Senior cornerback J.T. Floyd (Greenville, S.C./J.L. Mann), senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne …
GBW 1-on-1 with Greg Mattison (w/video)
GBW: As far as preparation for the bowl, how has the defense responded and how have you gotten back into things especially being down here (in Tampa)?
Mattison: "I've been very impressed with our defensive guys throughout the bowl preparation. They've enjoyed themselves, which they've earned, but at the same time every time we ask them to do something and prepare --- mentally, in meetings, on the field --- there's been great leadership. So I'm excited about the preparation and that's been a key for us all year. We talk about it all the time. We'll play as well as we prepare and they seem like they've really bought into that.
GBW: Missing a senior starter at the corner position (J.T. Floyd), how has Raymon Taylor stepped in?
Mattison: "Michigan is Michigan and you know that. It's just like if you would have asked me that question when Blake Countess went down on the first play of the Alabama game. If you're Michigan and you're a top-notch defense, the next guy has got to step up. That's why we demand so much of our kids to practice as hard as they do whether you're a first unit guy or a second unit guy. I know our guys are going to play their hearts out."
GBW: Where does the leadership come from (at CB) --- is that Courtney Avery?
Mattison: "Well, our leadership has always been there with Jordan and Thomas Gordon has done a great job of stepping it up. Our secondary has really bonded and they've really, really played together. So, next guy in plays."
GBW: As far as South Carolina, preparing for a quarterback that can do so many different things, it seems since Lattimore went down they've had a couple of different running backs. Talk about their offense and what they want to get done?
Mattison: "They're going to be, obviously, an offense, with Steve Spurrier being the head coach there, they're going to give you some trick plays --- we know that. They're going to give you some things to make sure you're ready to play it. They've got speed on the perimeter, they've got a very good tight end and they've got a big offensive line. But, that's something we prepare for and we're looking forward to playing against that."
GBW: What has it been like along the defensive line, how have they prepared over the past few weeks?
Mattison: "Tremendous. I mean, when you've got Jerry Montgomery and the head football coach and then me, standing, looking over them, they take pride in it. What they've done and this whole team has done it, I'm really proud of how they've taken pride in trying to play Michigan football. It's not always been perfect but they are really trying to do what we're asking them to do. This game will be a really good test."
GBW: Looking back now at your time here at Michigan, how close do you feel you're starting to get towards having the depth and having the seniors that can set the example for the young guys moving up in this defense?
Mattison: "I think we're very close as far as the mental part and setting the example. The great thing about a bowl game and we've always said this in all my time I've been around Michigan is, how you do in that last game is Michigan football. Those seniors are going to put it all on the line and you are kind of marked by what you do in that senior game and that last game. That's what this is for them."
GBW: Talking about some of the freshmen, specifically the guys up front that are redshirting this year, how are they responding and have you seen the seniors kind of help them along too?
Mattison: "Practice tempo, whether you're a freshmen or senior, there's a bar which you got to play. For them to get 15 more practices is unbelievable and that's what we've worked really hard on, making sure they get 15 really good practices."
GBW: Most important thing, and I know you preach it every week, but most important thing to stopping South Carolina's offense?
Mattison: "Has nothing to do with the future, nothing to do with the past. This is a preparation time for us to see where is our defense? As you know, how I feel, it doesn't matter what happens anywhere else --- if the defense plays, the defense should win the game. We have to do what we have to do to make sure we win the football game."
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