Press Conference: UVa. football coach Mike London

Mike-LondonCOACH LONDON: Basically had a spring practice that was very productive, despite some injuries in some key places. There were a lot of opportunities to get young men that will get to a playable depth for us this upcoming season. A lot of spirited competitions in a lot of places. A couple players emerged as guys that we thought could be play-makers. Some young players had a chance to develop and show themselves. We’re encouraged about what this spring had for us. We’re excited about the opportunities that are going to be presented as we get everyone back, healthy, ready to get ready for this upcoming season. I’ll take any questions now.

Q. Can you sum up where things ended for the quarterbacks, what you saw from them this spring.

COACH LONDON: We’re actually quite pleased with the quarterback competition, the battles there that went on. It’s important that we come out of spring practice with an understanding of what the guys, particularly the three that have been in a college football game before, what they can do. It’s very competitive. Each young man did things on their own to try to raise their level. We talk about a football IQ, we talk about leadership. There’s so many things that a quarterback has to have in order to be efficient and productive, be able to run the offense. It was good to see that Greyson Lambert did a nice job. He did a nice job in commanding the offense. Matt Johns, although he held for us last year, extra points, field goals, there were some elements of what he did during the course of the spring that were surprising but at the same time very pleasant because of his development. David Watford did a nice job as well doing some of the things he has to do in order to improve his opportunities to be out in front.  Overall I think the competitiveness of particularly that position is one that will make us a better football team because it made everybody raise their level. We will have, probably like I’ve done in the past, a post spring depth chart coming out in the next week or so. Right now I’m having exit interviews with every player. Before I do anything with depth charts, I’m talking to every player about the expectation of classroom, behavior, summing up the evaluation of spring. As we do that, then we’ll move forward as they go into exams and then into the summer, getting ready for the season.

Q. Which quarterback will be at the top of that post spring depth chart?

COACH LONDON: I haven’t finished talking to all of them yet. When I finish talking to the quarterbacks, I’ll make that known. They’ll know it before anyone else knows it. I think that’s the way to do it. I have quarterbacks to talk to as well as receivers, running backs. We started that process last week. We’ll go into it today, tomorrow, first thing Monday. I’m looking forward to having some sort of a post spring depth chart by the end of next week.

Q. Next month at Amelia the conference will resume the timeless debate of eight conference games versus nine. Do you have a strong preference either way? Which way do you see this trending?

COACH LONDON: That’s a great question. I know there’s a lot of talk about eight conference games, having a chance to pick four at-large. We talked about the other conferences, the big five so to speak, that you may have to play a team from that. The conversation is ongoing. One of the other things about going nine conference games is the ability to play a team like Clemson that we normally wouldn’t play. How often would a player have an opportunity to play a team like that that’s in the ACC? It’s a great question. My mind is not particularly made up one way or the other. I’d like to listen to all the facts now. We’re talking about the big five conferences, what limitations might be placed on FCS games. With all that conversation yet to be had, I’d also like to hear from my peers in the ACC head coaches to see if we come up with a conclusion to that. It is definitely a topic that’s out there that has to be remedied soon.

Q. Another topic out there is concussion protocol, perhaps a little less contact in practice. I know your son had a concussion up in Canada. What are your thoughts there?

COACH LONDON: Science and technology, modern medicine, just the research that’s gone on over the course of the years has identified that this is an issue that has life-long effects to it, and in some cases dire effects. I believe it should be about the safety of the players, particularly football players in general.  You’re right, my son did have a concussion, a couple. Now he’s getting acclimated back into practices, into competitive drills, into contact drills. It’s going to be vitally important. I rely on our doctors. We have a great team of doctors here, trainers, that talk about assessing these concussions, these injuries, the ability to have all their faculties that will allow them to practice and contribute in a meaningful way.  But definitely it’s something that when it happens it’s going to — there’s legislation about practices, how many contact practices. There’s a lot of questions about the definition of thud versus tackling to the ground, helmet practices. It is ongoing. We practice in a way ourselves sometimes where there’s a lot of thud opportunities, not necessarily taking all the way down to the ground. Every coach is going to have to be mindful of the approach they have when it comes to player safety and these concussions.

Q. Is there a particular way you feel your team has developed or progressed the most this spring?

COACH LONDON: Number one, probably more than anything else, is the maturity part of it. We talked last year about having six seniors, four of them that actually played significant reps in the game. This year it’s in the high teens and 20s. That’s significant when you talk about player leadership, experience, guys that have been in college football games, that have been students, have experienced a lot of things. I would say the locker room part of it more than anything, one thing you can talk about from a skill part, the locker room part of being older, guys that have been around the program, the expectations of older players wanting to do well, holding everyone to a performance standard has been probably one of the biggest things, biggest changes that I’ve seen.

Q. I know you talked a little bit about the playable depth and the spirited competition you had. What positions do you feel this those great, spirited competitions in the spring?

COACH LONDON: I tell you, when you look at our defensive back situation, I believe we have a chance to be good at that position. Obviously it’s led by our All-American candidate, Anthony Harris, did an excellent job back there. Although Tim Harris, his spring practice was relatively short. You have him. Tre Nicholson fighting his way back from a turf toe injury that allowed him to get back and compete and contribute. Maurice, who probably could be characterized as one of the best defensive backs we have on the team. That’s a position where if you’re going to apply pressure on the quarterback, we expect to do that with Eli Harold, Max Valles, you have to have guys that can cover on the back end there. That was something evident in spring practice, watching guys that have played in college game and have coverage skill. That was a spot The last one on the other side of the ball were the receivers. It’s unfortunate that Dominique Terrell is battling a groin injury which has kept him limited. Keeon Johnson, Andre Levrone, Canaan Severin, Miles Gooch, Kyle Dockins. They’re all 6’2″ plus receivers that made some pretty nice catches during practice. They can block. They’re physical. We’re making a point of emphasis of going up and making those catches that are difficult but make them seem like they’re the usual, they’re the ordinary.  I believe the receiver position, we should be better. I know we’ll be better. But it was good to see that the DBs were working against the wide receivers. Both of those aspects obviously for this team to be successful has to improve. There were elements during spring that I saw evidence of that.

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