Press Conference: UVA football coach Mike London
MIKE LONDON: Good afternoon, everybody. Yeah, we have an open week here where we’ve had an opportunity to practice and put some very good, quality practices in, dedicated to special teams, to improving ourselves offensively and defensively, and we will continue to do that. As you said, we will start game planning the University of Pittsburgh as we get into our game week next week, but right now, it’s more about us getting ourselves improved in different areas and taking this time to get more guys healed and get them back and get them back in the fold and getting ready to get into our conference games. I’ll take any questions now.
Q. As far as the grueling non-conference schedule that you’ve gone up against going into ACC play, what have these four games taught you about the team and where you are at this point?
MIKE LONDON: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you what, you look at the teams and what they’ve accomplished now, but more so than that, we played a half against UCLA that wasn’t good enough. We played down to 12 seconds with Notre Dame, had an opportunity. Played William & Mary, won a football game, finished a game, and then played an outstanding Boise team that you can’t give away — you can’t give the ball up. But this team has learned a lot about trying to — you have to raise a level of play that’s going to allow you to compete against teams that are in such a high level, and every mistake, every error is magnified, and we have to worry about ourselves and take care of ourselves, look at what we do as players and as coaches and improve upon it. As we told the players going into this week, we’re 0-0 in the conference, and the first conference opportunity is against a very good Pittsburgh football team, but it’s more about us right now. The teams that we’ve played are still teams that are playing and executing and playing well, and there’s a certain — you take certain solace from that, but at the same time you know there’s improvement that’s needed in order to get you in that category of being able to win and come out with those big victories. Now as our season conference games start and there is a level of confidence of guys that know that they’ve played and they have played against some of the best teams in the country, and now it’s up to us now to execute what we need to do to be very, very competitive and win games.
Q. You say that everybody learned something from playing that non-conference schedule. What did you learn about yourself as a coach coming out of those four games?
MIKE LONDON: Well, you’re always learning about yourself, about how you prepare the teams, the mindset, how you go into a game, and you just keep evaluating from players’ recovery to — there’s so many different things about how you approach it, when you go out west and you come back and you get ready for a Friday game and how you prepare when another team has two weeks to get ready for you. You have a great staff of guys that are former head coaches here and collaboratively talking about things to do and improve upon, and that’s what we’re looking on right now as we go into this bye week, as well, doing whatever we need. One of the things we did, we brought Coach Tenuta, he’s down on the field, and we’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to do things that are going to help this football team perform and execute, and that’s some of the things we’ve looked at thus far, we’ll continue to do that and help us find ways to become a better football team.
Q. I think if I’m not mistaken, you had four sacks in the last game, but you’ve given up an unusually high number of long pass completions, many of them for touchdowns. What do you see as the issue there with the long touchdown passes?
MIKE LONDON: Well, obviously the biggest thing that jumps out is a breakdown in communication between coverages, whether it’s safety, linebacker, whatever it might be, and as we talked about some of the things working on, that’s a critical element of any defense is the communication part of it. You know, those are mental errors that have to be corrected because they do cost you, and that is — that’s the main focus on that and getting that fixed and getting it to the point where it’s hand signals because of the noise or the fact of just being on the same page with each other. As you go into the games to be played, those are things that are expected to be improved upon, and we will make improvements in those areas.
Q. You’ve got a fairly large recruiting class now; how much recruiting have you done during this open break?
MIKE LONDON: Well, you know, head coaches have limited opportunities to go out on the road, but one of the things that’s very important to me and to the program and to the young men and the families that have said yes to them is to be out and be seen and know that we’re there and we’re here, and the opportunity still exists for a lot of these young men. Very positive about the young men that we’ve had say yes to us, and looking for some good news here from some mid-year guys here pretty soon. Again, it’s important to improve as a football team, to continue to recruit for this great university, to continue to have the type of young men that can come in and help this program and be invisible. I’m not going away from anywhere. I’m going to be visible, be out front, and then keep talking about I believe in this program. We talked about the early games. Now it’s time for the early games to pay off for us as we go into the conference games.
Q. You had Connor Brewer as a graduate transfer, lost Greyson Lambert. How do you think graduate transfers have impacted college football in terms of managing quarterbacks on rosters?
MIKE LONDON: I mean, that’s a whole long topic of conversation that you could ask a bunch of FCS and BCS coaches. It’s a new phenomenon now where young men graduate in three years, three-and-a-half years, and some of them still have the two years to play. When they graduate they fulfill their obligations to the university, and they look at where they are, depth chart, they look at where they are in terms of their experience there, and then they make decisions based on those things. You’re going to continue to see that, unless there’s NCAA legislation that changes that. You’re going to continue to see particularly that position. There’s a lot of positions that still do it, but particularly at the quarterback position. Basketball has a high rate of guys that leave, as well, but when it happens on a football team and it’s a position that’s the quarterback position, as you see around the country, then people take notice to it. But again, it’s something that has been happening and is probably going to continue to happen, and unless it’s addressed in other areas, it will still happen.
Q. And the success Lambert has had the last couple of games from afar at Georgia, do you think it’s a case of sometimes a change of scenery can be good or maybe how difficult it is sometimes to make evaluations?
MIKE LONDON: You know, I don’t know. I’m glad for Greyson doing what Greyson is doing. My concern is for Matt Johns and how Matt Johns is doing and the success of Matt and for our team and for how we can get better. Players come and then players leave, and you wish and you hope the best for them, but you concentrate on the ones that are here, the ones that have stayed, and getting them better. Every player that’s been here and had a chance to get a Virginia degree and leave and go somewhere else, you know, you’re happy for them, but the focus for us, for me, is to get a Matt Johns, a Connor Brewer, a Colin Cutler, Nick Johns, to get those guys ready and get them to where they need to be.
Q. Tough game last Friday; what do you guys have to do to get back to improving? That was a tough ballgame to watch, so what do you have to do?
MIKE LONDON: Well, I mean, first of all, you can’t give away points. We had five turnovers and had none, two interceptions for scores for them, lost the ball, fumbled the ball, changed the field position dramatically. Obviously hanging onto the ball is priority number one for us, and then obviously getting the ball is a necessity, always to be plus-1 at least in that category. We talked about the things which you do during an open week, and like I said, had a great special teams practice the other day. We talked about turnovers and protecting the ball, the drills and the things and the emphasis, to continue to keep doing that. And I believe that we take care of the ball, obviously we put ourselves in better situations, but getting the football, hunting the football, I believe it will happen to us, we’ll keep practicing it, but it is very key in college football and in any situation, the more that you’re in the plus categories of turnovers, then the better opportunity you have a chance to win.
Q. Is it also good to have a bye week now after you guys went for such a long stretch, California at home, played some big games? Is it good for you guys to take a break and say, all right, we’ve got the rest of the season ahead of us?
MIKE LONDON: You know, again, it just depends on where you are. Some teams are very banged up right now. It’s unfortunate. I just heard the news about Fuller at Virginia Tech. It’s very unfortunate when a young man who does so much and means so much to a team, when you lose him like that. Sometimes guys, when you’re off, they have a chance to come back. But it just kind of depends on where you are health-wise, depends on where you are in terms of your development, depends on if you have younger players that you can use this extra week before you really get into the meat of the season, that they can take some extra reps to get ready to play. Every coach would answer that differently, but for us, it’s the right time for us right now.
Q. Mike, on the takeaway situation, not being able to get one this year after having so many a year ago, have you been able to kind of pinpoint what has happened there and what you guys can do to try and get that turned around?
MIKE LONDON: Yeah, you know, you’re right, we had scored a couple times on defense, sack, scoop, score, cause fumble where the ball bounces your way and you have a guy in position to get it. There’s been a couple plays where the ball has been on the ground and our guy has been there and their guy wrestled it away from us or we weren’t aware enough to fall on the ball where it needed to be, a pass breakup that’s in the hand of a defender where we need to come down with it. You just keep harping on it, you keep practicing it, you talk emphasizing it in cut-ups, practice drills, and all those things. I believe it will come, and sometimes it comes in floods, and obviously we need, as I just said before, to be in the plus category to give yourself a chance to win football games when it comes to those possessions.
Q. With a veteran team that you have, are you disappointed with the amount of times you’ve given the ball away?
MIKE LONDON: Well, with a veteran team that you have with a guy that was leading the ACC in passing yardage and other categories, you don’t want to be leading in the fact of giving the ball away, correct. You want to be, as I said, in the plus side of it. Someone just asked about the timing of our bye, and the things we need to work on, and obviously taking care of the football is priority one, and getting the football defensively is something that we’re doing, as well. You know, we’ll continue to keep making those things a point of emphasis because they can win games for you. We’ve experienced that and we need to do that, and we need to do it in a game.