Jay Bateman Press Conference: Preparing for N.C. State, Defensive Depth and a Favorite Thanksgiving Dish

Brant Wilkerson-New

North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman met with the media on Monday morning to discuss the Tar Heels' victory over Mercer and look ahead to Saturday's rivalry matchup with N.C. State.

Here's what he had to say:

When you look at film, how far back do you go when preparing for an opponent? I know you said you went and looked at the pop pass for Duke...

"Yeah, that's probably further than I would normally go. I just remembered that play. We look at every play they had that season. So like N.C. State we've looked at every game they've played this year, and then we look at if they played us the year before, we look at that game, and then in the off season kind of what we do is we go through opponents that we think are similar to us structurally on defense or similar ability wise to us on defense and we pull out certain things to prepare for the season, and then we go back and look at it as we're preparing for this year. So, pretty good ways."

N.C. State has a new offensive coordinator. How does that affect that?

"I think the structure of the offense is pretty similar. Obviously it's a different play caller. I've got things that I like that on certain situations that another defensive coordinator might not like, so you start to look at that. I think it would be a little bit harder if it had been the first or second game of the season, but now we've kind of seen them all year so we have an idea of what they want to be and who they are and all those kind of things."

They've played three quarterbacks. Are they pretty much the same regardless of the quarterback with how they approach their plays?

"I think the first kid that played for them I thought was a really talented kid. They went away from him and he was a little bit more of an RPO runner guy, but since they went to the Hochman kid second and then the kid they're playing now. So, the last two are very similar I think. One's left-handed and one's right-handed. Other than that it's very similar."

What defenses do you look at for structural similarities?

"Teams that are more 3-4, Virginia, Louisville now. It's really more run game stuff. The pass game kind of is the same most of the time."

You played a lot of guys on defense against Mercer that hadn't played much this season. How important is it for you going into the offseason to be able to evaluate those guys on film instead of just in practice?

"I was proud of our guys. Khadry Jackson and Eugene Asante went in in the second quarter and part of it was we've wanted to play those guys. We just haven't had much of an opportunity. I felt like every play we've played other than the end of the Georgia Tech game has been life or death. So, it was good to see them. I was proud of those guys going in. We call them 'one and a halves.' They're not starters, but they should play. They're good enough to play. I thought they went in and did a good job. So, for them to get live work, to get live tackling, it was good. It was really good."

In what ways has Ray Vohasek progressed since he got here, especially considering he's only been able to lift weights during the season and a lot of different things he's been able to do here than he was able to at JuCo?

"Him getting here late, Brian Hess has had a little more time to work with him, so I think he's physically a little better, and he's healthier. He hasn't played much, so I think now you're seeing a kid who's got ability, who we always thought had ability, who's now as improved and we're more comfortable with him playing. Now he goes in and you see he plays really well. So, Ray's going to be a very good player for us. I'm glad he's here."

How'd you guys find him?

"He was here when I got here. The previous staff had been recruiting him. I'm glad we were able to get him in the school. He's a good player."

Who do you think will play a role on the defensive line next year?

"Jahlil (Taylor), I think has played really well the last two games. I think Tomari Fox is going to be a really, really good player. We had to kind of play him outside a little bit just because of where we are with certain spots. I think when he moves back inside I think he'll be a really dominant player; another year in the weight room. I'm excited to see. I think he will be a real difference maker inside, and then I think we've got Kristian Varner who played a little bit Saturday who I think he looks like he's gained about 50 pounds since he got here. He'll be an interior guy. So, I think we've got some guys there that we think have a lot of ability that haven't played as much because of how much Aaron (Crawford)'s played that going forward (will be good)...Jahlil's going to be a really good player."

You moved Strowbridge a little bit on the end against Mercer. Is that because it's his natural position or because NFL scouts...

"I think part of it was in pass protection we were seeing people do things to him that inside are harder to counter. So when he's aligned inside and they start double-teaming him and that kind of stuff, it's harder to manipulate that as a defensive coordinator. So, I wanted to get him more one-on-one looks, and then just the way we align a lot of times he's aligned up beside Tomon Fox. So, we had our two best pass rushers, in my opinion, beside each other, and so the protection was getting tilted there so much. We kept kind of blitzing to get the protection away and people were just like, 'Well, we'll deal with the blitz. We're not going to let these two guys disrupt,' and so part of it was to balance those two out, and then the other part of it was when you start looking at who's playing the best for you, right? And we thought Jahlil and Ray were really coming along maybe playing better than the D-ends were playing, so let's move Jason out there and make that position a real strength and see if we can get these other young guys that are improving and playing better in practice and doing a good job more reps inside. So, all of that was a factor."

What was the decision to redshirt Chris Collins?

"I guess I didn't want him...I think Chris is really talented and we went into the season thinking he would play more and he kind of got hurt and he kind of got hurt again and I didn't want to look back this time of the year and say, 'Man, Chris Collins was on punt return for seven of the 12 games and we wasted a year of his eligibility that way.' So, after he had played four we went to him and said, 'Look, we're not going to play you. We're going to travel you and if somebody gets hurt and you have to go in, you've got to go in, but at this point we're trying to manage.' A year from now I think he's going to be a really important part of our defense."

Is he linebacker, defensive end or...?

"He'll be a rush; a rush outside linebacker."

What did you like best about the way the defense played against Mercer?

"I thought we communicated better. I think it started during the week. I think I did a better job giving them things they could handle. I think against Virginia and Pitt I didn't do a very good job. We did a better job as a staff preparing them, giving them an easier game plan and they communicated really well. When we communicate, we're pretty good. When we're aware of things, when we talk to each other, we're able to handle things, and I think we did a much better job Saturday with that and I was proud to see that next tier of kids come in. I was proud to see Eugene and Khadry and Giovanni Biggers and some of those guys come in and play well that haven't had a chance to play yet. So, I think that was probably the two things I was happiest with."

What has stood out to you about N.C. State's offense?

"I think the two receivers are really good, big; No. 3 and 88. I think the two freshmen tailbacks are really talented. They have a very clear plan of what they want to do. I think they do a good job with it. They've played three quarterbacks and all three of them you see strengths with them. I think, obviously, the kid they're playing now, Leary's got a big time arm. I mean, a big time arm. He rips it. He made a throw against Georgia Tech it was like a third-and-17 back shoulder to the field that was in absolute BB. So, you're just like holy moly. So, you know, they've got skill. I think they're good up front. We've got to find a way to try to cover them and not sacrifice so much in the run defense covering them that we have a hard time stopping the run. I think that's going to be the challenge for us this week."

You obviously come from a big rivalry with Army-Navy. What's your take on embracing rivalry games?

"It's a rivalry for a reason. This is the one that everybody wants you to win. I've watched them almost every Friday. I kind of learned this lesson getting ready for Navy. If I waited until the end, and Army-Navy's like a bowl game. You have three weeks, but I felt like when I every couple weeks watched them and saw what they were doing and saw how the offense was progressing, when it came time to go play them, that week I had a really good in my mind how they were trying to attack people and how the offense had morphed. We're a little bit different on defense than we were week one because you kind of morph as guys get hurt and guys start playing better and you start doing certain things better. As opponents attack you, you start to see your weaknesses. So, I think if you wait until the Sunday before to start watching them, you're behind a little bit. We are pretty well prepared. Some of the stuff we did, we didn't tell our kids this, but some of the stuff we've been practicing the last few weeks has been in preparation for this game. So, I think our kids will be ready to go."

Do you watch as a staff on Fridays?

"No, just me. Just me. Yeah, I just buzz through it. We've got an analyst named Preston Mason who's really smart and he's been working on them all year. He kind of comes to me with, 'Hey, look. This is some of the things they did different,' so we're kind of throughout the year working on them a little bit."

Have you managed emotions with your guys based on what happened at the end of last year and the past few years?

"I haven't talked to them about it yet, so no. So far it's been fine. I'll see how they are on Tuesday, but I think they want to win. They know what's at stake. They want to win. They're going to play really well."

Favorite Thanksgiving dish?

"I'm kind of a stuffing guy."