Greg Mattison: “We got two days in and the thing I’m going to say is that I’m really, really impressed and excited about the effort of our guys. I couldn’t be around them in the summer, although I tried to get down there and get rehab so I could peak through that window. I think you saw it starting in the summer. I think you saw these guys trying to do the right thing, trying to improve themselves and then it just carries over to where they stared practice. We’re only two in and we’ve got miles and miles to go to where we want to be. As far as there effort and as far as their preparation right now, I’m very, very excited about it.”
Question: How about some of the noticeable physical gains over the summer for some of the guys.
Greg Mattison: “When you ask a player to make a commitment you can tell a lot about what he has. We asked Will Campbell to cut some weight down and he had a certain weight that he had to be at and he was at it. Craig Roh, he has given great effort for two years here and thing that I felt would help him play the position and do what we want him to do was to gain some weight and with the weight gain would be the strength. I noticed in practice, no pads, I saw it already. That’s a commitment. We did that with a number of other guys. On the same token, be real honest with you, there was a couple of other players that we asked to do that and didn’t do it. It shows on the way you play. Now we’ve to get them all so they make that commitment and do what we ask them to do.”
Question: Can you tell us the guys who didn’t?
Greg Mattison: “No.”
Question: How are you feeling?
Greg Mattison: “I feel like I’m about 35 years old. I know I don’t look like it. I feel great. The knee has been a little bit of a pain. At least now, I wouldn’t have to wear the brace, but I’m doing it for precautionary purposes. I can tell you this, being around this team, you feel good when you get out on the field and that helps. Now if their attitude wasn’t good, if it was not Michigan that kind of thing I might hurt a little bit more, but I’m doing fine, thanks.”
Question: What do you look for in practice in only having two with no pads yet? What is the focus?
Greg Mattison: “It is very easy to get what you’re looking for when you’re watching it. You want perfect alignments. You want perfect technique and you want unbelievable effort to the football. The thing that bothers you and that is why you practice and the thing that we have to correct is any missed assignments. Because missed assignments will eventually turn into big plays and that is our biggest goal and our biggest purpose right now is with this defense is do not give up the really big plays. They’re going to rush for some yardage. Every team we play against is going to get a run of over four, five, six yards, we know that, but we can’t give up the 25, 30 and the homeruns. So that has been a big emphasis for us. That is hard in no pads because there is no tackling. So sometimes the guy might have gotten hit on the line of scrimmage but as a defensive coach, you can still see if the secondary is cupping the football and still see if guys are running to the ball.”
Question: Are you still pursuing the idea of using (Mike) Martin in a more versatile role like you showed in the spring game?
Greg Mattison: “I guess we’re going to have to wait until that first game to see that. We’ve got a lot of different things that we want to do… and I’m not trying to be smart when I say that. The thing that we’re going to do with this defense is always try to put players in a position where they can best affect the outcome of the ball game and if Mike Martin is one of our best rushers and if he is a total mismatch on somebody, we’ll try to find a way to get him to do that. If he is a lot more effective making sure that he is one-on-one rather than being a nose where he is doubled in a passing situation, we’ll try to find ways to do that. There are other guys that have shown to be able to do those kind of things too. We’re going to move people around.”
Question: How are you different from the NFL experience versus when you were in Florida and before that?
Greg Mattison: “The NFL experience gave me a whole new perspective on pressuring he quarterback. Because in that league, a quarterback if you give him time will just shred you. He is going to tear you apart and it doesn’t matter if he is an average quarterback or a great one like Peyton Manning. So you have to make that quarterback feel uncomfortable. The difference in college is that there are a number of quarterbacks that will take off running when that happens. So we’ve got to have a middle ground right there. We’re going to be aggressive and our whole belief in playing the run and playing the pass and everything we do is to be aggressive, but we also have to be smart in that the quarterbacks will take off running more than they do in the NFL. The other thing, you have the guys in the pros from seven in the morning to seven at night. So you can put in everything you want to do and have a very, very big package. Where we by rules only have them a certain amount of time, plus they don’t have the background. As a coach, you have to make sure you don’t slow your players down because they don’t know what to do. We’re going to be aggressive in what we put in. We’re going to have a large script of defenses, but they’ll only be called if we can execute them.”
Question: You said that you put in about 65% of the defensive playbook in the spring. Will you add a lot more than that?
Greg Mattison: “Yes. We’ll have a reasonably amount more than in the spring. The biggest thing we wanted to do in the spring was teach what we as coaches believe in. We had to start from…any time you come in new you start from the ground floor. We had to teach them as if they had never walked before. The one thing that this team did too is in the summer, they had their own practices without coaches around. You are always worried of whether they are doing the right things, whether they are running the defenses the right way, but in our first couple of practices there are a number of guys that are way ahead of what they were.”
Question: How long is it going to take for you to get a good feel for where Troy Woolfolk stands as a player in his comeback from the injury do you think?
Greg Mattison: “I think when we start really, really hitting. The thing for a secondary guy in the way we practice, it isn’t much different other than the tackling. The moving around and the coverage and all that, it don’t get any different than it does now and it might be even faster now without pads on. I think you’re going to see where he is going to be fine. He I think has to himself have to feel comfortable too. Whenever you come back from an injury, you feel a little tweak or a little sore, you start to worry. I think he has got to have the confidence, which I believe he does. I know he wants to play really bad and therefore, I know he’ll do what he has to do.”
Question: Did the NFL change your style or how you call things?
Greg Mattison: “I was spoiled at Florida because we had five guys drafted in the first or second round. So when I would call a blitz there, they would come off and say coach don’t blitz let us just rush. We were very, very simple. We just had players that could get it done. I think the NFL really helped me with the idea of attacking protections. Coming up with things that look a like but might be different, where you are coming from different places and it kind of opened my eyes a little bit and it was a great experience because of that because you had to there. You line up in the same defensive there and you’re asking for a long day. Again, it goes back to what you have. If we have tremendous, tremendous talent and we got four guys who can get to the quarterback, I may not call a blitz. If you don’t you have got to find a way to get to the quarterback, in third down situations especially so that you can get off that field.”
Question: Do you have to dumb down maybe some of what you took from the NFL because some of the first string guys may get it, but the second and third string guys…?
Greg Mattison: “No question. The other thing that you want to have in your defensive package, you are not going to run the same defenses every week. Different teams will allow you to do different things. So you want to have in your playbook or in your bank, the ability to say okay guys, we’re going to bring this pressure out or this defense out for this game. It relates to this, but it is a little bit different and now you have a chance to help yourself against somebody. You’re never putting yourself in a disadvantage going into the football game.”
Question: I read that you wouldn’t have come back to be a coordinator for just anybody.
Greg Mattison: “I’ve known Brady Hoke since we coached together against Western Michigan, I thought he was one of the coaches that I’d ever been around there as a young guy. We coached together there for a number of years. Then when I was here at Michigan before, we hired him here and he just proved it again. Every time and when you coach the defensive line or when you coordinate defenses, you have great respect for great coaches and Brady has always been one of those guys. The way that Brady handles those players and his passion for the game of football and his ability to work. I think in coaching, you work so hard that if you’re ever with guys that don’t work hard that really bothers you. Brady has always been a guy that rolls his sleeves up and he is going to work harder than anybody else. More than that, he is a great person. I would say that he is my closest friend in the world and to have an opportunity to work with him and coach with him again, it was something that I said yeah I’m going to do it. I can tell you this, every day that I’ve been here, I feel like it was the greatest decision I made. Just because of watching him deal with this team and watching this team grow under him. It is baby steps and little things every day, but he is the right guy for this job and he reinforces it for me every day and I don’t even need to judge him.”
Question: What are reasonable expectations for this defense? You are talking baby steps, but do you expect to set the world on the fire this fall?
Greg Mattison: “I do. Now what we do will be out there on Saturday, but I wouldn’t be coaching if I didn’t think we could get this defense to play up to the level that Michigan expects and that is my job and that’s our coaches job. Everybody has different types of talent. Everybody has weaknesses in certain places and strengths in others and what we have to do is make sure that everybody in that defense is playing as hard as they can and make sure that we do the things that we have to do and I would go into every ball. If I didn’t think that I could go into a ballgame and win, I wouldn’t be coaching.”
Question: With Woolfolk and (JT) Floyd back in the lineup? What have you seen from the cornerback situation so far?
Greg Mattison: “First of all, the lineup isn’t set. Nobody in his program is ever handed anything and sometimes it is unfortunate when a guy gets hurt. When a guy gets hurt, he has to come back and earn that position. So we’re still in the initial phases of deciding who are best 11 are. There may be some position changes in our defense before we’re done, depending on how things go. Our goal and what we’ve told our players is that we’re always going to put the best 11 football players on the field and the guys that play Michigan defense. Everybody is still competing. I’m really excited about those guys. Like you said Troy and JT have got experience. They’ve played in the Big House. They’ve played against some good teams. What they are like now and how they perform now that will determine who plays and who doesn’t.”
Question: What are you expecting specifically out of Jibreel Black this fall?
Greg Mattison: “Jibreel is like any other young guy that he has to prove himself every ay and the thing that happens with young guys, they can’t have days where there are not trying as hard as they can. Guys who have talent can get away with that at times but not in this program. In this program, you are judged by your ability and then from that point on what you do. Jibreel has a lot of talent. Right now, Jibreel has got to be more consistent. For him to be a guy that we’re going to count on, he has got to come out to work every day and execute. That’s for everybody, not picking just on Jibreel. I’m not saying anything negative with him, but I’m not ready to say right now that this guy is the next Terrell Suggs. Everybody has an opportunity and everybody knows what they have to do. We’re only two into it, but they all know what to expect and they all know what they have to do.”
Question: You mentioned position changes would that be an offense-defense thing?
Greg Mattison: “It is anywhere in your defense. It is not always about height/weight that kind of thing, you are going to put the best 11 on the field. That will always be what we do and we’ll evaluate that all the way through camp. The thing that we’ve always done and it was always done with Bo (Schembechler), always done with Gary Moeller and Lloyd (Carr). Every game you are judged. You may have that position one game, but if you do not play the way you are expected to play the next guy may be playing and nobody is ever promised that position. You earn it every week on how you play and that’s the way we do things on defense.”
Question: You talk about the big plays and trying to limit those…. have you been able to see enough in spring and just these two practices on what might the strength of this defense be or what will be kind of the key area for your defense in able to be successful?
Greg Mattison: “That’s a great question. I can’t say right now that we’re a blitz team. I can’t say right now that we’re going to be a coverage team. The only thing I can say is that we’re going to play with unbelievable effort. The thing that I hope we can say after this camp is over with is that this team is going to play with great technique. What we are from then will determine who is in there playing and what is happening right there. I know what I want to be. I want to be a team that nobody can the run the football on first of all. I don’t ever want a defense that people run the football. I want a defense that is aggressive that makes that quarterback nervous when it is a passing situation. The next will be to find out do we have the players to do it or are they performing to do it and that will determine it.”
Question: Any of the freshman jump out at you?
Greg Mattison: “The freshmen have been in school. The freshman that are here most of them have been in school, but I can tell you that I like these freshman. I think Frank Clark has a lot of ability. You can see a different at which he goes. Brennan Beyer looks like a guy that we thought when we saw him on film that hey this guy has got a chance. I hate to single out guys because there are a whole bunch of them and we really haven’t…some of them haven’t even been at practice for more than a half hour because they had classes. You ask that question next week, I should be able to answer that a lot more honest.”
Question: Do you have to catch yourself sometimes after working Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and all these guys that these guys are not on that talent level?
Greg Mattison: “No. I was the luckiest guy in the world to have a chance to work with those guys. Coaching is taking what you have and making sure that it can learn. With Ray and those guys, you didn’t have to tell them how to step. You didn’t have to tell them how to punch anybody. What you had to do was make sure that you a defense in that he was successful at or the defense was successful. Here, you might have to teach a guy how to step. You might have to teach a guy how to do that and that’s what is fun about coaching. Coaching is taking a guy who is not a great football player or people don’t think, maybe you guys don’t think he is a great football player and then four years from now, he is coming to you and saying coach what agent I should have because I might have a chance of getting drafted. That’s what coaching is and then at the same time if he is not going to end up being a chance to play in the NFL, he has got his degree. That is what really makes this job special.”
Question: What are your expectations for Marrell Evans? Is he outside or inside?
Greg Mattison: “He is an inside linebacker and he showed some very good things in the spring. That group of linebackers if you had to ask, I would say day-to-day may have improved more than any other position, since the spring. Since the first day of spring till now. The thing we got to find out is that because they weren’t really talented and they’re really going now or is it because they are really, really improving and I happen to think it is because they are really improving. They are a group and all of them have been this way, but they are a group, hey coach what do you want me to do, I’ll do it and I’ll practice it like you want me to practice it. I think that is why they’ve improved. I think Mark Smith has got a really good group there. He is working really, really hard with them. The thing about them, there are a lot of them are very, very equal. So you’ve got a chance, whoever is playing the best, you have a chance to play that guy.”
Question: In the limited amount that you’ve seen them what do the front seven have to do to be able to become the kind of run stopping unit that you talked about?
Greg Mattison: “They’re not going to get any stronger and they are not going to get any bigger right now. So the whole thing is going to come down to two things… playing with great technique and playing with great effort. We’ve all seen, I don’t ever want to say he didn’t have great effort, but I think the best defensive lineman that I’ve ever been around is Chris Hutchinson. You all remember him and I know I came from Texas A&M where I had just recruited Sam Adams and Sam Adams happened to go to his high school. Chris Hutchinson had a chip on his shoulder when I would talk to him because I would say, boy Sam Adams is a great player and you could just see the look in Chris’s eyes going, ‘I am too.’ I was laying in bed two nights ago and I just was flipping through the channels. I got back late from here and the Big Ten Network had the ’93 Rose Bowl and I saw Chris Hutchinson and I went man was he good. There is a guy that is 6’1-1/2 and he was no more than 250 pounds and he would beat anybody he went against because he had unbelievable technique and he played with a motor that is unreal. We’ve got those same kinds of guys. I think there are a lot of guys like that if they do what he did and he had a passion for the game. He was a guy that when he hit the sled, you wouldn’t have to tell him to do it again, he would know if it was not like he wanted and he would say let me get another rep on this. I think we have those guys.”
Question: Can you sense or feel how hunger this defense is to have some success because they haven’t had it here?
Greg Mattison: “Yeah I feel that. I feel it for them. Ever since I’ve been here, all I’ve heard and that’s why I purposely didn’t go back and watch all the film. It doesn’t matter. All we care about is that this defense plays the way that Michigan defenses are supposed to play. I would be the happiest guy in the world for them at the end of the year to do what we want them to do for them. Because they have gone through a tough time and any time a defense works hard and gives of themselves like they have since we’ve gotten here then you want them to have rewards and that is what our goal is for coaches. We want this defense to be able to stand up and put their chest out like all other defenses that I’ve been around to watch Michigan’s defense, that’s what they’ve always done.”
Question: How long do you think it is going to take for your guys to fully understand what your trying to do?
Greg Mattison: “I think they understand now. I think the next phase is doing the technique… doing the little things, doing all the things that have to do to execute that defense. I think they understand it a lot more than they do when we first got here and put it in the spring practice.”
Question: You talk about feeling 35… is part of that, part of this job the recruiting aspect? You can’t talk specifics but just in general how much you like that?
Greg Mattison: “I’ve always loved recruiting. I’ve always like recruiting because you’re going out working to make your job a better job. The other thing that I’ve always loved recruiting when you are at a place like Michigan and I’ve been fortunate to have been at some pretty good schools. I can tell you this, 1978, 1979 and 1980, I didn’t like recruiting much because I was recruiting for Northwestern University and our record was 1-30-1 and I would go as far away as I could to recruit and people would say, ‘what is your record?’ I would say, ‘oh 10-1,’ and they would go, ‘good year.’ I know one thing, recruiting wasn’t very good then. When you’re recruiting for the University of Michigan and having the direction that Brady has given us right now and Dave Brandon has given this program and everything like that, if you got blood going through your veins, you want to go get that young man to come here because you want him to have this. It is not like you’re trying to be a salesman, you want him to have what is about to happen here. It makes your job a lot better and you are selling a great, great product.”
Question: Are you surprised with how quickly you’ve been able to put together this 2012 class?
Greg Mattison: “No not at all. I’m being dead honest with you. It’s Michigan. It’s Michigan and to me it has always been that way. You’ve got a tremendous product here in young men that want a great education and play great football with a tremendous city and tremendous school, what else is there in college. It is just going out and finding players and presenting it. The thing that we want to do here is to make sure that we get Michigan type players. Our mission here is to get players that the University of Michigan is going to proud of also and that’s young men that want academics. That want to win and want to be good people, they have character. That is what we’re looking for.”
Question: What is about to happen here? You said you want to bring people here, what is about to happen here? What do you think it is?
Greg Mattison: “I don’t even know if I should even answer this question.”
Question: But you mentioned it.
Greg Mattison: “I know in my heart what is about to happen here. We’re going to have a Michigan football program that Bo, Coach Moeller, Coach Carr are going to be proud of again and a program that has been built for many, many years of doing it the way we’re trying to do it right now. I just believe in my heart that that is going to happen. When it happens, we’ll find that out. It is Michigan and there are a lot of guys, players, coaches, administrators that are all working really, really hard together to get that done. Whenever you have that amount of people working together with a great product it has got to be something that is about to happen.”
Question: How happy do you think Bo would be that Brady Hoke is the coach at Michigan right now?
Greg Mattison: “I think he would be smiling like crazy right now. Watching how he drives this team, watching how he loves this team, watching how he stressed technique, watching how he has talked so much about the tradition. All those kinds of things are what this program was built on forever. That’s the way Brady is doing it.”
Question: Would you say that defensive line is your deepest group, your most talented group so far?
Greg Mattison: “I don’t know yet. I just don’t know yet. They probably would be the guys who have played the most. I don’t know yet and that’s something that we’ll have to wait and see as camp goes on and as we get into the ball games.”
Question: How little of film did you watch?
Greg Mattison: “Three games.”
Question: What games did you watch?
Greg Mattison: “I watched Wisconsin, Michigan State and I watched Notre Dame.”
Question: Why those three?
Greg Mattison: “Because those are hard nose physical team and like I said our number one thing always on defense will be to be physical and to stop the run and I just wanted to look at that just to see the scheme. Other than looking at possible draft choices the last three years I haven’t watched any college film other than TV. I wanted to kind of just look at it just for my own sake and I didn’t even watch…I didn’t know who the players were. I really didn’t know. I didn’t have a program in front of me. I was just watching the schemes and watching what they did offensively and that was really, really early when I got here.”
Question: As someone who loves Michigan how hard was some of that to watch especially against Wisconsin and Michigan State?
Greg Mattison: “I can tell you this, there are two games that I would watch…in the NFL on Saturday that’s the day you kind of get a little free time. You’re supposed to be at the hotel by five o’clock but my wife would always take me to the hotel by 12 o’clock and I would always tell her because I wanted to work on the game plan longer, she figured out later that that really wasn’t the case. I laid in my bed and just watched college football games on TV. The games that I seem to always get was Florida and Michigan. Any time places where you’ve been at where there not having success, it bothers you. Those are the games I watched.”