Press Conference: Mike London
COACH LONDON: First of all, I’d like to thank several people in the football department, the administrators, professors that spent their weekends dealing with these recruits and student-athletes, the parents as they came in over the weekend.
There’s a lot of people that contributed to holding this class together, doing a great job of continuing the message about having a great education and playing championship caliber football and attracting some of the best student-athletes in the country.
So, again, with that I appreciate those professors and speakers and everyone that had anything to do with this class. It’s truly a class that is filled with quality, depth and a lot of players that can be provided opportunities to play right away. I think it’s a very talented class.
It met specific needs that we had, particularly at the offensive line position. There were a number of players that had the accolades attached to their accomplishments that we’re very pleased to have in our program.
You look at the roster, and whether it’s schools or hometowns, there’s eight different states or schools that are represented in this class – five offensive linemen, three defensive linemen. We’ve categorized two players as big skilled athletes Max Valles and Zach Bradshaw; two quarterbacks. A Parade Magazine All-American running back. Three wide receivers, two in particular, Keeon Johnson and Andre Levrone, who are size receivers, athletic.
And then the younger brother of Perry Jones, who is probably an all everything, utility guy. I think he fits nicely with this class.
Three defensive backs, and three linebackers, one was LaChaston Smith, who is already here, was a mid-year admit. He’ll get used to and acclimated early to what’s going on and the culture here in Virginia. And then the defensive line position, I think there are three linemen there. And Donta Wilkins, a young man that was the player of the year in his region on offense and defense, I think that’s a pretty significant accomplishment for him.
Tyrell Chavis, who John Shuman has told us is the best defensive lineman he’s ever coached while he’s been at Fork Union. So again those are accomplishments that were very – I know the kids are very proud of, but we’re proud to add those elements to our team.
And in particular, not as a side note, but in particular, the last two commits with Eric Tetlow from Richmond Virginia and George Adeosun was something that we knew was going to probably go down to the wire, but as it goes, the last day, before the signing date, you know you’re either on the exhilarating end of that or exasperating end to land two really particular players and particularly two players of need.
So again with this class we’re excited about this class and the depth that it brings and we’re looking forward to having them come to Charlottesville.
Q Could you talk about the challenges holding this class together with the coaching turnover and how you had to go to extra lengths to sign all these guys?
COACH LONDON: Yes, when there’s changes, you know, that obviously coaches build a particular relationship with young men and we pride ourselves on building those type of relationships, that’s what it’s about here. And when coaches have moved on or are gone, then you have to make sure that you fill that void quickly with quality men, with the message being consistent and the same. And you understand that the emotional part of it is very relevant to these young men’s decisions. But you also try to surround them with people that can also step in and be those mentors or those coaching figures.
I think – and I said this at the staff meeting – that the four coaches Anthony Poindexter, Chip West and Scott Wachenheim did a fantastic job for that time that we were down some coaches. They traveled all over. They were in houses, in schools. And they continue with the message. And they did a great job.
And then with the new coaches coming in, you know with Coach O’Brien, John Tenuta, Larry Lewis, Marques Hagans moved to full time and getting on the road himself, they were very impressive in terms of looking at their credentials, but they’re someone that could go into the school and demand the type of respect that their coaching histories have dictated. I think that helped a lot that there were significant coaches that were going to be coaching, teaching them.
But, again, the guys that had to keep it together, I thought, did a fantastic job of doing so.
Q Wanted to ask you about those two offensive linemen commits early in the morning – what was your reaction and how important was it to get that depth there at that position?
COACH LONDON: Very important. Very important because that’s a position that when you look at Virginia and you look at the past linemen that have been here, you look at success. You look at guys that have gone on and played in the league.
And I think in the end, not only the school – the school’s always going to be the drawing card. I mean, Virginia’s a great University. And so there are young men that are always interested in that aspect of it.
But particularly having a chance to get to Eric Tetlow who at the last minute was, that was great, because he’s an in-state player.
And the interesting thing with George Adeosun is like he blew up overnight. It was unbelievable. He left our visit and then Purdue, Oklahoma, he said he was getting on the plane to go to Arizona State visit, and before he got on the plane, Georgia had offered him and later on Tennessee.
So we feel very fortunate that when he came on his visit that he saw what he was looking for, the Comm School, the school, in particular, and he’s a smart, young man that knows what he wants in his collegiate career. And we’re proud to have him.
We’re proud to have his 700 verbal SAT, which is pretty good. I don’t know what the math was, but the verbal was pretty good. But those two young men will be and are very good students. And they’re very good players. And again they’re going to address a depth need that we have.
Q According to what I heard, Tetlow or his family informed you rather late in the evening or early in the morning. You had any over the years call you at that time of night to commit?
COACH LONDON: No. Again, as I said, when you’re on the receiving end, it’s always good when it’s positive news. You don’t want to get that news that he’s going the other way.
But I think in the end –
Q When was it?
COACH LONDON: After midnight.
Q I think it was 12:15.
COACH LONDON: Somewhere around there. But I think that as he had the opportunity to reflect the recruiting process, we had lost a recruit … Tim Cwalina, we always talked about trying to replace him. We had to medical him because of a health condition.
And so going down the end you want to make sure you get the right type of players. And Eric kind of fit the mold from an academic standpoint, from a skills standpoint. Again it was to our advantage, to our delight that he decided to come to Virginia.
Q Taquan Mizzell, you mentioned the All-American back. First of all, had you kind of addressed the situation that happened here on his visit, and what kind of player will he be for you guys, how excited are you guys for him?
COACH LONDON: Sure. The matter with Smoke, as we call him, was a matter handled by the University and the athletic department. It’s a matter that also that I’ll be handling internally with the team and making sure that the situations like that don’t occur again.
But I think from a talent standpoint, he’s a great young man once you get a chance to know him. I believe couple days ago he was just named the Parade Magazine All-American team. And so I know he’s a young man that proved that he belongs here and that he can do well here in this academic environment, athletic environment, and we’re looking forward to having him up here.
Q You have obviously some depth on the offensive line. You talked about the defensive line. Your secondary, you had three kids, two four-star kids on Rivals and another one in Malcolm Cook that you really you had to hold on to late. Those three kids how do you see them fitting in, cornerbacks, safeties, those kinds of things, and you mentioned the opportunity for early playing time. Are those three guys that you’re thinking of when you say that?
COACH LONDON: I think when you look at Malcolm and Kirk and you look at Tim Harris, their size, defensive back size, defenders, particularly Tim and Malcolm, you know, there are playing opportunities for all these players that I’ve mentioned. But specifically you look at what Malcolm did at his career at Fork Union, I think he had like nine interceptions and six of them for touchdowns.
I want to make sure looking at the film that no one fell down when he caught those interceptions. But they’re a very talented group. And we’ll see how things shake out with the players that we have in our systems and in the type of scheme that Coach Tenuta will employ. But we’re glad to have those three, that’s for sure.
Q Since you scheduled Oregon, you have a murderous row right out of the gate for the season. Talking about recruiting, is that something that appeals to the recruits, but also how do you approach the off-season here knowing that’s going to be waiting for you out of the gate?
COACH LONDON: Well, we embrace the fact that the schedule is very challenging. But we also embrace the fact that you look at the staff and you look at the hires, you look at the accomplishment that these coaches have had in their careers.
You look at the players. And to a player – not just particularly on our team, but even with the recruits. I mean, they’re excited about that. So with the 2013s now under the belt, the 2014s will see that the scheduling and look at Virginia in terms of the facility that will be done here hopefully soon, you see progress. You see a lot of things that are going on with the program.
And I think it’s just a lot of different things that lead to one element and that’s to win games. And that’s to recruit the best student-athletes that are out there. And that’s the goal.
Q I guess he committed in August, but still to have a five-star guy, what does that do to your class and how does
that help make your class more attractive when you get a headline guy like that, like Taquan that came in?
COACH LONDON: It helps you recruit offensive linemen, that’s for sure, because they all want to block for high-profile all-star type of back.
So it helps a lot, because when that young man comes and he has hopefully success here, then others who are looking can look at him and see that he came to Virginia. He had success. It’s interesting that the high school that he’s from – we’ve had production from that high school with Tra’ Nicholson and Anthony Cooper.
So it’s in everybody’s best interest that young men like that come in – that they have a chance to contribute and contribute right away and Smoke, along with other players in this class, as I said, looking to provide quality depth and perhaps even break into playing time.
Q I don’t know if you’re willing to say, but I’m curious, how many of the recruits would you say had second thoughts or you had to reassure when the coaching changes happened?
COACH LONDON: That’s a good question as far as second thoughts. I know there were some that expressed – obviously concerns with the staff change because I said recruiting is a lot about relationships and you develop those type of relationships with the men that were on my staff and recruiting those guys, they’re good men. They’re good people. They’re good coaches.
And I think when there’s that void, then there’s also – there’s doubt and there’s uncertainty. But as I said before, with the four guys that were here, they did a great job of not filling that void but talking again about the message of why they chose Virginia in the first place outside of just a coach or a personality. And then with the addition of the new coaches coming in, the credentials of the new coaches that came in, were strong credentials.
They were men that have been successful the different places they’ve been. So I think it was just a combination of the guys that were here, the message, the school, and the new coaches that had an opportunity to get in front of them. And we had a recruiting weekend that all of them were there together. And it was kind of like a convention there, because I asked everyone to stand up who was solidly committed. And they all stood up and it was a great scene to see that there was a recommitment on their visit. And as I said there are a lot of people that go into having making that successful. And I give all the credit to the coaches.
Q Just a follow-up, how stressful were those initial days afterwards having to – I heard you were traveling around visiting people and what kind of relief was it to see a scene like that at the recruiting weekend?
COACH LONDON: That’s the world of – I was talking to Coach O’Brien today. Basically you have coaches that recruit players in their area, their position and their concern with those issues. But as the head coach, you’re concerned with everything and everybody. And so I tried to get out and see as many people as I could.
Obviously when there’s change like that there’s always the human element of people maybe having second thoughts. And so I thought it was important to get out to see as many as we could, particularly for me to sit in their schools, in their homes and talk about Virginia, this University, talk about opportunities and talk about the coaches that will be coaching them.
So it went from very, very stressful to, well, I’ll tell you what until about five hours ago, it was still stressful. So until we received all the faxes and NLIs, you can exhale for a brief moment and you gotta go again because now the 2014s are the target.
Q Was it more challenging or harder for you to convince those guys the first time or to go back in and convince them the second time that they should stay here?
COACH LONDON: I think the first time, because of the number of junior days and games that they come and you kind of talk about the school, I think it was easier.
The second time, again because you can never take out the human element of a coach that sits in a living room or has established a relationship with these guys back a year and a half ago, with all the junior days and the football games and the basketball games.
And so the second time around in saying, hey, listen, this person, this coach is not recruiting you any more and changes were made. But give us a chance to show you who is coming and who will also have a significant influence in your life. And I think as I said you speak to the credentials of Tom O’Brien, John Tenuta, Larry Lewis and Marques Hagans being able to get on the road and go to school, particularly Fork Union. Marques went to Fork Union.
So he thought about those days that he wanted to get out of there quickly as well, but he was able to relate to those three young men that were there.
And I just think they saw that and they saw that the opportunity still existed, and there are always elements of change. Change is constant and change is something that we all experience. And they understood that.
But they bought into what we are talking about, the vision that we have here. And they’re a part of us now. Now they’ll be working on the 2014 class as well.
Q Now that the 2013 class is signed and done, are there any changes in terms of whether it’s the responsibilities, whether it’s the areas different coaches recruit, do you have any information for us in that way in terms of what might have changed for your staff?
COACH LONDON: I think that Chip is here and Chip can speak to that. Chip has done a phenomenal job in orchestrating hanging on to these guys, putting this class together. And I think that when you talk to him here shortly, that he’ll give you – he won’t probably give you much but he’ll give you a little bit about what the plans are.
Q How stressful was it when you said you’re still strongly committed stand up?
COACH LONDON: That was a calculated risk right there. But it was – that was on a Sunday. So they came on a Friday. And we kept talking about the message, about the school, about the people. And yes change does occur, but at the same time change can occur for the better.
And by the end of the weekend, they saw where the program is, where it’s headed. They saw the commitment to a staff, to facilities. And it was a good feeling to have them, have all the committed guys stand up and tell us.
George was in that group he almost got up but he sat down real quick. But it was great that here last night or this morning that George stood up.
Q When coaches take over programs, quite often they want to redshirt almost everybody they sign right away. How has your approach to that changed over time and you talk about some guys playing right away, just talk about the evolution of that kind of thing?
COACH LONDON: When you look at our team, we’re still a very young team. Next year’s recruiting class, there might be, I don’t know, maybe nine slots. I mean, we’re a freshman – redshirt freshman – sophomore oriented team. This class that’s coming in in the fall will be my third full recruiting class.
When we got here, most of the players had been committed already. And then we recruited the Tra’ Nicholson class and Eli Harold class.
So I think it takes time to get talented players in your program because of your scheme and your system. We will see how fast we can acclimate to Coach Tenuta’s scheme, to Coach Fairchild’s scheme and to Larry Lewis’ special teams scheme. But I think we’re much more athletic and talented in that regard to be able to transition to any scheme that the three of these coaches may have.
I think that’s key is getting the talented players. Fill in the need for depth purposes, getting very talented players, and of those players that can fill the need, then obviously if they can play, you know, you want to be able to play them. But we’ve gone through two seasons of having to play young players, and you hope you get to the point where eventually they can sit.
Evan Marcus can have them for a year. I would say we’re not quite at that point of being able to have the luxury to do that, but we’re moving in that direction, because guys are getting, they’re getting older and they’re getting bigger and stronger.
But this will be a class because of the talent that’s in it that will have a chance to get on the field.
Q Just to follow up on what you said about that, the prospects standing up. You’ve been around recruiting long enough. You had to know that wasn’t necessarily the final say. Would you have thought you were still in jeopardy of losing a couple of them?
COACH LONDON: A lot of them, their parents were there. I wanted to make the point that Corwin Cutler was there and that he played for Ocean Lakes, he tore his ACL. His team ended up playing in the state championship up in Charlottesville that even despite that injury that I’m still committed to him, I’m committed to his development and his opportunity to come to the University of Virginia, whether it’s this year or prep school or whatever it may be.
So I wanted them to know, I wanted parents to know what a commitment means. And, again, hopefully because of Corwin’s demonstration of saying, coach, you guys stuck with me, I’m sticking with you, that it resonated with the other players and other parents that were there.
And I believe that – a quick note also is when Eric Tetlow was vacillating back and forth whether or not to decommit from Wake Forest. I told Scott Wachenheim to call the coaches. Say the young man wants to talk to us. We want to make sure that you know we want to talk to him. I believe there’s a right way in doing things.
And so eventually we got the permission. And Eric committed, said he was going to stay there. And then he had second thoughts and he called us. So in recruiting, you’re only as good as your word is. And you have to – you’re going to represent what type of program you want, what do you want to be. And it has to be demonstrated by your own actions.
And that weekend was one that hopefully a lot of players and parents were there and saw that and obviously it worked out to our advantage.