Opening Statement: I had an opportunity during our open week to do several things: One, to look at ourselves and see what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and making sure that we give ample reps and opportunities to some players that one – needed development and two – needed the opportunity to see further looks at some of the things we need to take care of.
The other thing we did was a chance to get on the road and go recruiting and actually see some games, in‑person and live, which is very beneficial for us. We were able – also – to hopefully, as we go into the latter part of this week, guys that had been dealing with injuries and situations that perhaps may have opportunities to have them back.
When you have an open week, you also want to make sure the guys understand that it’s important with two weeks left – that the last day of classes are coming up, and their academic obligations are taken care of, so we spent some time being able to do that with a lot of young men that had papers and exams and things to get ready for.
Being able to also do our scouting report, Miami and some of the things, having early looks on what they do, was also beneficial. So this open week was a chance to do a lot of things, and hopefully will be productive and beneficial as we go into now game week.
I’ll take any questions.
Q. I know the guys have to get out and practice this week, but if Urban and Canady are able to play, what does that mean for the defense?
MIKE LONDON: Well, I can speak to Brent’s situation since he was at a walk‑through yesterday and we’ll see how that progresses on through the week. Maurice is ‑‑ because of his medical condition, I can’t speak in particular to that, but you would like, in hopefully the best case scenario, two of your better defenders having an opportunity to travel and play, would definitely be a plus for us.
Q. Obviously David is still atop the depth chart at quarterback. Will Greyson have more of a chance here these last two games to play even though David is obviously still the starter, or will it be the same sort of scenario you’ve had all season with Greyson kind of just coming in and mop‑up [duty] a little?
COACH LONDON: I mean, what you see is David is the starter. Obviously with the last two games left, if there are opportunities to interject Greyson into opportunities to play in the game, then we’ll do that. But not more than what we’ve been doing as far as trying to develop these guys as we go forward here.
We spend a lot of practice time trying to get guys additional looks and additional reps with ones versus the twos and things that make guys comfortable. Greyson has done a nice job, and he continues to keep getting better. But this game, we go into it as David with the starter, and then as I said, as the game goes on, we’ll see the opportunities that are presented, what we can do to get Greyson in the game.
Q. Has David done enough this year to when you go into spring that he’s still your guy or are you going to look at opening things up there, or have you not thought about that yet?
COACH LONDON: Well, with two games left and obviously opportunities are still being presented for David to improve, I understand that he has an opportunity to be statistically, as far as passes thrown and completed, doing really well. As opposed to other quarterbacks that have been here since we’ve been here. There’s still a development stage for him yet to be seen. But at the same time – you’re always looking for somebody to perform and get better, and with two games left, we’ll see how coming out of these games, how well he’s responded.
Always when you go into your winter workouts and your spring practice preparation, you always want to create a scenario where there’s competition. But this whole season for us is trying to get a guy to play, a starter, first‑year starter, to do well and perform. We’ll see as the season ends up.
Q. One of the statistical categories in which you rank particularly low is yards per completion. Can you talk about your deep passing game and what have been the problems or why do you think you have not been able to get more big plays?
COACH LONDON: Well, I mean, if you go back and you look at some of the games early, some of the drops – that was part of it. Part of the development and the decision making of the quarterback and making the correct reads based on coverages – that is part of it. The inability that once the catch is made to break tackles and gain yards after catch, that’s part of it. There are a number of things that you can look at that speak to the yardage or the lack of explosive plays, as we say, that we have not been able to do.
Again, there’s a myriad of things that you can look at to say we need to improve this, but completions, yards after catch, catching those passes that hit your hands, all those things play into the opportunity to improve that statistic. We have not done that, and that’s definitely something we need to improve on.
Q. Is there a lack of yards after catch?
COACH LONDON: You know, you don’t anticipate having yards after catch being in the single digits. You want opportunities for the catches downfield to be productive. You want catches at those intermediate routes, those 15‑, 17‑yard comebacks and curls and hooks that if they’re caught, on any number of games that we’ve played, that adds to the statistics, the quarterback making the correct reads based on coverage, who’s the open guy, that adds to it.
You want to get better at those situations, and those are some of the things, again, with this week that we addressed and have to get better at because you want those explosive plays, and we’ve been lacking those particular yards after catch and things you’ve just mentioned.
COACH LONDON: Yeah, it’s amazing how ‑‑ they’re still a very good football team. That’s number one. But it’s amazing when you have different players that are kind of your ‑‑ the heartbeat of your team, that when you lose a guy, his ability and what he can provide, not only with just running the ball on the scrimmage plays but on the special teams aspect of it, too. He’s dynamic there. It just goes to prove sometimes when you have those guys that are injured, the significance that they’ve had in your offense or what they do for you, that the next man up mentality, although the next player wants to do good, and Crawford is a very good back, but there’s a reason why there’s a first team and a second team.
You could say you’d characterize Duke as kind of the heart and soul of a team that’s got a lot of talented players, and obviously it does affect them. But that’s part of college football. You lose guys at inopportune times, and guys come back at those same situations.
We’ve experienced our fair share of losing some of the best players on our team, and hopefully we get some of our guys back, but you can tell that they do miss a guy like Duke.
Q. I believe at this point since Andrew Brown is enrolling in mid‑year I think at this point his paperwork is in and you’re allowed to comment publicly, so the first question on him would be what kind of player do you think he is for you, and what is he going to bring to your defense?
COACH LONDON: Well, there is a new rule in the NCAA when there’s a mid‑year admit who’s signed a grant‑in‑aid, the opportunities to have unlimited contact with him, phone calls, visits, all those type of things, and being able to take advantage of that is one of the things we talked about what I did during the course of the weekend. Andrew is a dynamic player on the defensive side that he’s the No. 1 defensive tackle in the country, and I know that his ability, his accomplishments, his work ethic, I mean, there’s so many different things about him that he brings to the table that makes your football team a better team.
Again, we’re excited about his opportunities with us. Oscar Smith is a very, very good football team. They played a great game, the one that I watched, and now they’re going on to the next round, but that’s a great program that Coach Morgan produces, a lot of excellent players. So we’ll enjoy the fact that Andrew will have a chance to enroll mid‑year and be with us in another month and a half.
Q. The past three weeks with Miami, their defense in particular has given up a lot of points, a lot of yards. Without going into specifics do you take things from what these past three teams have done and add them to your game plan? How do you go about sort of doing that, especially when you see a defense that’s looked vulnerable the past few weeks against other teams?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, you always take what you see other teams do and what teams have success at doing and then see what you do and see how similar it is to it and the approach that you have and the approach that teams have taken and had some sort of success with it. That’s part of game planning. That’s part of evaluating the film, evaluating the players that you have versus the players that they’ll be going against. I’m quite sure that there’s some movement, there’s some things that other teams have done based on what they saw match‑ups were, and that’s part of the coordinators’ jobs are to find those things that can help us be productive and successful. So that’s what we’re doing.
We were doing that early, and now going into game week – we’ll continue to do that.
Q. Is it easier to do that against a guy like Al Golden who you’ve been around, you maybe have more insights into his tendencies than maybe another coach?
COACH LONDON: I don’t believe it’s because Al and I know each other that I have any special insight into the play calling or what they like to do. What they like to do is run the ball, and they do a very good job of doing that. As soon as you bring up that extra guy to stop the run, then they’ll throw the ball behind you with those excellent receivers.
I know Al likes a physical presence of a team, being able to pound the ball, and likes to play sound defense. But as I said, it’s amazing, you look at college football, watching the Auburn‑Georgia game, you watch Baylor and Texas Tech, how Baylor comes back and scores 63 points. College football today, Duke played a good game, it’s amazing how we’re all looking for those plays or those things that can help us win games and just look at just the way college football is being played now, you’ve just got to be on point any given Saturday, any given opportunity.
Q. You have been successful against Miami in your career, I think 3‑0. What’s been the secret there, and can you use any of that for positive vibes going into Saturday?
COACH LONDON: Well, I don’t play in the games, the players do, and there are some players on our team that have been successful against Miami for whatever reason. I mean, that’s a very good football team, and you have to raise your level of play there when you’re playing a team like that. You can only ‑‑ you’ve got to take it ‑‑ every year a new team has an identity and is born, and what happened before, that was the last couple years, but what matters is the execution and the opportunity to play well enough to win in 2013.
Q. We’ve heard you say maybe multiple times that “I’ve got to coach better.” Obviously you’ve been trying to coach the best you can up until this point. What do you think you could do better other than win?
COACH LONDON: Well, I mean, you always think about what you do, what you need to do as far as developing the players, from practice scheduling to motivation to coaching the coaches to developing the plan. There are always things that you have to be critical about, and it’s always accentuated when you’re not having success. All the little things are always accentuated, when you’re winning games and those things aren’t as much of an issue because you’re winning games.
But you have to be critical of what you do and try to get better at those decision‑making processes that can help you become a better coach or be a better coach. There’s not one particular thing. Its just stick to the plan – I believe in what we’re doing. I believe, again, that we’re on the right path of developing these players as they start to mature and get bigger, faster, stronger. I believe in the plan and the process. I believe in the guys that are coming as we just talked about, and more to come like that. I believe in the positive part of what this program can be. I mean, it’s easy to get hung up on the discouragement and the disappointments of what’s going on, but I believe in the things to come and the process of it being better.
Q. This is now a two‑game season for the team. What were you hoping to see from the players when they came back yesterday after the bye weekend, and did you see it?
COACH LONDON: Well, you hope to see, and I saw, a renewed sense of energy. You come back off of these open weeks and you talk about being revived, rejuvenated, refreshed, all those things that lend itself to when you have an open week, and just the opportunity to finish up. We’ve got two games left, and there are six seniors that have played a lot this year that it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we do whatever we can for them to go out on a winning note. That’s the main focus.
And again, when you have a team with only six seniors, they’re looking at opportunities, not just with two games left, but they’re looking at the future. They’re looking at the possibilities as they move forward here. But we all want to go out on a positive note for a lot of these guys like Bowanko and Rijo Walker and Tim Smith. Those guys have done a great job, Morgan Moses, even though Sean Cascarano is no longer playing and kind of a student coach, guys like himself that you want to go out on top for.
Q. Although it’s been mild, have you been surprised at all at the impact Justin Renfrow has been able to make for Miami since leaving here?
COACH LONDON: Justin has done a nice job for them in terms of providing depth for them. Justin graduated here and had the opportunity to move on and become a member of Miami’s team, and he’s having success there. We always wished him well when he left, and I know they’ve got some more games going where he’s been a contributor, and that’s been good for him.
Q. What did it mean to your program with Brown sticking by his commitment and signing, and what does that say to the other kids around the state that are considering you guys?
COACH LONDON: Well, I can tell you that despite everything that was going on season‑wise and the frustration of not having a successful record, but a young man that made a commitment, his family made the commitment and has been on the inside of the program and has seen things with talking to our players and the development of how guys from down in his area, not just from his area but that come to the program, how they’re doing, because players always talk to other players, and that’s the significance of any program of any recruiting, of gathering and gaining talent, is the players that are there. And to have a player of his caliber, of his ability is very, very significant for us because the other players look at him and saying, ‘I’m coming because I can make a difference. That’s why I’m coming.’
Those attitudes of young men you appreciate. You want to give them every opportunity to do that, as well.
Q. Do you have anybody else in the same category, anybody else who has been approved to come in at mid‑year?
COACH LONDON: No, Andrew is the only one for this year.
Q. I don’t have your bio and Mark’s in front of me, but did you work with Mark D’Onofrio here?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, we were here together.
Q. What do you remember about that time? I know he’s catching a lot of criticism right now for the way their defense is playing.
COACH LONDON: You know, I know Mark to be a smart, good football coach. Obviously he’s catching criticism and flak. That’s part of the business. That’s part of the process. But he knows football, and I’m quite sure that with the frustration that he’s having that he believes in what he’s doing, as well. I know him to be a very good coach, good man, good husband, good father, and a friend. I’m quite sure that he’s gearing at trying to get them back to where they need to be.
Q. I saw Renfrow in the spring. I think he was working out with you or he was at least out there. How did things not work out with him? He really didn’t play a whole lot here.
COACH LONDON: No, it was a personal decision. Both sides decided to go separate ways. As I said, he graduated here and made an opportunity that when you graduate that you can transfer anywhere. His option or his choice was Miami, and that’s where he is. I wish him well. Don’t want him to have a great game against us [smiling], but I wish him well because he’s gotten a Virginia degree, undergraduate degree, and he’s moved on and is pursuing another option.
Q. What do you look for in mid‑year or early enrollees in Andrew. Obviously he’s almost like a one‑man class. A particular amount of maturity, or what does it take for somebody to succeed?
COACH LONDON: Probably the biggest thing is his aptitude to be a student first here at this University, an athlete that has a tremendous amount of ability and skill, a mindset that he can be successful in anything he does, character that speaks to who he is when things are going well and when things are not going well, and just his commitment to his craft, his commitment to being the best football player that he can be.
Again, he comes from a great family with a lot of support, a high school program that’s successful, and he comes with all the accolades of being one of the best players in the country. Because he’s in‑state, he’s here, he knows a lot of guys on this team that are having ‑‑ have had some success and have built relationships with coaches here. That’s a formula right there. And again, I’m ecstatic about the fact that he chose us and he’s going to be a part of our family.
Q. Talking about him just as a football player, what impresses you just in terms of his football talent, his abilities?
COACH LONDON: When you look at him, he’s every ‑‑ he’s a big young man, can play inside, can play outside – he’s athletic. A lot of the high school young men like to go on all these tours where you go around and you do these camps and you do these different things, you go against the best of the best in the country, and he is camp in, camp out, was one of the best of the best in what he was able to show and do. I think he’s an immediate pass rushing threat. He’s a run stopper. I mean, there are so many different things. You don’t want to anoint a high school guy as being “the guy.” He’s still got to go against college‑aged offensive linemen that will be fourth and fifth‑year guys. But you do look at a skill level and a skill set that this young man possesses that you can see why he’s as good as advertised.
And then more than anything else, he’s a great young man. I mean, just character‑wise, just a great young man. That’s always number one in my book.
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