Mike London Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript
COACH LONDON: Before we get started, obviously a couple recent events to discuss here and we will start with Tim Smith. Unfortunately Tim being a socialite on a social media network had talked about the frustration I’m quite sure he’s been feeling of not being 100 percent with his ankle, and we are going to look more in depth into what are the possibilities for Tim. Obviously one of the discussion points was possibly redshirting him. So that’s on the table for him.
I know he’s frustrated. He wants to play. He wants to get back to his old self, being full speed and being able to run those reverses and things like that that we all know he can. He is just limited right now. We’re going to get a second opinion, look at his ankle and see what happens from there. So we’ll let you know the progress on that as we get word.
The second issue is Dominique Wallace as it was released just moments ago, he decided that he did not want to pursue football as a career anymore. He’s going to stay here and be a student. Dom has decided to leave for personal reasons, and I’ll respect his personal reasons and just say that he’s a good young man. I wish him the best of luck in all his endeavors, and we’re going to move on like we do with any other player that’s injured or can’t participate.
And then the last thing, as you may or may not know, this game is Coaches For Cure for MD, muscular dystrophy. We’ll be wearing patches and bring the awareness for muscular dystrophy as the American Football Coaches Association has partnered with that. This is the game that everyone wants to make a significant gesture in terms of coaches and the patches to be worn on the sleeves.
And then that brings us to the VMI game. We had the past week to prepare for this game. We practiced a couple days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and tried to take care of some things that I thought was an issue during our previous two games, particularly the last game, and I thought we did that. And so the guys now are excited for these practices and this week together so we can get ready for an opponent, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field.
QUESTION: This pertains to what had been a logjam at tailback. What do you think of Torrey Mack these days? Does this cause you to give him any more of a look?
COACH LONDON: Actually Torrey has done a really nice job in practice, you’re right. There’s so many talented backs that you want to get them touches, you want to get them on the field to do things, and actually we had a scrimmage part of the open week allows us time to have a scrimmage for guys that haven’t been playing as much, and Torrey was part of that and he did a nice job. So did Kevin Parks. But Torrey is a guy that can give us special teams help. He’s a very capable running back, and as I said, that’s position has turned out to be one of the strongest suits that we have on the team. Everybody thought that the DB situation was, and it is, but due to some guys not playing, the running back situation has turned into something that has been very productive for us.
Torrey will be on the field in a special teams role. We’ll just have to see how it plays out, whether it’s as a regular down the stretch as a running back.
QUESTION: There was a lot of talk about Raynard Horne coming out of training camp, how well he’s done. He does not seem to have been able to translate any of that onto the field. What’s going on with him so far in the games?
COACH LONDON: Well, I don’t think it’s as much as what Raynard is not doing, I think it’s what Perry [Jones] and Keith [Payne] are doing. I think the two of them are in the top ten in statistics for running back in the ACC right now. So it’s nothing that Raynard has not done, it’s just Perry and Keith have had opportunities to get in the game and do something. So we’ll keep plugging away trying to find ways of trying to get Raynard the ball, but at the same time we don’t want to limit the opportunities of two players that have been productive thus far for us.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure we get this right. So on Tim Smith there was a first opinion, and that first opinion was that he might be better off sitting out the year?
COACH LONDON: The first opinion is when you get injured and our trainers and our doctors assess you. Our doctors gave the first opinion and it’s been frustrating for him not being completely healed or completely where he felt like he could push off and run, do the things that he’s used to doing. So getting another opinion is to make sure we’re all on the same page and we have Tim’s best interests at heart. We want to go to all measures to make sure he feels good about where we are, our doctors feel good about where we are, and then how to proceed with him. So we’re looking forward to having a remedy to this real soon.
QUESTION: With Dominique [Wallace], how does that affect his scholarship?
COACH LONDON: Dominique has decided not to play football anymore, so when a young man decides that they’re going to withdraw from playing their athletic sport, then measures are taken to make sure that we safeguard ourselves and that he takes measures to make sure he takes care of himself, also.
QUESTION: Was this something that he had indicated over the last few weeks that he might pursue?
COACH LONDON: Like I said, it was a personal matter with him, and without getting into the reasons why and when and all that, the young man just made a decision that football is not what he wants to do. He wants to pursue other options and opportunities. He likes us, he likes the staff, he likes the players on the team, he just felt that he wanted to go in another direction.
QUESTION: Back to Tim Smith – he played in the first two games with this injury. Was it exacerbated last week?
COACH LONDON: Well, it wasn’t exacerbated last week. Coming out of the USC game everyone saw the reverse that we had – we stopped the tape – and at one point had everybody blocked, and the Tim Smith that he was accustom to being – was a guy that would take the ball and run up the sideline. I think he might have tweaked it a little bit at that point. When you’re a skill player and you rely on your speed – and you can’t run the way you want to – it’s a different situation than a lineman or somebody that can just play through pain or injury. But Timmy is one of those guys who is very conscious and he’s thinking about the team and he’s thinking about how he can best help the team, and right now he’s not feeling that he can push off to give him the maximum skills or ability so we can utilize him. We’ve had discussions, and it’s gotten to the point where we need to take another look at it and see what’s in his long term best interests.
QUESTION: Are you at a point where could Tim play in another game and then still redshirt?
COACH LONDON: Well, I think the rule for an NCAA medical hardship is that in 50 percent of your contests – if you play 30 percent of the opportunities, and this is that point that we’re at. This is the third game. So regardless where we are in the game, the most important thing to me is the foot, is the ankle and how he feels. You can press the issue and try to get him back, but he knows how his body feels. I appreciate and respect our doctors’ opinions, and we’re just going to do the right thing and get another opinion. Just for everyone’s sake we will make a decision that’s going to be in Tim’s best interests. I think he’s at a place in his mind where he played as a true freshman last year, and this may be an opportunity for him not to play this year.
QUESTION: You mentioned that part of the time during the bye week you spent correcting and improving on things from the first two weeks. Can you talk about that?
COACH LONDON: Obviously one of them was the third down situations, 4-of-15 at USC. If you move the chain a couple times there, then you give yourself a chance to hang onto the ball and the possession. Limiting penalties, silly penalties and mistakes, we showed all the penalties that we had against ourselves – illegal procedure or illegal formation – that’s a mental error.
The one where [Matt] Barkley was running out of bounds and his intentions were to go out of bounds. We need to have an awareness of who the player is, he was the quarterback, and the fact that he’s running towards the sideline – we need to have awareness about that. The offsides and the holding penalties when you see a player’s jersey tousled or pulled and you see an individual jerk like that, referees are going to call fouls like that- you have to be in front of the guy. You can’t be beside him and try to get away with something like that. We tried to spend a lot of time educating our guys again on where you are on the field and what you’re doing in terms of a pass play or a run play. We spent a lot of time doing that.
We addressed the placekicking, the field goals. Robert [Randolph] is 6-of-6 or PATs but it’s just the field goal issues that we have to address, and so we did a lot of things like that to try and address those issues. Hopefully we’ll be a better team this Saturday.
QUESTION: When you do have situations like Tim Smith’s where you lose somebody for a year and you get a medical redshirt, how does that change the landscape, or does it, when you look at 2015? Do you alter that much on the spot?
COACH LONDON: Not as much. You coach the team now, you coach the bodies and the players that you have now, and you have an appreciation for the type of young man that he is, that he wants to give his all and is just physically limited in doing so.
We always want what’s in the best interest of all our players, and I think Tim would agree that we’re taking that approach with him.
QUESTION: But you don’t go in blind and say, all right, we need one less wide receiver and one less lineman?
COACH LONDON: No, I don’t. I go with whoever the best players are and try to build a team that way.
QUESTION: Having a relatively young team, is this working out well?
COACH LONDON: I think you always want to play some games that give you a chance – an indication of what your team is like before you get into conference play. The open day just happened to be at a point where it came early and may give us a chance to get some guys who have been dinged up a little bit, to get them back. Brent Urban has been cleared – Aaron Van Kuiken who missed all of the season is back. He’s an offensive lineman so he provides depth there. Hopefully Rodney [McLeod] and Ras I [Dowling] will be back with an extra weeks worth of rest. Having the open week early like that, it gave us a chance to get some guys back. But it can happen even later on in the year when you get an open week midway or even towards the latter part, teams always suffer injuries or things like that.
So I think from that standpoint we’ll be a better team, and I think in trying to take care of the first two games and the errors that we made – we know we need to be a better team because you can’t overlook any opponent. VMI is a team that having played them during my time at Richmond – and having been in the state for a long time – I have respect for the school itself and the type of young men they produce, there’s a never quit attitude in those young men. Regardless of whom we’re playing, we have to play the style of football that’s going to allow us to eliminate all those mistakes that we made, regardless of what team we’re playing, whether it’s VMI or the opponent after that.
But right now all we’re thinking about is VMI and taking care of the things we need to take care of – because those things have caused some issues the first couple days.
QUESTION: You mentioned during the Sunday teleconference you wanted to see if the operation was quicker on field goals. What adjustments did you guys make in that regard?
COACH LONDON: Not necessarily the adjustments -vbut just how we practiced, putting more pressure on the whole operation, the whole unit. The snap, the holder and the kicker, they’re integral parts of the success of that, and so we tried to do some things with crowd noise, with our players standing over them hurling insults at them. You miss a kick – the whole team is going to run, which is quite effective. Maybe I need to do that in a game. Before you run out there, you basically are going to run sprints if it’s a miss.
I have a lot of trust in Robert Randolph. He kicked last year and did a great job. I think he only missed two field goals last year, 17-of-19. So one was a 50-yarder, which may have been out of his range just a little bit; one was a poor hold, and so the bottom line is that we try to do things in practice to give him success. We may have to get a little closer in the red zone. That may help him a little bit.
But I have confidence in him that this week of practice showed that he’s accurate and he’s got a leg, and when the operation between snapper, holder and kicker is on, 1.2 seconds or less, they can do it and they can do it consistently – that is when you give yourself a chance to get through the uprights. I’m excited about the opportunity for those guys to go out in a game, provided we get the opportunity to kick whatever field goals that we may need in this game.
QUESTION: This is a rare year when you have two in state I-AA teams or, as you would say, FCS, on your schedule. What’s your feeling going forward about playing the in state FCS teams?
COACH LONDON: I like the opportunity that you can play an in state FCS team. I’d like to do that at least once a year. I think it’s good for the state. It’s good for the program. And whenever you can do that and the natural rivalry or the natural fan base that you bring in, I think it benefits particularly an FCS school. Having been on the other side of it – getting a chance to play in a big venue. We’ve got some great FCS schools in the state of Virginia, so I definitely would like to play them at least once during the season.
QUESTION: And you’ve got friends throughout the state, ties to Richmond, ties to VMI. How do you decide which of the four or five schools you’re going to play?
COACH LONDON: I think when I got here, this schedule  was already put in place, and then we do have Richmond and William & Mary and I believe VMI on future schedules. We are trying to get other schools that may be interested that aren’t the ones that I just mentioned. I’m sure that there’ll be an invitation providing the schedules permit on both sides, because sometimes even to get that done, between your own conference schedule and the teams that you play, it becomes an issue. But the powers that be will work it out, at least playing one of those teams, I think would be good for the state and good for both schools.
QUESTION: Both Hawaii and Minnesota gave up a lot more yards and a lot more points to USC than your defense did. Could you just kind of assess where the defense is right now and are they farther along than you would expect them to be at this point?
COACH LONDON: Well, if you ask Coach Reid, we didn’t play very well. But I’m on the other side of that. You look back and you watch the tape – you count up mental errors and things like that, but the one thing you did see is you saw guys playing hard and you saw them playing fast, and guys are running to the ball and getting after it. And that’s something that defensively if you can do you – it gives yourself a chance to play in any game.
Although as I said before – we’re still a work in progress, offense, defense and special teams, I think being able to play well defensively will give you an opportunity to play in games like that on the road and at home, and I know this week we spent some time eliminating those things that can cause you to lose by not knowing who you have on different coverages, being in the right gap. We spent a lot of time on that, so I know they’re ready to play, also.
QUESTION: Marc is the only quarterback that’s taken a snap so far. Is there a point this year where you’d like to maybe get the other guys some snaps, even if it’s just to get them out there to get some experience?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, I think so. It’s one of those things, you have to try to develop a second quarterback or give him an experience to get in a game and play – because you have to make a decision if you go up by a lot or if you are on the other end of that and you’re down by a lot, what do you do? I think we’re going to have to make a decision here, whether it’s going to be Ross Metheny or Michael Rocco or Michael Strauss because you can’t get all those guys reps. This game may force us to make that type of decision as to who’s the next guy in the game. So that’s something I know that Coach Lazor and the offensive staff and we’ve talked about, and the decision has to be imminent here because hopefully we’ll be in a situation I mean, you should be in a situation where the second guy has gotten reps and has been battle tested by being in a game.
QUESTION: What did you say to the team, you and the coaching staff, to get them to play with the amount of confidence they did against USC?
COACH LONDON: I think this season, not that we listen to what people say we’re going to finish and things like that, but these guys listen and they read. As coaches we don’t pay a whole lot of attention to that. But the thing you can control is your effort and your energy and the way that you play. And if you’re good enough at the end of the game, then okay, because the scoreboard will reflect it.
If you’re not good enough, then it’ll reflect it. But I think the things that our guys are looking to do are to play and play hard. Just play with passion and play with energy. I think that can take you a long way.
And then you address it with your schemes and you address it with recruiting and the type of players that you have, so it’s a process of addressing a work in progress, and that’s the plan. It’s not particularly who we’re playing, it’s the way we have to play in order to give us a chance to be in games – regardless of the opponent. Eliminate those things that can hurt you, and that’s what we’re looking to do this week, against this week’s opponent.
QUESTION: Do you know what they really go through to be a student athlete at VMI? What kind of respect do you have for somebody that wants to go that route?
COACH LONDON: I’m a product of West Point. I was born at West Point Academy, and places that I’ve been, Boston College, before, have played Navy and Army, and you have a tremendous amount of respect for those young men that play for those particular schools because they’re the ones after they graduate they go off and they go fight the wars and they put themselves in harm’s way. There is a tremendous amount of respect for a young man that does that, to get training to defend this country.
And then also get trained to play on Saturdays to play in games. You know that they’re not going to quit. That they’re highly competitive, because that’s who they are and that’s what they are. So there’s a tremendous amount of respect that you have for those guys, what Coach Woods does. Coach Reid coached there, also, and I think he’ll talk to you guys, also, about the mindset of those players in coaching football and having to do other things.
One side of it, they’re an opponent and you’re playing them to beat them, but on the other side you’re extremely proud for what they represent.
QUESTION: You mentioned earlier Rodney [McLeod] and Ras I [Dowling]. Where are they with regards to their respective injuries and will they play on Sunday?
COACH LONDON: I know that both of them have been at it at practice, moving around here pretty good. Today is a day off for the players. It’s an academic day. And tomorrow will be a workday for us. So I’ll have a better indication tomorrow when they go out, what they do and how they do it, to see whether or not they’ll be able to play this game. I’m looking forward to it, but like I said, they know their bodies better than I do, and with consultation with the trainers, we’ll see what they look like, see if they can be effective, not just go out there for the sake of being out there but to be effective.
QUESTION: Scheduling two FCS teams in the same year, obviously only one win can count towards a Bowl. What were the thoughts on doing that?
COACH LONDON: I had nothing to do with the scheduling this particular year. But I would like to go back to playing at least one in state FCS school, having been on the other end of that. And then you’re right – you have to count up the number of W’s at the end. Right now I’m just trying to count up the number of successes we have in the small increments of doing the things that I’ve been talking to you guys about since I’ve been here, doing things the right way in the classroom, in the community and on the filed. Hopefully as the season goes on – we continue to try to add up to being a team that would be considered for a Bowl as we go down the road here.
But that is a dilemma when you play two I-AA teams, the way they count the records.
QUESTION: If Tim [Smith] is not available against VMI, what does the depth chart behind Dontrelle [Inman] and Kris [Burd] look like for the third and fourth? Is E.J. Scott a guy who could play this year or do you prefer to redshirt him?
COACH LONDON: Behind Tim is Matt Snyder, and then we have Snyder, Jared Green, Ray Keys, all of them have been practicing and all of them know the position of X and the Z receiver. So there may be opportunities for three or four of them to get in the game at the same time. I have a lot of confidence in those guys that have been in the program, particularly Green and – Snyder and Keys have been there before – they can give us an added boost or what we need. We’re a two back team. Two back team, you have two wide receivers in there, and that’s been Dontrelle and Kris, and then when you go one back, then you add another receiver. And as I said, I think the three names I mentioned could go in there and give us what we need.
QUESTION: Where is Bobby Smith right now?
COACH LONDON: Bobby Smith is a tall drink of water that Coach Hourigan is still beefing up a little bit. We want to do something with Bobby, also. We’ll get him on some special teams plays. He’s a big, tall athlete. That’s one of the things we spent time figuring out is trying to find a role for a guy like Bobby Smith, even if it’s one or two things on the special teams. So we’re trying to find a spot for him.
QUESTION: Marc’s interceptions have been an issue in the past. Looking at that play the other day, could he have run? What would you have liked to see him do differently?
COACH LONDON: You’re talking about the interception in the end zone? Yeah, that was what we don’t want Marc to do, and he realized it. He recognizes that he’s just trying to make a play. At that position right there, at that point where we were on the field, throw it in the back of the end zone, throw it out of the end zone, at least you get a field goal opportunity. Marc is a competitor just trying to make a play, but I think if you ask him after the fact, like all interceptions after the fact, I wish I wouldn’t have done it.
QUESTION: What about running, because we saw him run later in the game?
COACH LONDON: There’s a point in time as a quarterback that you’ve got to pull the ball down and not make the situation worse by trying to throw it, and if it’s open enough for you to run it, then run it and be very alert to ball security issues because now they’re coming after you. Or if you’re back there and instead of running you see the rush coming, just go down. In the red zone area, you’re hoping any time you get to the 25 and inside that you have an opportunity for at least three points, and you want to come away with points. So just making a better decision by him with his feet, throwing it out of the end zone or just going down, he’s got to do better there, and I think he realizes that.
QUESTION: You talked about the defense earlier. Offensively you guys have been putting up better numbers significantly since last year. I think I saw the best two game total since ’05. Can you talk about the improvement on the offense?
COACH LONDON: I think that we all made the commitment to trying to be able to run the ball or to bring the fullback and the tight end back into the offense, and I think when you do that, the run plays that come off of that help set up some of the passing game. The play action passes. I think Joe Torchia has done a nice job of being able to block on the perimeter. Any time you can capture the edge on a defense and it gives you a chance to outflank them and let your guys run, so I am particularly pleased right now with that aspect.
We are only two games in – we’ve got a whole bunch of games to play, and we’ve got to be consistent in that regard of being able to run the ball because then you can do some things, and then they put eight people down in the box and then that gives you the option of play action pass or throwing to your wide outs.
QUESTION: Is it easier for you guys to prepare and game plan for VMI since they have gotten away from the triple option to a more typical offense you see during the season?
COACH LONDON: They had a week off, too; they could come with whatever kind of offense, so we have to be prepared. But a conventional offense, as you mentioned, those are some of the things that we do. It helps from the cumulative amount of reps over time up until this point because you’ve seen that two back set or split set or whatever it may be, so that helps a little bit.
But you just never know. You never know when you have an open week and your opponent does too – what they’re doing to try to take advantage of what we do. So we just have to be and the history that they’ve had with Coach Woods, we just have to be prepared for whatever it may be.
QUESTION: It’s been three weeks since your last home game and you had a really great reception against Richmond. Are you excited to come back home and get back to that atmosphere?
COACH LONDON: I think so. You’d like to play as many home games as you can, and it was particularly neat to see the student section. The fans, number one, were outstanding, and hopefully we’ll have more this Saturday. But to see the students and the fans out there was I mean, it really energized our players. They’ve been talking about it for a long time, that them being out there is very important to us. So this is another home game here, and hopefully they’ll be out again and we’ll get the reception that we got last time.
QUESTION: Have you ever received that kind of a reception like returning from USC, from a loss, from people that had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to watch, yet you feel terrible that you didn’t win?
COACH LONDON: Well, just so everybody knows, I mean, we wanted to win the game. There’s nothing to get a pat on the back about being close. I think we have to win games like that against good teams like that to really start pointing a finger about where we are, where we’re going. But you appreciate the efforts of the players, you appreciate people that have seen the game and take notice of the effort. But we’re not satisfied from that standpoint of just being close. I mean, all the games we play in, our objective is to win the game. That’s what we’re working for. What we do, like I said, it’s the process of in the class, on the field, in the community, recruiting – the process is geared towards playing away games or playing teams like that where you have a chance and you win games like that, and that’s when you start making statements.
QUESTION: I know as a team you don’t want to look ahead, but from the coaching staff perspective, did that bye week give you a chance to start preparing early for Florida State?
COACH LONDON: Well, what you try to do, you try to get a little jump-start a little bit. You take care of who you’re playing, but you also there’s other film that you have that you can watch if the particular team is playing on that Saturday, you can watch the game. So you do a little bit of both for this opponent and the next opponent because you have the time to do that. So we did that. But like I said, first and foremost now as we get into game week, will be the preparation for VMI.
QUESTION: Just your thoughts kind of along those lines, as well, your team, where you are at right now coming off a bye but also where you are in the ACC this year and how that makes you feel about the rest of the season.
COACH LONDON: I know there’s been some really good games played in the ACC. Some of the teams that have played pretty good, talented teams at other places around the country, and I know much is made about the losses that those ACC teams have accrued. Clemson’s game against Auburn, good game, down to the wire; Florida State comes back, does a nice job against BYU. To me the talent and the caliber of talent every week that you have to face, you have to be ready. You have to bring your “A” game.
And so as we prepare for this week’s opponent, we’re looking towards playing a game against VMI, but knowing that there is no easy game on the schedule, particularly in the rest of the conference with what’s going on. I’m proud to be a member of the ACC, good, bad or indifferent of what’s going on. I think there are some good teams out there and there are some good players that represent the conference.
QUESTION: You’ve seen a couple really good quarterbacks. Can you talk a little bit about how your thought your defensive line has played against those guys? Have they been able to get to them with the frequency that you’d like?
COACH LONDON: I think when the quarterback drops back to throw – you look at a couple things. Okay, you look at sacks. Obviously everybody sees that. You look at pressures or hurries, and those are the things that make the quarterback move his feet and make him throw an errant pass. And then you look at the hits on the quarterback, how many times you got to him and hit him, because after a while the cumulative amount of hits on a quarterback, they start to take its toll and may lead to another hurry or him making a bad decision on where to throw the ball.
So I think when you look at trying to get after quarterbacks, you take the sacks and all those things together and you might have maybe a two sack game, but you might have four, five, six hurries, some QB hits that maybe led to a poor decision that he made, and then we start looking at the third down situations. You get off the field and then the first down situations where you make him throw an errant pass and it’s second and long, so everything I think is they’re all related in how many times you can get to the quarterback and do those things that I just mentioned.
QUESTION: I’m not sure of the exact chronology, but you took the Richmond job around the same time that Coach Reid left VMI to take the job with the Dolphins. During that month or the weeks leading up to that, did you seek advice from him or vice versa about the option you guys had?
COACH LONDON: I think Coach Reid said congratulations, I said congratulations, and that was it, because he was going to the NFL and myself being a first time head coach. And that was it.
But having played at Richmond and coached there, facing VMI, you always know about VMI. But now having Coach Reid on the staff now, the’ll talk to the team about having been there, what they’re thinking and the type of student athletes that they have there. So that’s been an asset for us.
QUESTION: Are you able to reveal this weekend’s jersey combination?
COACH LONDON: No, that goes to Dave Koehn. That will be tonight. We’ll do it on the radio show.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite?
COACH LONDON: I like whatever the players like, because they pick the combinations have been pretty good so far, and I just want to get it out early enough so that our fans that are all coming – all have a chance to wear the colors, too. It’s been something that’s pretty neat, and hopefully it’ll continue on.
QUESTION: What kind of background do you have with Sparky? How long have you known him?
COACH LONDON: Sparky was here at one point, and I know just in the profession, when you meet each other at the national coaches conventions you always run into each other. I know his son was a GA at Tennessee and was looking for job opportunities, and I got to Richmond, I think we had the same agent. Just from a professional standpoint of having known him over the years or knowing people that know him, I’d say that’s the extent of it.