Chris Graham: Craig Littlepage reiterates support for Mike London

london littlepageWith spring practice looming, UVa. athletics director Craig Littlepage is doubling down on his vocal support for embattled football coach Mike London.

“I think he will get things back on track, yes,” Littlepage told ESPN.com in an interview on Monday, reiterating comments made toward the end of the 2013 season, a miserable 2-10 campaign that ended on a nine-game losing streak.

“He’s recruited well, A, and B, I think he’s assembled a phenomenal staff, and C, I think that he has the right values and understand the University of Virginia and what it takes to be successful here as well as anybody. Those three things would lead me to believe he’s going to get things back on track,” Littlepage said.

The problem here is with Littlepage’s point A. London no question recruited two of the nation’s top 10 players in the Class of 2014, defensive tackle Andrew Brown and safety Quin Blanding, but the class overall was rated 39th overall by Rivals.com, meaning this recruiting class was the lowest-rated of the four in London’s tenure in Charlottesville.

But the attention on the two players at the top probably saved London’s job. It was assumed that London would build a top class around Brown and Blanding, and that either of the two or both would bolt if London were let go.

The idea that one or even two top recruits alone can turn around a football program represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how a football team is built. One or two national top 10 basketball recruits can turn a program around because a basketball coach only has 13 scholarships to hand out, only five guys on the court at any one time and at best nine or 10 players in his playing rotation.

Football is different. You’ve got 22 starters on offense and defense, 44 on the two-deep, plus specialists. You need quality, sure, but you also need quality depth. The Class of 2014 only has 17 commitments, including Brown and Blanding. That’s going to be an issue for the coach hired to take over the UVa. program when London is fired at the end of the 2014 season, and don’t think that’s not going to happen, because it clearly is.

UVa. in 2014 faces arguably the toughest schedule any UVa. team has ever faced, with UCLA, BYU, Louisville and Florida State in addition to the entirety of the coastal division. Most forecasts have Virginia winning maybe two, three games, and that may be a stretch.

Littlepage recognizes the hot seat that his football coach is on.

“I think coaches all see themselves on the hot seat,” Littlepage told ESPN.com. “The nature of our business is we are all driven, [and] in many cases [they are] type A people who strive for success and hold ourselves to a very high standard. I wouldn’t categorize any one coach or any one athletic director or any specific staff member to be on the hot seat because we all push ourselves toward the optimum in terms of performance.”

 

         
 

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