Mike London Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript
COACH LONDON: Unfortunately I have to report on one of our captains, Ras I Dowling, who started the game and after the first couple of reps in the contest he came out with an ankle injury. We have come to find out that he fractured his ankle, so he’s done for the rest of the year.
It’s unfortunate because he’s such a great young man, a great captain and a great leader. He still has a bright football future ahead of him.
He was trying so hard to get in these games after battling injuries with his hamstring, and then there was the knee issue, and now the ankle. But just saw him a few minutes ago, and Ras I was upbeat, I mean, Ras I is prayerful and his faith is very meaningful to him. And he’s looking at this as just a tiny setback as he is moving forward.
We wish him the best in his recovery and I know he’ll be ready to for Pro Day in April.
QUESTION: Too early to know what kind of recovery time is involved there?
COACH LONDON: Little too early to define right now. They’ll have to do the MRI part of it to see if it’s a break or if it’s a fracture – that will determine if time off will heal it on its own or whatever. I’m sure we’ll find out here real soon for him.
QUESTION: Will Landon [Bradley] be back by spring practice?
COACH LONDON: What we do after every season is we assess guys that are playing with injuries that need surgical attention and react to what we need to get down prior to next season. Landon actually tomorrow is having surgery on his lower leg extremity. Then he may have surgery on his shoulder, which may preclude him from being involved in spring practice.
What we always do during the season is look at guys that are playing, that can continue to play, and then do postseason surgeries. You look at guys that if they need it now – like Tim Smith – a guy that had an opportunity for surgery during the season and will be back by spring – but Landon we’re talking about the summer going into the fall for him being ready to go.
QUESTION: I noticed you always bring in your ‘keys of the week.’ Would you like to share your keys of the game here?
COACH LONDON: Only if you ask [smiling]. I bring it in just in case. Basically what it talks about are the players that are on offense or defense that are significant. Just briefly – the linebacker defensively – don’t want to pronounce his last name the wrong way, but I know he’s a real good one. I think he leads the country in tackles.
Everybody knows the story about Mark Herzlich about his situation being ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, and his bout with his personal health issues and how he’s come back. I met him at the ACC coaches meeting down in Greensboro. What a great young man.
Offensively the quarterback, Chase Rettig, freshman doing a nice job administering the ball and basically handing the ball off to the next guy, Montel Harris, who is probably the best running back arguably in the conference. His statistics speak for the fact that he’s averaging over 100 something yards a game. He’s catching the ball and he’s returning kicks – Boston College relies heavily on Hill.
And Andrew Castonzo is probably the will be first left tackle in the first round of the NFL Draft that will be picked. He’s a very, very good one. So those are the keys to victory.
Some other things I talked about are our special teams. How close we are, how far apart we are. Points allowed versus points given up, just different things as you go into game planning. How you try to attack an opponent and know perhaps what their strengths are. That’s why I bring it.
QUESTION: You tried to get the ball to Bobby Smith on that pattern. Is that just a play he runs particularly well, or is he a guy you might try to get more time for going forward?
COACH LONDON: We talked about that last night about trying to get more players more opportunities. At that portion of the game Dontrelle [Inman] and Kris Burd were out. Actually the next receiver that should have been in the game wasn’t, Bobby ran in there, so he got his reps himself there.
As the game went on when Kris and Dontrelle came back and as we got into the fourth quarter and things got away, we never got a chance to put it back in. But he’s one of the guys as well as Rijo Walker on defense, as well as Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny when opportunities present themselves to get them in the game.
Our offensive line, Lou Bowanko, those guys got to play with a limited amount of reps that now’s as good a time as any to try to develop them and get them more reps. Will Hill, Brent Urban and Billy Schautz, Jeremiah Mathis who we changed three or four games ago to a tight end actually caught his first touchdown pass as a collegiate player. We want to get them more reps and opportunities in games.
There are still names I’ve left off, but it would be an assertive effort to make sure we do that.
QUESTION: Were you involved in the Castonzo recruiting?
COACH LONDON: I was here in the beginning of all of that and thought it looked good for us. I don’t know what happened after I left, where that went.
But you could tell then back then that he had the right temperament, the mindset. He’s an excellent student also. There are just so many things about him that say, from a football standpoint, first class or first round.
QUESTION: The last two games a lot of points were given up in the fourth quarter. How important is it to get that to finish strong?
COACH LONDON: It’s always important to finish strong. It’s always important defensively not to get the ball thrown behind you or give up points and offensively its important not to go three and out. We need to extend the drives and make some first downs on third downs because that is as much a part of it also. If you can’t move it or you turn the ball over, you once again give them an opportunity to score points.
They threw the ball up and they made some plays. In the first half particularly with the 62 yard play and the 52 yard play, that’s over 100 something yards of offense right there in the beginning. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do a better job of that. Late in the third quarter, almost early in the fourth quarter we were playing a coverage that hopefully would get an interception.
It goes right through the hands of Darnell Carter, and the guy was there to make an unbelievable catch on the drive. Those are heartbreaking deals right there. But you can’t give up points. You’ve got to make first downs when you have opportunities and turnovers – you’ve got to make sure that you take advantage of it.
QUESTION: You mentioned the younger guys that you want to get more reps in the last couple of weeks. But how does that alter preparation in practice?
COACH LONDON: When you’re running practice or you’re going against the scout team or show team, you’re always running the ones and the twos to get the same type of looks and get the opportunities to block the blitzes and the stunts. We do the same thing on defense, give the same type of looks.
The preparation is such that your number one guy is always an injury away. We’re well aware that you’re just an injury away from the next guy going into the game. There have been a lot of ‘next guys’ going into the game for us.
This week’s preparation will be to prepare as if you’re going to play, get some reps in the game. That’s what’s going to happen, and that is the goal to make sure at least a two deep has an opportunity before going into spring practice with some reps in the next couple games here. We want to have gone into the game and played versus competition.
QUESTION: Is there an opportunity in special packages for Rocco or Metheny or have you thought about other opportunities for them?
COACH LONDON: You have to be mindful of the flow of the game and the rhythm of the game as people talk about. But there are certain things that Michael Rocco does that we need to be conscious of. There are certain types of plays that need to be called for him to have hopefully a measured amount of success. Same thing goes for Ross.
During the course of the game as the game is being managed and it’s going on, for us it’s about now trying to develop the two that we have that are playing. We have to pick those spots.
QUESTION: Going back to Boston are you a nostalgic guy?
COACH LONDON: When Tom O’Brien was here and he recruited my brother, Paul, and we stayed in contact over the years? As Coach O’Brien was here and his name started being mentioned for other jobs, I believe he was mentioned for Marshall and a couple of other places. Coaches always have that short list of coaches they want to bring with them. I think I was on coach O’Brien’s short list.
He would call me and say I might have an opportunity to go to this place or that place. Then one day he’ll call about going to go to Boston College and asked me if I wanted to come? I was at Richmond at that time, and Jim Reid was the head coach actually. When that opportunity presented itself, I think Coach Reid called coach O’Brien and said you’d be crazy not to hire this guy. So I was in the right place at the right time with the prior relationship with Coach O’Brien.
Coach Reid recommended me as an assistant coach. We go up there and spent four great years. Got a chance to coach Chris Hovan, a first round draft pick that went to the Minnesota Vikings from Boston College. It is where I learned my daughter was sick and needed a bone marrow transplant at the children’s hospital up there in Boston, there is no other place to be when you have a terminal illness or an illness like that to be diagnosed than a place like Boston’s Children’s Hospital. I am so very thankful of being in Boston at that time.
Went to a couple of Bowl games from there, so I had a great experience. Although it snows all the time, and my wife would say it was a great experience being up in Chestnut Hill. We lived out in Framingham, Massachusetts – Mass Pike and Route 9. All the frustrations you have of trying to get to work back and forth, but there were some good years there. Met a lot of good people.
Frank Spaziani who was on that staff. Now a head coach, Jeff Jagazinski, and Al Golden were on that staff, so there were some good years there, good people.
QUESTION: You don’t hear much about Montel Harris even though he’s leading the team in rushing. What do you like about him as a back? Just analyze his game a little bit in?
COACH LONDON: I tell you, he’s an outstanding running back. You talk about seeing the holes and hitting it downhill or being able to jump cut or you think you have him tackled and then all of a sudden he gets out of the tackle or the scrum, so to speak. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He also returns kicks and he’s fast and he’s elusive.
You see all the special things that he brings to BC and they rely heavily on him even more so I am sure with a freshman quarterback.
But he’s one of the best that I’ve seen and rightfully so because the kid plays with passion and energy. All those things that you want your superstar players to have, he has those things.
QUESTION: You were here in 2001 when a bunch of players who had previously been in a 4-3 and were recruited to be in a 4-3, had to run the 3-4 and struggled with that. Now you have a bunch of guys who play the 3-4 and are running the 4-3 and they’re struggling. Do you see similarities where some guys aren’t able to go with that right now?
COACH LONDON: I know when you switch schemes there’s always the learning part of it. Then when you switch players that you’re switching schemes from, it’s into different positions, then you double the learning process of it. But it’s all part of it.
I look around at teams that have had the same system in place for a while. Just take a Maryland team, same coordinators on both sides. A couple of years of being in the system and recruiting the style of players and they are playing and doing better.
I anticipate us being sort of the same situation. Still teaching and learning and make sure these guys are learning the positions that they play that relates to the new scheme. Then going through another spring practice and the continuity of the staff, I think all of those things play a large part into the development of your offense or defense.
The types of young men that we’re recruiting now are being recruited to the 4-3 system. We’re recruiting the offensive guys in the style of offense that we play, so I think that’s important. I think a lot of players see it and are excited about it.
We’re just moving forward with the plan.
QUESTION: Are certain officials more receptive to listening to you than others?
COACH LONDON: I always try to do what I think is in the best interest for our team and our players. And I am animated on the sideline. But I think if you were to talk to the referees or the sideline officials that you should never cursed them.
I’m animated about things, loud and passionate about things, but not in a way to demean them – but wanting to make sure that there is a point that I want to get across about a call or lack of a call.
I think that’s just my nature again. It’s part of it. Looking through penalties, and looking back – offensive holding is thenumber one penalty. It’s the highest average call in the ACC. It’s called 17 percent of the time. Ours is 25 percent of the time. So that’s way, way too many. It’s not just a linemen, it’s maybe the wide receivers on the edge, trying to capture the edge with their hands outside.
Second most is false starts. With 18 percent of what’s being called in the ACC that is 15 percent of the calls that we have. So it’s below the average. But, again, it’s too many guys moving before you’re supposed to move.
Then the third one is defensive offsides, which is the third one, which is 9 percent of all of our calls. Which is the same average during the rest of the ACC games. So it goes back to the holding issues whether it’s wide receivers on the perimeter, offensive linemen inside, running backs trying to capture the edge and tight ends, whatever it is.
You look at things like this and you make sure you address it by getting an empire to stand back there and officiate up front what’s going on.
If you see anything close to a hold, throw it. But that’s all part of that process of learning. Penalties are never good for you because you’re going backwards. But people say what about the lack of discipline? The lack of discipline would be personal fouls, unnecessary roughness with your head or sideline warnings. As animated as I am, I never got called for a bench foul, and that’s been called in the conference.
So is that a discipline thing as far as players handling themselves? I think we have to do a better job of teaching hand placement with receivers, offensive linemen or anyone that’s blocking on the perimeter.
So we’ll continue to learn. You’ll see we’ll do better. I’m responsible for that. As I said last night, the coaches that coach those positions are responsible for that, and the players ultimately are responsible for taking the coaching and teaching because they are being taught the right way. They have to execute so. We’ll address that in practice this week.
QUESTION: Is it 25 percent of your penalties that are holding?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, 25 percent of all penalties that we have made are holding calls. Whether it’s linemen or receivers or tight ends or backs. So spread it around, it’s 25 percent too much.
QUESTION: The clarification for Dowling , now that he’s not been playing, any connection between this last injury and the others?
COACH LONDON: No.
QUESTION: There have been three separate injuries?
COACH LONDON: No, it’s two. The hamstring and the knee bothered him a little bit, but he tried to play through things. And this is an ankle, so it’s three separate in that regard. And the ankle is a on the opposite leg from the knee issue.
But it’s bizarre just to see how I think a great player, he’s what you want in a young man, what you want representing the University as a captain, football player person. All the things he represents with his faith and who he is, and family, a great family.
He’ll probably be looked at more from the playing side how he played last year off season than this year. He’ll be ready for his pro day. I think he’ll do outstanding things in his pro day to garner the first round tag that a lot of people put on him initially. I think he’ll be ready. I think he’ll be bigger, faster, and stronger from that.
QUESTION: I know you want to win every game, but how important is staying at .500. And catching a road win going into next year with those younger players?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, it’s always important to build on things that can help you improve as a team. The road win part of it is important. It’s amazing still having a chance to be .500 is still in the realm of possibilities. But you can’t look past a Boston College team that is very, very good. They beat a team that we didn’t beat [Duke].
The last team we’re playing is an outstanding team because they’re playing very well. So first things first approach to us is that going up to BC, playing a team that has five wins themselves and is looking for their sixth win, but playing well on the road. Limiting the things that we’ve talked about here briefly playing football that these guys feel that they have enough players playing the game that feel like they have a vested interest in what’s going on. So that is the juggling part of it.
I want to win, but I want to develop players. I want to win the right way. I’m not going to burn redshirts. I’m just going to try to develop guys as we go along. We’re looking forward towards the trip up there, back up to Chestnut Hill.
QUESTION: How important is it to stop the passing game the last two games?
COACH LONDON: Part of it, the mindset has to be to stop the run. They have the guy that is one of their strengths. It’s running the ball. So you know you have to be able to make sure you have gap integrity and that the linebackers are filling their gaps.
They’re planning the run correctly. They bring an 8th man down to safety. He knows what he’s doing. If you’re stuck in there blitzing, that you make sure you’re still in the same gaps. Because if not, Harrison demonstrates time after time with teams that have tried to do something similar, if he creases you, he can go.
That will be important, being able to stop the run and being able to throw the ball.
QUESTION: You talked about if people weren’t on board they could drop their uniforms off on Monday and skip practice. What was the genesis of that? Was that a reaction to something?
COACH LONDON: You’ll have guys like Paul Freedman and everybody who will have a chance to talk to you about that. But it’s hard sitting in this chair to know of the progress that is being made. I know you look at the wins and losses on the field and it’s discouraging, but it’s hard sometimes to sit here in this position and think about things moving ahead well.
What happened when bad things happen to you in the game, sometimes you think what happens is sometimes teams quit on you when you know you’re not going to a Bowl game?
What happens when leadership gets hurt and you’re supposed to be the guy that who else do we look up to in well, what’s happening is I think we’re still playing hard. We’re still playing aggressive. I think no one has quit on our team. No one has mentioned ‘Coach, I can take a couple weeks off?’
They’re lifting hard and they’re running hard. They’re up there watching film. Again, ask the players of the mindset. I think that’s part of the difference. Part of the difference of a team that maybe would have gone south or quit playing as one that, listen, we’ve got good games left. We have opportunities to do this and have a chance to win a road game. Have a chance to make our fourth, fifth year seniors the last couple of experiences positive ones.
These guys haven’t quit in one way, and one player’s not said anything about what to do. They want to learn more. That’s progress to me. I’m seeing progress in the classroom and tremendous progress in the classroom and in the community, things like that. So no one’s quitting. There’s a lot of fight left.
QUESTION: Their linebackers are very well known, but you don’t hear a lot about the other guys on defense. Could you talk about them and how their defense rates compared to others you have seen?
COACH LONDON: I think one of their all stars is Donny Fletcher, the cornerback who is a junior. The other one is defensive tackle Joe Polano, who is one of their big – tough guys. When I was there you always used to recruit those tough offensive and defensive linemen. Guys like Mark Columbo who played with Dallas for a while, or Dukakis who played for the Cleveland Browns. There are a bunch of big and tough guys that I know BC has always prided themselves on. And they are big, and thick and physical across the board there.
They do some things that they’re still doing when I was there, but they’re doing what’s been working for them. They believe in keeping the ball in front of them, zone pressuring, making you make a mistake. And the linebackers have to run you down and make you have to block those big linemen upfront. So I think collectively they’ve done a nice job.
QUESTION: There was a brief discussion here that the offense changed kind of year-to-year. And the one thing was BC is going to run the ball. Is it important not only to have defensive identity or it has something to do with year in, year out working to change?
COACH LONDON: Well, I think you have to be consistent from a standpoint from the type of young man you’re going to recruit to play in that system. You can’t keep going from this guy to that type of guy, from this body type to that body type. You know, if you want to get faster, you’ve got to recruit faster players. We’re trying to recruit skilled players.
Standing in the 4-3 scheme, it goes back to high school young men, he might be 220 right now. In a 3-4 system, they say maybe a linebacker can be, 250, 260, in a 4-3 system, he’s 230 pounds and you put his hands on the ground and let him come off the edge.
You just have to stay consistent to the type of guys that we’re recruiting to the type of defense, the style of defense that we’re playing. Then you let that bear out over the next couple of years.
QUESTION: Now what about on the offensive side of the ball?
COACH LONDON: Offensively I think it’s important again because it’s the same thing. I think our offense has improved. As a matter of fact as much as we try to be balanced with Keith Payne, I don’t know if he’s still leading the ACC in scoring, but he and Perry Jones are in that top mix.
And correct me if I’m wrong, for the first time in a long time we’ve had two wide receivers that have caught over 40 catches, which I don’t remember the last time that’s been done.
Trying to speak the balance about running the ball, throwing the ball. That’s what we want to be and we want to be able to do that. It makes it easier to recruit the top running backs because you get the ball to them, and the wide receivers because you throw the ball to them and the offensive linemen because you change the block for both of them and the quarterback.
I think there is a measured amount of success that can be achieved through the consistency of having a scheme that says this is the type of running back, wide receiver, offensive linemen, tight end that we’re looking for.
QUESTION: Are you optimistic for Payne and Jones this week?
COACH LONDON: I’m optimistic about Perry Jones, and I’m guarded but optimistic about Keith. They are two significant parts of our offensive approach. So they’ll be on the plane on Friday going to Boston College, put it that way.