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Press Conference: Mike London

Q. How do you deal with teaching these young players to overcome during this losing streak?

COACH LONDON:  You never stop teaching this game, how to play the game.  You never stop teaching about concepts, things that can help you be great players:  effort, energy, and preparation – all those things.  It’s always constant.

But it’s one of those things that you have to shows these young men that adversity is going to happen in life.  We’ve experienced our fair share of it.  At the same time, on the other side, I’ve always said I feel we’re a few inches from making a catch or making a play, tipping a ball, whatever it maybe, to start or ignite a spark. 

We always talk about the positive things.  I’m always looking to the positive things, evaluate what you are, what you’re doing.  These 18-, 19-year-olds are looking to the leadership, seeing what type of positive influences we can provide.  That’s what we’re supposed to do.  That’s the mindset of coaches, staffs.

Q. Coach Lazor calls the plays, are you guys being too conservative? Do you want to get involved in play calling?

COACH LONDON:  Well, I support my coaches.  That’s important.  I know that the plays that are called are called to be successful.  What happens when they’re not successful, then everyone knows it.

I think that Bill on a couple of occasions, if he could, maybe he would do it over again.  But these guys go into the game with the best plans available, best options, best opportunities.  They look great when they work.  When they don’t, they’re up for discussion.

As I said, I support the coaches.

Q. You were talking about keeping things positive.  What do you do to do that, to regenerate yourself in the short time frame between shaking a coach’s hand, walking off the field?

COACH LONDON:  That’s a great question.  It’s true.  You guys that know me – my priorities are faith, family and football.  A lot of times what I rely on is the ability to know that things like that that happen, that occur, it’s just one more step in the process of trying to get this program to where I envision it, to where it can be.

When I step in the room before you guys, in the forefront of my mind is that I will remain positive, that I trust on the faith that I have in that my efforts and my intentions are all geared on trying to win football games, trying to educate young men, trying to be a role model, a mentor and a leader in every way.

When I step into the room, although disappointed with the ‘L’ and the losses, there’s a piece of me that understands there’s a vision, a plan, and these young players that are looking for some sort of way to get through this adversity on the field, that it’s going to happen, and it will be a breakthrough.

There’s so many of them on this team that in their personal lives are devastated in some issues.  I close the door, we talk about what’s going on with them, and it’s the one you’re looking at.  If I look at you, how devastated you are, and I don’t have that positive energy, you don’t see that reflected in me, then that’s a bad situation for the young man.  So when I go in and I face you guys, the media, the questions, I don’t run, I don’t hide from anything.

I’m still very humble.  Still I try to give honest answers.  Maybe I talk too much about the players, coaches. But I don’t try to duck any issues or questions things that go on.  I try to be as up front and honest about it.

I trust in the fact that as we build this thing the right way, that this program, people, our fans, administrators, will be proud.

I know there are still a lot of people that are proud of the program, but disappointed in the outcome of these games.  I know that’s a long answer to your question.  But, as I said, my source doesn’t come from the accolades I get from you guys, whether it was ACC Coach of the Year last year, whatever it was.  That’s fleeting.  That’s here today, gone tomorrow.

My accomplishment is in the development of the players.

Q. You can say faith, but does that get you past a five-game losing streak?

COACH LONDON:  Faith to me is primary.  You say you pray for patience.  Lord, give me patience right now.  It doesn’t work like that.  There’s a process that’s involved in that.

You want things to happen for the players because you see the benefit of the confidence and of the things that are available to them.  But the hard work and the commitment to one another, all those things like that, I mean, that’s the groundwork that’s got to get laid.  You have to put that before you.  You have to do those things.

You can’t automatically think you’re going to go to a bowl game again.  That work has to be started during the summer and beforehand.

I kind of think there was 21, 22 either true freshmen or true sophomores that are playing for this team and having to make significant contributions, your patience does get tested.  But at the same time, you talk about resolve, being resilient, working through this adversity.

We’re not where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination.  But I know that doing the right things are part of the process of even getting through these trying times right now.

Q. Any decisions to make changes on special teams?

COACH LONDON:  Sure, yeah.  We are always talking about decisions.  The thing of note is not particularly the scheme of things – it’s the execution.  If you’re the kickoff cover team, your lane is a certain lane, you see a block coming, instead of taking on the block that’s taught and preached and practiced time after time again, you think you can make it, so you do a quick swim over the top.  All of a sudden that lane you’re supposed to be in, it’s vacated and you get a long return.

A point after a touchdown is kicked.  There’s no reason to try to block a defender when basically the play is over, there’s no reason to block that defender, you get a personal foul, so the ball is kicked off at the 20 yard line, which leads to another field position issue for them to score a point.

So the schemes and things like that are not as much the issue as the people that are executing them and having to quantify, you got to make better decisions, because if not, as you see, the first one led to a touchdown.  The second one – the second penalty after the PAT led to a touchdown for them.  Not executing the field goal that got blocked, the young man basically doesn’t have to jump.  The ball was kicked way, way too low and it got blocked.

As I said, it’s our job to make sure we teach them the schemes – we try to get them in positions to make those things happen.  One of the things that Coach Poindexter and I have talked about, you know Anthony, he’s one of the best players ever played here.  People are like – maybe he’s been here too long.  One of the best recruiters we have on the staff.  Does an outstanding job of that.  He wants the special teams units to perform better.

So we talked about let’s just simplify things.  We got one return, fine, let’s go with that.  Let’s do one of this, whatever it is.  Whatever it is, let’s get it right and let’s practice it enough where we can be successful so these guys don’t have the different techniques.

You like to go in and teach different returns, different style of kicks, all those things like that.  But when you assess your team to see where you are talent-wise, execution-wise, sometimes you got to say, All right, let’s just make it simple.  I think that’s to the point of where we are right now, is just making it simple.

Q. Any thought in to Khalek taking the touchback?

COACH LONDON:  Yeah, I think two of the four or five possessions we had did not go beyond the 25.  But you’re right.  One of those that goes one yard deep, the momentum of the ball is carried into the end zone, this is a decision, I go back to a couple games ago, Duke game, once it goes in there, let it go.  It’s automatically on the 25.

That’s something that we did talk about, that’s something that definitely will be implemented into our approach to kickoffs.  There were a couple kicks that went to the one-yard line.  If you get antsy, you think the momentum is going to carry into the end zone, we’ve all seen crazy bounces occur and then you have issues.  Then you start seeing teams that center strong leg kickers that bloop it up in the air.  The issue of that, if you kick it out of the end zone, they’re on the 35, and you’re starting with another disadvantage.

But your question is well-noted and that is something that we’ll definitely start employing.

Q. Is Phillip Sims right where you thought he would be in regards to the offense and starting at this juncture of the season?

COACH LONDON:  It’s hard to say.  It’s hard to say because you just don’t know how much a young man that’s transferring in, particularly the quarterback position, can grasp whatever you’re doing.

Obviously the skill level is there.  There’s a difference between coming in the game later on and then starting the game and managing the game as you play.  I know Phillip is a great player coming to Oscar Smith, going to Alabama, but that was his second game starting as a quarterback.  Sometimes we lose the perspective of what that is.

I think now, where we are in the second season, the second game of the second season, he understands there’s some things he’s got to work on better, quicker decisions.  But it’s hard to say what we thought we would be with him, particularly since he hadn’t been around us, or the system.

Now we have him.  Now we got to get him caught up to where he can be productive and we can win games.

Q. Have you been impressed by him?

COACH LONDON:  You guys see the fact that he still talks about the game was my fault.  A sophomore, to have that kind of levelheadedness, take the blame, accept whatever the criticisms may be, that’s pretty mature for a young man.  Even when Michael Rocco was playing as a true freshman, sophomore, accepting the criticism and things, that’s what the quarterback position does, that’s what it is.

But it goes back to the type of young men those guys are.  The type of young man that Michael is, the type the Phillip is, even David and the young quarterbacks we have on this team.  It’s positive to have a guy that’s come in and assimilated into this program in all areas well.

Q. Any thought to treating Jake McGee as more a wide receiver?

COACH LONDON:  He’s definitely an option because of his height, because of his athleticism.  Always kind of joking, throw the ball up in the red zone, just like back in his high school going for a rebound.  Because of that athleticism, it does play into a large part in game planning, the opportunity to get him involved in that.

Honestly, there was some game planning plays that had him involved in it.  Had the look been what we anticipated, we would have tried to execute that.  But the look wasn’t that way.

But Jake is an outstanding player, will be.  He is one player that gravitates to the ball.  We’ve all seen great catches that he’s made.  Obviously, we’ve got to find ways to get him involved in that.

Q. How frustrating is it to not have Billy Schautz, especially if you can’t get him back?

COACH LONDON:  I don’t think it’s a question of not getting him back, but it’s when.  It’s difficult on the young man.  Here you are, your last year.  We’ve talked about him before, about almost how he wasn’t going to be here.  But matured, turned himself around academically and everything.  Then he gets a hamstring injury that is quite severe for him.

We’re hoping after the bye week that he returns. He’s doing everything physically possible through Kelli Pugh and our doctors, trying to get that leg right.

We do miss him.  That’s one of our counted-on playmakers that haven’t been playing.  He’s a vocal guy, too.  We have La’Roy Reynolds out there that’s very vocal.  But you miss the energy he has and plays with.

Hopefully after the bye week, his last couple college football games are ones that he can finish on the field, not on the sideline.

Q. How is getting the defensive line some rest in the game with young guys like Mike Moore?

COACH LONDON:  If you remember, we talked last week or the week before about being a little out of it in the third quarter, lethargic, whatever, up and down.  One of the things we wanted to try to address was, when guys know they’re going in the game, you’re going in on the fourth series of the game, then you’re up on the sideline, you’re watching what’s going on in between the series, you know you’re involved in the game plan.

Chris Brathwaite did an excellent job.  Had over 25 reps, sack, pressure, couple quarterback knockdowns.  David Dean played, got some reps in there.  Mike Moore played some defensive end.

I think when you have those opportunities like that and they’re extended to young players, the energy of the young players can sustain you.

Sometimes the experience or the lack of may get you.  But I think in the end that what we saw, guys were able to sustain a fourth-quarter effort of playing.  I think after the first three scores, the long return, the interception that set up their second score and their field goal, the 12 possessions that they had, I think one was a touchdown, one was a field goal.  That’s two out of 12.  I thought the defense did a great job in that regard.

Now we’re hoping because of those guys playing that it continues enthuse a front that yielded only negative two yards passing.  Guys have shown that there’s some rush opportunities.  I always said I think Eli is going to be a great player here before his career is over at Virginia.  But it was good to see some of those young, young guys play.

Q. What about placekicker? Frye or Jarrett?

COACH LONDON:  That will probably be a game-time decision.  We’ll go through practice here.  The guys practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  It’s important that there were three points left on the field as well last week.  The last couple games we haven’t been able to garner any points right there.  So we will look at that as the week goes on, as we chart, as we look at how the progression is going with Jarrett.

Q. Wake Forest’s depth chart looks interesting with personal losses in the past?

COACH LONDON:  You know, I think Coach Grobe obviously has had some off-the-field issues that have devastated his team to this point.  From what I’ve read, it’s been indicated that four of those suspended players will be back.  So they’re on the road, conference game, looking for a win.

This team is desperate for a win at home, conference game.  Our situation, they have one more win than we do.  That’s our goal right now, is just to get a win at home.  This is a good team, 3-4 defense.

Quarterback Tanner Price is a very good quarterback.  Kind of the offenses we’ve been seeing with the spread, zone read, all that type of stuff.

It will be challenging again.  But, like I said, our team is hungry, desperate for a win.

Q. Kevin Parks seems to be developing pretty rapidly.  He was in here last week talking about how motivated he is because no schools in his home state recruited him.  Can you talk about where he is, how far he’s come.

COACH LONDON:  Kevin, we all know when he came out of high school, was the North Carolina state player of the year there – had a fantastic game this past game.

His desire to play and do well, I didn’t know about that about the North Carolina schools, I know there were a lot of schools that said he was too short, too small to play.  His desire is evident.  He gets up off the pile, he’s excited about that run.

That’s the kind of energy and emotion we were talking about from the offensive side that you’re looking for and is provided by a pretty dynamic player in and of itself.  I think Kevin continues to get better in all aspects.  In pass protection, in fall-away, I got to cut the linebacker, doing a lot of those things well.

He’s hungry for playing time.  He’s hungry to get in there and get opportunities.  He’s earned them.

Q. Do you practice tackling in special teams?

COACH LONDON:  No, we don’t take them to the ground on returns.  At this point of the season, if you’re going live, your kickoff return team, you make yourself susceptible to injuries.

We always play the fast pace and teach the technique of using your hands with your pads on.  Never do we have a kicking session where we don’t have our shells on.

We go live, but we don’t take down to the ground.  You’re making contact, but you’re not tackling to the ground.

Q. Is there too much pressure on young guys to win games?

COACH LONDON:  When I said ‘relying on,’ I didn’t mean relying on to win games.  I’m talking about depth.  There’s a lot we do that requires them to make plays, be involved in that.

Our older guys are guys that are playing.  It’s always important to they know that the execution and the leadership and the things that they bring are as crucial as the lack of what the younger players don’t play with.

As we go into the last of these last few games, there’s an understanding that this is it for a lot of them.  I think that’s part of a process of a team that’s a young team that older guys will still bring along and not just worry about what’s going to happen to them their last five games.

This team wants to win football games.  Regardless of what year a guy is, older guy, he’ll bring a younger guy along.  A younger guy with all his flaws still needs to learn from an older guy.

The process of this team maturing at this point is evident, but we’re not maturing quite as fast as what we’d like.  I think these older guys are committed to try to finish this thing out.

Q. How much does it hurt not having a guy like Tim Smith out there? Who do you look for among the older guys?

COACH LONDON:  I think we’re at a point where we have to continue to rely on some of these older guys.  You’re right – Timmy Smith not playing is another one that’s stood out to be critical.  I’ve talked about the leadership that he provides, game experience.

Perry, you’re right.  After the issues that have been coming out of that timeout, he had a concussion.  It’s unfortunate we had to burn those two time-outs for those reasons.

I think there’s still enough time for the Tim Smiths of the world and those guys to get themselves healthy, get back with enough time for the younger players to still play in games and gain game-time playing experience.  That’s where we are right now at this point.  We still have a lot of opportunities for goals that these guys are setting.


Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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