Mike London Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript
QUESTION: My question is about Saturday’s game. What was the desired effect of the white out, to see that visualized? And then do you have any other marketing or promotional plans that you are planning?
COACH LONDON: It was great to see uniformed aspect of it with the fans and the students and the support, just generated from everyone wearing white. I’d never seen anything like that, even in the years that I was at Virginia before. It was neat to see. The players were really impressed by it, and it was very impressive.
I’m disappointed that the outcome wasn’t, as we desired. But, you know, whatever opportunities there are to express solidarity, support, and things like that, whether it’s an orange out, a blue out, or whatever it may be, it’s very much appreciated of seeing that at Scott Stadium, because it was something to behold.
I hope the next time we have such a marketing event, we can do better as far as playing on the field.
QUESTION: On the teleconference last night there was talk about the 3-4 defense, but not the option offense. How much experience do you and your staff have in facing the triple option? How big a challenge is that?
COACH LONDON: With the different defensive coaches on staff, there is a measured amount of experience running the option, and defending the option. Everyone knows when Coach Reid was at VMI and they ran the option there, and you’re playing a I-AA schedule sometimes you’re defending option teams. There is a culmination of coaches that have have experience running it and defending it. Hopefully we can put a game plan together that will give us a chance to compete.
QUESTION: I imagine for a football player, it’s a tough concept to take themselves out of the game. How do you tell your players to do that?
COACH LONDON: It’s one of those things because of the adrenaline, and the way you play, you’re playing all out. If a team happens to get into a six, eight, 12 play drives, then obviously if you can give 100 percent, then do so. But if not, if you feel you get winded or you get dinged a little bit, then the ‘tapping out’ part is just, hey, listen, you’ve got a guy on the sideline that is your back up waiting to get in and give his 100 percent. We just wanted to make sure that every time we’re out there, we’re giving everything we have, and that is the concept behind that. It happens a lot of times, that’s why you have back ups and substitutes in several situations.
QUESTION: And another question on tackling. Is that something you work on in practice this week or will film work accomplish a lot of that?
COACH LONDON: I think the guys seeing it and watching they see most missed tackles, and common mistake that the players have, is when their head is down, their eyes are down. You can’t see what you’re tackling. And I know every coach in America teaches this, because we’re all conscious of the proper technique of tackling with your head up. That is something you just got to make sure you keep doing it.
We’ll do it in practice. We won’t take down to the ground, but we’ll do the technique of tackling where you have to get yourself in proper position. We’ll make an emphasis of that again. It hadn’t been an issue for us in previous games, but this one you miss three tackles like that and all of a sudden it’s accentuated, particularly the one that led to the 70 yard touchdown run.
But our players have resolve, the coaches are ready to get back to work and work on all of those things that are going to help us.
QUESTION: You just mentioned the tackling, but after four games into the season – you’ve kind of had a lot of weaknesses exposed. What would you say is the biggest thing we need to work on?
COACH LONDON: A lot of our weaknesses exposed. Hmm? I would say the one thing is when you’re playing a good team like that, that those issues of the third down efficiency come into play – we were 0-for-7 in the first half. You’ve got to make a third down situation so you can hang on to the ball.
We had nine penalties in the game, they had four – going into the game they were the most penalized team in the conference, and we were tenth. We’re 11th in the conference now in terms of penalties, which is unacceptable. The margin for error when you’re playing against a fast team, the gaps that you have to close quickly, the decisions that you have to make – you have to make those things. You have to make them quickly. You have to do things quickly.
You take away some opportunities that they had, and we dropped three – missed three interceptions. You’ve got to make those plays. Fumble recovery opportunities, you’ve got to get to those footballs and then you have more possessions and maybe it’s a different story.
But there are no excuses. We’ve got to make the plays. We have to make sure our offense can have more opportunities to score because they, like I said, they did a great job.
Second half we outscored them. It was 14 7, but you’ve got to play four quarters with a team like that because you will get your issues and your weaknesses exposed if you can’t play every quarter. That’s something that we’ve got to work on, and we’ll continue to work on.
This week defensively presents a little bit of a challenge because of the type of offense. But definitely offensively, we can play better and do better.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about [Joshua] Nesbitt?
COACH LONDON: I tell you, he is an outstanding football player. He, I believe is the ACC career leader in rushing touchdowns – the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, just all of those things he brings to the table. He almost gets about a hundred yards a game rushing. And he’s been their three-year starter at Georgia Tech, and he’s done a great job of running the offense. Coach Johnson has him doing different things with the ball. You get an experienced guy that knows how to do it all, knows when to tuck it and run and when to pitch it. It makes him alone a triple threat. This is definitely an assignment oriented football game, but at the same time you can have a guy on him or two guys on him and he’s good enough to make them miss.
He goes back to the tackling aspect, assignment oriented football, because you definitely have to play your best football with this particular team because they can still run it, run it, maybe play action pass, but then they’ll run it, and run it again until you stop. So he’s a great player, and very deserving for all his awards and accolades.
QUESTION: Two questions, one, who gets to be Nesbitt in practice? And the other one is which coach is responsible for installing Georgia Tech’s offense? How do you handle that?
COACH LONDON: Obviously, you rely on the tape and the film that you have, and you break it down in terms of when the ball’s given to the fullback. You break it down to the quarterback runs.
QUESTION: Is it the GAs who does that?
COACH LONDON: It’s a collaborative effort from all the guys on the defensive staff. And you look back and you hope that you take something that coaches, as I said, Coach Reid, and Coach Hanson, they’re guys that have either ran it or defended it. Then you put the game plan together that way.
Then you try to find a guy that’s quick and elusive. Sometimes you take a receiver – we haven’t decided who that guy’s going to be, but you try to take somebody that can run, and be fairly representative of it. You always try to represent the speed of it, and the timing of it. Sometimes you never can do that unless you’re running it yourself. So we’ll do the best we can in trying to replicate some of those plays and some of the issues that are created when you’re defending it.
QUESTION: What does the offensive line need to do to get better on Saturday?
COACH LONDON: Keep blocking. Keep working on your technique – work on how to block the speed rusher. Florida State did great job, spin moves to the inside. Sometimes coaches don’t like the spin moves to the inside because the quarterback can roll outside. But they do a good job doing that, because they were fast enough to spin move and chase us down.
We just have to go back to the fundamentals of pass protection. Staying and keeping in front of your guys, good kick step. Having your hands up, your face up. Don’t put your face down because guys can make moves on that. Some of the things that coach Mattes has taught we’ll go back and keep reemphasizing, because not just for Florida State, but for every team we play now. You have to have your technique at an A level or else you’re going to struggle.
QUESTION: Marc talked after the game about making quicker decisions, but what are some of the things you as coaches can do to help him make quicker decisions easier?
COACH LONDON: Keep putting in those situations where if the cornerback is playing off him and our guy’s going to run a curl route, then throw the ball where the curl route’s supposed to be. The decisions that he made were balls that were thrown behind a guy – or low -things like that. We’ll continue to keep practicing. We do one on ones, we do pass scale, we do first things first – the fundamentals. We do things like that to reemphasize over and over and over again about where to place the ball more than anything else.
We’ll try to come up with ways to get him to being efficient again. And make sure the receivers are running the right routes. Make sure that the linemen are given the proper amount of protection based on the rush that they get – they’re all tied in together. All things are tied in together.
But I think Marc is a veteran quarterback that understands that this particularly wasn’t his best game in terms of some of those throws. But some of them that he did make, the ones where he showed patience and the one that he threw to Kris Burd in the third quarter was him having patience and seeing the rest of the field and making a good throw where Kris could run underneath the throw.
We’ll continue to keep working with him on how to make sure his efficiency rating is where it needs to be.
QUESTION: When you have a young team that’s learning how to win and things don’t go well in the first half, is it harder for them to overcome – and was that something you saw last week?
COACH LONDON: It is – and you find that out about your team early on. You don’t play games in August, but you keep talking about the psyche of it. Listen, bad things are going to happen in games sometimes. It’s how you respond to those things. We had the opportunity to play in three games, and in one of those games out at USC, bad things happened. But we were able to respond back to it in some sort of way.
In this particular game, couple things happened to us that we weren’t able to respond like you’d like to, with a young team. But those are my guys and that’s who I have, and I’ve got to keep coaching them and teaching them that during the course of the game you don’t always get a plus. You get some minuses. Sometimes you get those big minuses where you overthrow a guy for an interception or you miss a tackle and they run for 70 or whatever it may be.
I’ve always said that we’re a team that’s a work in progress, and we need to take care of the ball and keep doing things that are going to help us get better. The good thing about sports is that you may have a bad game, but you get a chance to play another opponent next week, and you dwell on it for a little bit, but after while you just roll on to the next game at hand and what you have to do.
Our guys are excited about an opportunity to play another game, another conference game.
QUESTION: You touched on it a little bit right there. When you were at practice yesterday did you notice that bounce back start already or the attitude?
COACH LONDON: I noticed that the attitude was one that we don’t want to get used to the feeling that you have when you don’t play well on Saturdays. I think there’s enough of senior leadership and there are some young guys who don’t know any better right now – a lot has to do with your mindset and about you making a personal decision about whether or not that you have to do more in terms of whether it’s watch film or your practice habits or whatever it is. I think our guys are pretty much excited about the fact that we have another opportunity to play again. Our mindset is still strong. We’re all we’ve got. We talk about family and things like that, and that’s what it is when you have a football team, a young football team that sometimes is looking for an identity.
So far we’ll keep forging ahead. I like our guys, and I think we’ll fight back with more of a spirit and keep our heads up.
QUESTION: How do you put into perspective what you did in the second half?
COACH LONDON: I think what happened, we started out the third quarter strong, and we connected on the pass with Kris Burd. Then in the third quarter going into the fourth quarter, we were driving again, and that was with Marc with his second interception.
You could tell that the opportunities that we had in some cases were there. Guys were making better blocks. I wasn’t looking at whether they made wholesale changes in terms of their personnel, but I was just looking at the fact that we just looked like we were playing faster, playing better, got it figured out. And I’m always one to try to look for the positive in a lot of things. So you can spin it in a lot of ways. With my young team, I like to look for positive things that come out of games like that, and that’s the mindset that I have. That is the mindset we’re going to set for this particular game, and then going into the next game, everyone knows and understands that we’ve got to play better quicker because games like that can get away from you fast.
QUESTION: Is this matchup personally awkward for you given the fact that you replaced Al Groh and how you’re coaching against him?
COACH LONDON: It’s not personally awkward. I’ve been coaching college ball for a long time now. And I know that he knows this is the reality of the profession of the business. It’s the storyline – If you say the fact that we were both here at the same time, but to me, I’ve told the players – this is a game where the University of Virginia is playing Georgia Tech, and it’s our second conference game. And that’s the way that we’re going to approach it, and that’s the way we look at it.
There is so much moving around. Your paths cross so many different ways, but the bottom line is when you’re competitors – the job is now to try to do something to help your team win.
There is much respect that I have but like I said, it’s Virginia playing Georgia Tech.
QUESTION: What kind of mental approach do the players have to take this week in facing an option team and a 3-4 defense?
COACH LONDON: I think you divide it up. Defensively it is an option team. We had our open week. We designated some of that practice time to that because it is such a different offense. Hopefully we didn’t get behind on that. But I think defensively it’s critical that we get the good look in practice, and be precise on our reads.
Fundamentals, and tackling and things like that.
I think offensively with the 3-4 system, VMI played some 3-4, we’ve seen that before. And we practiced some of it during our opening week also, some 3-4 looks because of the different challenges it presents.
But nothing is like playing a 3-4 team from a guy that knows the 3-4 defense. That will be a challenge for sure, but it won’t be the first time that we’ve seen the 3-04.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on Rodney [McLeod]? Will he practice?
COACH LONDON: On Thursday what I will release to the ACC is who is going to play, who is not going to play and that will be made available to everybody. Right now without having practice, and Tuesday being the first practice of the week, I’m not prepared to say whether Rodney’s going to be practicing or playing this game. But we’ll definitely know Thursday for sure.
QUESTION: You talked about your respect for Coach Groh. Have you ever thought that he is the one who hired you, so you may not be sitting here if not for him?
COACH LONDON: I’m an old guy that believes things happen for a reason. God has a plan and purpose for all of us in our lives. The paths that crossed and the path that we all take sometimes leads you to one place or another and sometimes then it brings you back to that place.
I’m very appreciative of the opportunity that’s been afforded to me, not just here at Virginia, but Boston College, Richmond, William & Mary, and with the Houston Texans. Maybe that also had something to do with me being here also – instead of just one single event.
But I recognize the opportunities that I was afforded here by Coach Groh, and very appreciative. But now my job is to be the best head coach here at the University of Virginia.
QUESTION: In terms of input from players on Coach Groh and what he’s done in the past, what will you take from them in preparation for this week?
COACH LONDON: You always like to listen to players. I think our players are at the point where they value the plan that the coaches put together and rely on the experience that coaches have had that played a particular defense or offense. You listen to players, but at the same time you try to put a game plan together based on what you see in your experience as a football coach.
I think a lot of that will be predicated on that. For sure, someone asked me last night how much have they seen of 3-4? Well, in August in precamp and spring practice, a lot of times you go against good on good. Your offense versus your defense, and you see things like that. The 3-4 won’t be a mystery, but at the same time they’re allowed to do different things with their schemes, and I’m quite sure that Coach Groh is doing some things different with the schemes. That’s where the game planning part comes into it. That’s where being sound fundamentally is going to come into it also. We’re hoping that we’ll put a game plan together that can help us on both sides of the ball, and the special teams.
QUESTION: What are the similarities between Eric Ward and Nesbitt, and is that something in recruiting that you look for – both running and passing?
COACH LONDON: Both of those guys, I don’t know Nesbitt, but I hear and I read things about him that he’s an outstanding young man, he’s a leader, he’s a winner. And obviously you can see that based on all of his accomplishments. Eric was the same way. Eric is a leader and a winner. And there is something about being a leader and a winner when you’re the quarterback that can take you a long way.
I don’t know if Eric can run the option like Nesbitt can, Eric was a pocket pass guy. Get out on the perimeter a little bit – but he was a field general. Nesbitt is a very talented athlete that leads their team in rushing and has all kinds of abilities.
I would say for both of them, there is a thing called leadership and an ‘it’ factor, and both of them have it.
QUESTION: As an assistant here, you coached the defensive linemen in a 3-4, then the defensive line in a 3-4 under Dom Capers, and again here. What made you want to switch and run the 4-3 at Richmond and later here?
COACH LONDON: I think running the 3-4, if you have the personnel to play it, it can be pretty good for you. And having traveled around a little bit in recruiting and when I got to Richmond, and we looked at the personnel that we had already there, and they were already suited to the four three. A lot of times your young defensive linemen that are out there like to play on an edge. To get some good defensive linemen, they like to be the three technique or nine technique – just guys that are playing on the edge.
At Richmond particularly, it’s easier to try to project the guy that’s in high school that is 208 pounds – that this guy’s going to get a little bigger, and he can be an edge player. He’ll gain 20 pounds. It’s easier to do that as opposed to project that guy will eventually be big enough to be a defensive end in a three four with your head up, your nose to nose and your two gapping to take care of the tackle in front of you.
So it depends on the type of player that you have in your system. At Richmond we had those edge guys already. I liked the way it worked there. I’ve coached it before. Then we got here in terms of making the change, I think the players embraced it and liked being on an edge and playing guys like Cam Johnson with his hand down on the ground.
We’re transitioning to the 4-3 and Georgia Tech made the change to the 3-4. They’re doing okay. You’ve got growing pains on both sides, and I think our players like it, and I think we can recruit to it particularly as it relates to the type of players that we have an opportunity to join us.
QUESTION: I know that tackle totals don’t tell the whole story, but Ausar Walcott leads the team in tackles – where does he stand in his development from corner to linebacker?
COACH LONDON: He’s improving. That is the whole thing. You’re trying to get guys like that to improve – guys like Ausar and La’Roy Reynolds. He’s done a nice job of being able to play out in space and be able to take a tight end or come up and take on a run with the linebacker mentality. He’s kind of developing that linebacker mentality where he’s around the ball a lot. His development and La’Roy’s development, and other guys is what we’re looking for to try to make us a better team on both sides of the ball and special teams.
QUESTION: Could you give your thoughts on Kris Burd and what kind of threat he has become for your offense?
COACH LONDON: Kris has been kind of a steady influence for us on offense – he is a guy that’s reliable. He can catch the ball, understands coverages and things like that and he can make plays, he can run. It’s great to have a guy like him, a guy like Dontrelle, and try to find another guy between Jared Green, and Matt Snyder, trying to find another guy that when they go in they can give us production also.
But Kris is representing his area well, and he does a great job as far as being a wide receiver for us. Hopefully we’ll get him more opportunities to catch and run and do the things that he does.
QUESTION: Marc [Verica] was somewhat critical of his performance Saturday. How much do you think the young guys look at his performance and how much does that affect them?
COACH LONDON: When you’re the quarterback, and you handle the ball 100 percent of the time, what you do with it and the decisions you make with it are vitally important. But the guys also have to understand that he’s a strong component of what’s going on offense – but if you’re a guard or defensive tackle or a corner, that you have to do your job also. You have to play your best.
That’s what happens sometimes in the game. Sometimes a guy is not on, and someone else along the way has to pick up the slack and be a guy that can make the play, make the tackle, so you’ll get a 70-yard run. Come down with the interception instead of letting it fall out of your hands, things like that.
Everyone is looking for everyone to do their job, but everyone understands that we’re only going to be as good as when you add up 22 guys, those 22 guys are doing their jobs.
As I said, our guys are not finger pointing or playing the blame game or anything like that. We’ve all got to do a better job. I think the players recognize that.
QUESTION: It seems like everybody runs their options the way they run the zone too.
COACH LONDON: Coach Johnson has been running that offense for a long, long time, so there’s not a defense that’s been invented that he hasn’t seen. Then when you have a quarterback particularly like Nesbitt, who is a three year guy, there’s not a front, there’s not a call, there’s not something that probably has not challenged him to where teams have had success in stopping him. I don’t know if you stop the option as much.
He’s pretty special. He’s special what he does with the ball. You definitely have to pay a lot of attention to him, but also they have a fullback that’s 230 pounds that can fall forward for three or four yards. And they do a great job of getting on the perimeter by motioning the guy to pitch or by stationery guy running one way and coming back with the counter option.
So he’s done a lot of things. He’s seen a lot of defenses. We’ve just got to make sure that the game plan we put together is to try to help minimize what happens to us. I think they’re No. 6 in the country in rushing offense. So that’s pretty good.
We’ll have to play well defensively. The other aspects, offensively, we’ve got to play well, and on special teams we’ve got to create situations for us also. This is a game, definitely, that all three facets have to play well, because with them running the ball like that, they hold on to the ball for a long time. You don’t get a lot of chances to have the ball or have possessions offensively. You have to make sure that when you do, that you have opportunities to score.
QUESTION: Do they still block in the same fashion that they have in the past? There have been linemen in the past who have complained about chop blocking?
COACH LONDON: Chop blocking is illegal. I think the term you’re looking for is a cut block. Which is legal within the confines of the offensive line area. And you have to teach your guys, get ready to use your hands because they’re going to come after you – your ankles and try to chop you and get you down on the ground. Even to the second level, linebackers and everyone else will go down field, and they’ll try to cut you. And that’s to get you down on the ground. I assume the fullback or the quarterback running the ball gives them the crease. There is a method to the measures that they use and the set that they use. We’ll practice this week. I don’t know if we’re going to cut ourselves live, but I think in the past we’ve used dummies to throw at their legs, and drills, individual drills and techniques that you do to make sure these guys us their hands – because you’re going to have to.