn't use that image to describe it would be Kovacs - in this game or any game he has played. If he gets himself in trouble like perhaps that blown screen pass it is because he is trying too hard to make a play not in awe or being hesitant.


September 4th, 2012 at 5:04 PM ^

Went to Dallas for the game and felt like they were determined not to let QB get hurt no matter what happend. Was the long time goal of winning the Big 10 title first and foremost in play? Sure seemed like it to me.


September 4th, 2012 at 5:50 PM ^

The UM football team is the biggest joke in America.  Aside from maybe Notre Dame, there isn't a program that is more overrated and over-ranked year after year.  This is true with the Big 10, in general, but UM leads the way.  Enjoy another season of mediocrity!

Mr. Yost

September 4th, 2012 at 6:37 PM ^

The one thing I got from this presser was that the sky ISN'T falling. Mattison seemed to know what was wrong and know how to fix it. He also seems to have confidence that it will get fixed.

I feel a lot better (not about Air Force because of their system).

I think Alabama was just that good, and I think our defense didn't play like they should have. Countess' injury scares me to death...but as a whole, I think this is still a more than solid defense.

I could see a season just like Oregon last year. Lose to the the SEC power in the beginning and make a run for the Rose Bowl.


September 4th, 2012 at 6:39 PM ^


This game is what you schedule once you realize the program requires a measuring stick. So we got the stick, and its application hurt, unlike certain other contenders who still have no idea how to gauge themselves except by looking inwards and projecting. Our coaching staff is among the best in the business. Now, they genuinely know how best to maximize our opportunities for achieving yet another B1G banner, which is our stated team goal. Defeating Little Brother (apologies for bothering with initial caps) is our crucial objective for Team 133. We must overcome the perception that accompanies our recent record versus MSU.


September 4th, 2012 at 7:26 PM ^

AFAIK scheduling this game had nothing to do with the current crew.

Michigan's never been afraid to schedule a tough opponent.  They don't go out of their way to make every game tough, but one challenge a year is pretty typical.

If anything, I think Alabama saw an opportunity to smug up its SEC superiority against a big-name program while it was struggling.  IF this game was decided on like most OOC dates, it was scheduled in the darkest months of RRod's tenure when Alabama was already an established power.  They couldn't know RRod would be fired, but even in the best  circumstances Michigan wouldn't have been expected to be ready.  Alabama wasn't expecting a pushover, but it wanted a winnable game against a famous program.  Not sure what our AD was thinking, but I won't assume it was cynical.

Credit to these coaches, they didn't shy away from the challege.  And I agree with Mattison; with better execution they could've made a game of it.  As it is they're making the most of it.


September 5th, 2012 at 12:01 AM ^

Sickened me that Brent Fusberger referred to Bama and Michigan as "two great brands in college football".

MANBALL is not a brand, it's a way of life for Mericans... Chelsea or Man U is a Brand. Euros measure things in kilos, we measure things in shittons.

Game signed in Aug 2010, DB hired Jan 2010. Made sense to do it for the $. DB knows that what greases the wheel is $.