Jay Bateman: Breaking Down Defensive Struggles and Looking to the Future

Brant Wilkerson-New

North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman met with the media on Monday morning to review the Tar Heels' loss at Pittsburgh and look ahead to Saturday's matchup with Mercer.

Here's what Bateman had to say:

What are the struggles the past two weeks?

I think we’ve had a hard time with some of the pass concepts we’re seeing. And I think what happens is, with some of the youth in the secondary and then having to move around with the linebackers a little bit, we just don’t have a lot of banked reps when it comes to certain things. I’ve got to coach them better. And we’ve got to be able to translate -- it’s hard to practice exactly what you get. The enemy gets a vote.

So we’ve got to be able to handle some in game adjustments a little better than we have. I think that’s the problem with youth. You’ve got immature kids, you’ve got kids who haven’t played a lot and then you try to get them to do something that we haven’t practiced, that’s where some of our challenges have lied (lain) I’ve got to do a better job of preparing them for that stuff. I felt like we were a step behind on all those throws against Pitt

How hamstrung are you because of the cornerback situation?

It’s more like how we prepare. We know we’ve got to protect them some. I haven’t done a good enough job of saying, ‘you know what we’re going to live with some plays out there.’ I’ve got to do a better job of that. And I think going forward that’s going to be our mindset a little more.

What’s the balance of keeping their confidence up of the younger guys and living with those plays?

That’s a factor too. I think with Storm Duck and (DeAndre) Hollins, those are two kids we think are going to be really good players. I’ve had it happen to me before, you put in young corner who is not quite ready and it takes you another year to get him back.

I think with Patrice Rene when he was a freshman, from everybody I’ve talked to, he got thrown to the wolves a little bit. It took him a year or two to get him back. I don’t want that to happen. And so I’m trying to manage their reps. I think they have improved. So I think as they get more practices with the ones, as they get more game reps, they’ll be better, and I think we can allow them to be in one-on-one coverage a little more.

Is there another position similar to that in the sense of mentality?

Quarterback. I think probably O-Line. But I think the media and fans don’t see it as much probably with an O-Lineman. But we’ve had some young D-Line that have made mistakes. But when you make a mistake in the secondary, it’s different. And they know that. So we’ve got to do a better job of what our job is and cover people when we have a chance to. When we do that, we’ll see success.

What have you seen from Don Chapman that got him to get a start this weekend?

You know, he started against Georgia Tech and then we kind of had a bye week, and we kind of felt like we need to get some older kids on the field. I thought against Georgia Tech he played well. He had an interception. But I could just tell, he wasn’t quite ready. And I give Don a lot of credit. He’s worked his tail off. We have felt very confident that if he had to go in the game he could. And then so against Pitt, we’re having some struggles and I felt like making the move and I thought he came in there and played really well. He is going to be a really, really good player here. We’re very fortunate he’s here. I texted him after the game, I said, ‘I cannot wait to coach you, for, I hope, three more years.’

Is he somebody you’re not really worried about?

Don Chapman is a tough dude. Comes from a tough place. He decided to come out here. He could have gone about anywhere in the country. I’m not worried about his confidence a whole lot. He’s going to go and compete.

Did you recruit him at Army?

I did. I was his first offer. It’s actually pretty crazy because we offered him and then he got offered by everybody. I think he committed to Colorado and then they got fired and he was going to go to Washington State, and he decided to open it back up. I think everybody on the West Coast recruited him. Tim Brewster and I, after the first signing day said we’ve got to try and find another DB. We need another DB for this class. And John Mark Hamilton and the recruiting staff gave us a list of about, I think it was about 400 kids that had at one point had BCS offer and weren’t committed on the first signing date. So the first 200 came off because they weren’t good enough. And then you start looking at grades, you start looking at, well he really is committed. He’s just going to wait. And it ended up being 10 kids we liked.

And I was like, 'Don Chapman, I know that name.' I think when I messaged him, I think it was Christmas Eve. I got him on Twitter. I said hey why don’t you call me. And we talked and it was kind of yeah, I’ve got this going on, I’ve got that going on coach.’ And I kind of talked him into coming out here. And I think he came out here and really enjoyed our players. Really enjoyed Coach Brown and we’re very fortunate he’s here. He’s going to be a really good player.

They had some success scrambling, what is the issue on defense on why that happened?

If it’s one thing I would fix it. So part of it is the coverage we’re playing. We’re trying to protect people. We’ve got more people in coverage. And so when he does break the line of scrimmage, when the escape hatch opens up, we’re further away with the next defender to go tackle him. The second thing is, we’re getting after those guys to go rush the passer. And you can’t handcuff them, you’ve got to let them rush. And we had a little bit different structure out there and sometimes we had some guys that probably made some decisions I wish they hadn’t as far as pass lanes go. So there’s that piece of it, right? And we weren’t able to pressure as much as we normally want to, attribute to Pitt. and so, I think we were a little bit -- they kind of knew where we were coming from a little bit. And so I think the protection became easy to create some of those escape hatches. But I also think Pickett is a really good player. All those things factor into it, but it's certainly an issue what we talked about.

Where does a scrambling QB running for a first down rank in your level of frustration?

That’s up there, but it’s not top five. Not closing the post in three deep for a 75-yard TD is probably one.

What’s the rest of the top five?

Not talking to each other. That’s our biggest issue I think right now, is communication. I’d say that’s pretty high. Missed tackling is up there pretty high. Especially if we miss on the wrong side. Chazz missed one on Saturday. On Thursday rather. If he misses on the right side we were off the field. I would say those are the three that would get me the most.

What are the three things that make you the happiest?

Sacks, interceptions, fumbles.

You’re losing a lot, what do you see from defense moving forward?

I think we lose Myles Dorn, who is a real competitor. Really smart. I think when you lose the two inside kids who are two really good players. I think the inside linebacker position is really healthy. I think Chazz and Jeremiah will be back and they are really good players. And I think Khadry Jackson and Eugene Asante are going to be really, really good players. So I feel really good about that position. And I think Tomon Fox is a really good player who hopefully comes back for a year. I think he’s a really dynamic player.

And in the secondary, we’re going to have a lot of kids that can go out and cover and allow us to do some of the things we want to do coverage wise, as far as being able to have five DB’s on the field because right now we’re struggling to do it a little bit. I’m excited about the corner position moving forward. I’m excited about the safety position moving forward. I thought Cam Kelly before he got hurt was going to have a really good year for us. And we get Wolf back.

So I think the secondary is going to become -- right now I don’t want to say a liability, but right now it’s something we’ve got to handle a little bit differently than we want to. I think that’s going to become a real positive moving forward. The two is going to be the inside kids on defense. The two D-tackles. And I think Ray (Vohasek) is really coming along. Jahlil (Taylor) is really coming along. We’ve got some young kids we think are pretty good. Hopefully on Dec. 20th we’ll be better, too.

What does senior day mean to you?

The thing I’ve been most impressed with these seniors, I think I’m their third D-Coordinator, for most of them, with their third or fourth position coach in some cases, and they have never blinked. It’s never been one time, ‘well what about this way, I like this way better. This call is too hard.’ I mean, they have really embraced what we’re trying to ask them to do. I think they’re really good leaders. I think they compete. And there’s a bunch of them that have a future to continue to play. Myles Dorn obviously, Dominique Ross, the two D-Lineman. Jason and Aaron. Allen Cater. There’s a lot of good players, so we’re going to need to replace them.

Is there anyone of that group that has made an impact on you?

Obviously, I spend most of my time with Myles Dorn. My relationship with him is one that I really value. I think he’s a really cool kid. I think he’s played all but nine snaps this year. When I try to take him out of practice, he gets mad at me. So for a kid who has got a future probably to continue playing, I’m his third or fourth position coach, third or fourth D-coordinator, and for him to have that kind of relationship with me, he’s a pretty special kid.

What does it mean to have a guy like that?

So when I first got here he was injured. So he wasn’t hitting. In the spring, he tried to go a couple of days and couldn’t really go. But first you saw on the defense he had these like 3 by 5 index cards. He was writing notes down. I’m like this dude man, how about a notebook. And I realize there’s like a stack of these things and he’s going through them like he would prepare for a class. These are my flash cards, I’m going to review when I’m in study hall.

So pretty quickly I could tell that football made sense to him. His dad played in the NFL for seven years. He’s been a pretty good player for a while. I tell all the NFL scouts. I’ve sat in enough of those secondary rooms. ‘Myles Dorn will make your team.’ Because he’s going to be able to play both safeties. He’s going to know what to do at nickel. He’s going to know what to do at speed linebacker. He’s going to cover every kick. He’s going to show up every day.

He’s a pretty special kid. I wish he had another year.