Mike London Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript
QUESTION: What is the game plan as far as Tyrod Taylor?
LONDON: I tell you what, you’ve seen a lot of people try to game plan him certain ways, but he’s such a phenomenal athlete that you’ve got to worry about doing some other things, but also being very conscious of where he is.
I remember when I was recruiting him, and knowing the family and what a great young man he is. It’s just really neat to see the way he’s blossomed into being a great person and a great player. But there’s no way you say you can defend him like this, like that, because he has all the tools, the arms, the legs to get out of it. He’s become a really good quarterback in terms of the passing game.
He’s an athletic guy that makes things happen for him. We’ve got enough to worry about with not just him, but the running backs and wide receivers. They have a host of players that are the reason why they’ve had success – it is not only because of Tyrod – but some of the other guys on the team as well.
QUESTION: When you were playing football, Tech wasn’t anything like they are now. They weren’t a national power or anything like that. As a coach at Richmond or here, how much have you studied the road that they’ve taken to get where they are?
LONDON: It has been interesting being a player here in the state of Virginia, and going to high school and being a coach in a couple of places in fact, I remember when I was at the University of Richmond, Coach Beamer brought me up and interviewed me for one of the positions on the staff. That’s when I had a chance to know Bud Foster and those guys. To watch the progress, to watch the recruiting, to watch the things that they’ve done is to be commendable.
I do know that Coach Beamer didn’t start out hot. Someone gave him a chance to make sure he had a couple of years behind him and to build a program. He’s done that much he’s done that in a very significant way. I have nothing but respect for them.
Tough talk doesn’t win games for you. Tough play does. So we’re going to try to play tough, and we know it’s a rival game. We know all the other things that go on with it, but we are excited about their opportunity.
I guess this is kind of you could say our bowl game. This is it for us and for a lot of guys, for us. We look forward to playing down in Blacksburg and playing in front of a raucous crowd. All the things that you want to play or your players to have an experience in as far as college football – this will be provided for that.
QUESTION: Halsey leads the nation in interceptions – you have Chase Minnifield. How does it change the game to have guys like?
LONDON: For me, you go out and try to recruit a whole bunch of guys like that. Because those types of players make a significant difference in the game defensively – like when the ball is in the air, they have the mentality that it belongs to them, and he does. He also returns kicks.
He’s a very complete player as well as Chase. Chase returns kicks. So you always have to be conscious of where ball hogs that we call them, guys like that where they are because they go after the ball.
Bud’s got them playing well on defense, and that is just a mindset that they have. But you respect his game, but you also play your game and do what you have to do. We’ll be seeing a lot of him, but he’s done well for himself.
QUESTION: You mentioned the recruiting Tyrod Taylor. Did you ever think Tyrod had a chance of coming to Virginia?
LONDON: You know what, I think you’d have to ask him or Coach Smith. But I thought I had a pretty good relationship with Tyrod. Every time I’d see his dad or him, it’s always been a very positive, hey, how you doing coach type of thing.
So I never perhaps I’ll never know how close, if we were even close with him, because we did get Peter [Lalich]. But I know that he was as a talent then and he’s talent now.
QUESTION: How has this rivalry evolved in your mind?
LONDON: It’s a rivalry because it’s the last game of the year or because its your in state team. But there is on no secret the last couple years since, I think, 2003, they’ve won every game. So you can talk rivalry as far as in state. We recruit the same type of kids. But they have won the last several games.
In order to make it an interesting rivalry, we have to do a better job of competing on the field, and we haven’t done that. But in building this program, that’s one of the goals is to be able to do that on a consistent basis is to compete against them recruiting wise, and also to compete on the field. Because right now they’ve done all the things they need to do to be where they are.
QUESTION: No secret Virginia hasn’t won in Blacksburg since 1998. Simply, what does a win down there, if you’re able to do it Saturday, do for the program, if not just the season?
LONDON: Well, first of all, I’ll try to get Dex to suit up again and we will see. But any time you have a win against a top 25 program as we did against Miami at that particular time, there is always a boost confidence. It is always a sense of accomplishment for your players.
But you’ve got to play well. Sometimes they have to help you as far as turnovers and things like that.
They’re very sound in a lot of things that they do. We’ll have to play our best game. Limit turnovers and those mental errors that guy block the wrong guy or something like that, because they make you pay for those.
They have a ground game with their running back, couple running backs or downhill runners that can jump cut and do all those things. Then as soon as you gang you up on to try to stop the run, they do a great job of play action pass and throwing the ball down the field. You know, Tyrod can make it happen also with his feet and with his arms.
So it’s got to be our best game defensively. It was better, and I was pleased at this past game that we didn’t have the run of points that we’ve been having the last couple of games. I think 55 points and then 40 something points in those past game. We didn’t give up any points in the fourth quarter. Gave up seven points early in the third quarter. Just looking for measures to improve, you know, in all areas offensively and defensively.
Offensively against the defense that they have at Boston College almost putting up 500 total yards on them was a positive. So you try to take some of those things and you keep trying to accentuate the positives with who you’re getting ready to play and doing the things necessary to give yourself a chance.
That’s why you practice. That’s why you play. It’s the last game for us, and we’re looking forward to playing well and trying to send out seniors and fifth year guys on a positive note.
QUESTION: You said that you want to try to get some more players and have some more playing time than some of the other guys. We saw Mike Rocco in the game up 10 3 at Boston College. How do you decide in a game that is so close when to put the younger players in there? What goes into that decision?
LONDON: We have to pick and choose particularly at the quarterback position right there. But during the course of the game, hey, look, third series regardless where the ball is, this guy’s going in to the game or these guys are going into the game.
We did that on a couple of occasions. Out of it, Will Hill, a local product from Lafayette High School actually ended up having a sack and a pressure, and did a really nice job. Actually going to earn him more playing time.
Rijo Walker, the defensive back from Buffalo High School went in and played some corner. He played all the big four units in special teams during the year. We did that with several positions throughout the team with about 69 players on the trip.
Well, I played close to like 60. That is the only way can you do it. Sometimes you have to say, okay, this series you’re going in the game because if not you’re always well, we’re on the 20 yard line or well, we’re you know, you’ve just got to put them in. I think with the quarterback situation, you have to be careful.
If it’s two minutes into the half you don’t want to put him into that type of situation. You have to be smart how you use him. That’s what we did with Michael Rocco, and didn’t have a chance to do it with Ross. But if the same scenario presents itself again in this game, we’ll try to do the same thing.
QUESTION: It seems like since you guys took over that you’re in the conversation with more players, just recruiting them. Yet there are some high schools that didn’t have a real good relationship with the folks here before you guys got here. Do you kind of feel that way?
LONDON: I do in a way that it takes a long time to establish and build relationships with coaches and with some of you guys. I’ve known a lot of you guys a long time. And you are what you consistently say and act and do. That’s who you are.
I would hope that with the area in state high school coaches that have known me – or some of the guys on the staff, we’ve been consistent with players that have been here at Virginia before. With the way we go out on the road and the way we recruit their players at their schools.
As I said before, the school itself attracts and draws a certain amount of young men that just like the message because of the school. Then the recruiting part of it, the personalities, guys like Anthony Poindexter and Shawn Moore – and all the guys on the staff and myself having been around in the area, you just hope there is a connection.
I think there is a connection that a lot of people, parents and players have with us despite what’s going on the field. Because let’s face it, as you watch us now there are probably a lot of young men that say I can play. I can play there and I can play now, and they can.
The recruiting part of it, I think, is doing well. We’ll have to continue to keep doing that. But the message of the school and the people – our strength is in our people right now. It’s not in who is coming into the games, how many pair of shoes they wear.
The message of going to class, showing class, and treating people the right way – that is the message that comes from me down to the assistant coaches. Hopefully parents and players that want to subscribe to that and also have a chance to play – come to a great University, get a great degree. Hopefully, that’s the draw. I think that’s where it is right now, and we have to continue to keep on, keep pressing, and this thing will turn. I’m very confident of that.
QUESTION: How much of an impediment the fact they have dominated the series for so long?
LONDON: Well, you can look at it couple different ways. As the new guy coming in and as you try to attract young men that are interested in your particular university, you can say hey, listen. You can be part of the foundation that changed the culture and changed the fortunes of Virginia football.
That is one way. That is the only way that I can look at it right now. Obviously they can talk about how many times in a row they’ve won and look what they’ve done and what they’re doing now.
So to me, it’s about being a foundation and being an opportunity for young men to come in and play. And live up to, as someone said, a rivalry. A rival he’s not you won so many games in a row, and you haven’t had a chance to be in it competitively but to do it on the field do it in recruiting, do it in every other way, relationships with high school coaches, parents. Do it in the community.
That is how you build your brand. If you get that type of young man that is interested in that and he comes to us, that’s how you start it. I think hopefully right now the ones that we do have that it it’s a start of something that is positive for us.
QUESTION: Dontrelle [Inman] and Kris [Burd] are scheduled to be in. Can you talk about what it’s meant to your office to have not one but two perimeter receiving specialists, especially a guy like Dontrelle who had fewer than 300 yards his first three years and now he’s over 700 for the season?
LONDON: Yeah, I wish I had him back. That year he played as a true freshman, he didn’t play much – but it is significant when you have two that have over 40 catches in a season.
But it also speaks to the type of balance that Coach Lazor and the offensive staff has done with their guys. With the running backs, the Keith Payne’s of the world that is up there in scoring. But I think in terms of balance and opportunity, that the wide receivers that are out there can look at us and say we’re going to throw the ball. And running backs, you know, the same opportunity.
So they had two guys like that, one coming back for sure. Dontrelle has gotten some looks, so I’m quite sure he’ll probably get in some camps. He’s kind of worked his way up into being a really good player that will give himself some opportunities here after his college season is over.
QUESTION: It would appear in the last three games that you put yourself in position to win all three games. Does this team still need to learn how to win?
LONDON: I think so. I think what you keep learning and what you keep doing is you keep trying to put them up into those situations. And we’ve all heard about you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. We’re leading the horse to water. And saying, hey, look, if you drink it, it’s a good thing for you.
I think just keep leading them. Keep trying to put them into position. Keep trying to develop that mindset that you look back in the past at Boston College that was throwing the touchdown passes. It was between the corner and the safety right on top of them, great catch, touchdown.
You’ll make a play one time. You’ll stick your hand up and knock that ball down. The interception that La’Roy had in his hands and dropped, he catches that and he runs for a touchdown because there is nobody else around him, you’ll make a play like that.
I tend to be the eternal optimist and keep looking at opportunities like that as turning the fortunes of what guys think about themselves. Instead of when something bad happens, oh, woes me, here we go again. Just keep pressing those issues like that, because it will happen. It will happen.
The light will come on, and you’ll make plays like that and point back and say that was the difference when the season turned for us.
We’re still teaching. We’re still coaching. So that’s all part of what we do and what we have to do with these guys.
QUESTION: Talking to your guys after the game Saturday, they said they were still having fun. Still enjoying coming to practice. How do you create that here in the middle of a losing streak?
LONDON: I’m not going to walk around uptight. It’s hard enough as it is to win games, but the main thing that I always keep thinking about is they’re 18, 19, 20, 21 year old bodies, but still inside those bodies beat the heart of somebody’s child. It does me no good and them no good to ridicule or belittle them. When you see what you see, if you’re just a step slow in making a play, then that’s what you are.
So the way you correct that is you go out and you recruit players that are as fast as they are. Get players surrounded in the program of guys that come from programs that have won and have that mindset we just talked about.
Doug asked about how do you create that? Well, it’s been that way for a while when something bad is going on – you don’t rise to the occasion of taking it over. But you continue to try to create and recruit young men that have been all they’ve known is winning. All they’ve known is overcoming adversity.
And this year, ladies and gentlemen, this has been a tough year for us – adversity with our players, with Colter Phillips losing his father, with Corey Moseley’s uncle tragically losing his life a couple weeks ago.
And it’s safe to say I probably won’t have him back, because he’s still dealing with the ordeal one does when someone’s taken from you like that, dealing with that. Then it trickles over on to the team, because the team feels for the players. You’ve got to deal with, again.
So wins and loss, that’s important. But right now I’ve got to deal with guys staying focused, about who they are, about schoolwork, about maintaining their eligibility, about still being good teammates to guys that have lost relatives along the way – and there’s been a lot of them.
This is a game that you want to win. But the bigger picture for me right now is educating and embracing the guys who need someone to put their arms around right now. And that’s my approach to this whole thing. I want to win the game, but I also want to train up and be a mentor and role model to players that when something bad happens, and it’s happened a lot this year, that we’re not looking to run and hide.
We’re not looking to hang our heads. So why wouldn’t I want to make practice engaging and fun, and make it so these guys have a positive experience, even though the record indicates otherwise.
So there are so many other facets to these guys as young men and student athletes that I think you can get lost in being labeled. Because we are who we are as far as our record is concerned, but there is so much more to what these guys are.
And I choose to stand on the positive part of it and keep working – the determination and resolve. That’s all I know. Wilson London was 30 years Air Force, retired Air Force. That’s all I know. I don’t know any other way.
So I’m going to continue to coach my guys positive. It will catch. The light will come on, I’m sure of it.
But it will come on in ways that off the field ways that what you do, classroom, community, I’m convinced of that. Hopefully in February, when we’re talking and taking a look at additions, who is not with us, we’ll be a new team, a new look team. But right now we’ve got one game left and we’re going to try to do everything we can to play well in that game.
QUESTION: What will you do to address the penalty issue and can you put your finger on the reason for it? Is it lack of discipline or other factors?
LONDON: I equate lack of discipline with a team that has personal fouls, late hits, and un sportsmanlike conduct. Actions that you inwardly just go do something to another player that’s totally uncalled for or out of character.
Jumping off sides or the illegal formations are thing that’s we’ve just got to keep harping on the players. One of those penalties was calling the wrong formation. That is a coaching error, so you can’t put it all on the players. It was calling the wrong formation. The kids lined up and the formation was called that shouldn’t have been called.
You’ve got to be able to go on two sometimes. So instead of hut 1, hut 2, you can’t jump on hut 1 when you’re trying to go on 2 and draw somebody off sides. That’s a player issue that’s got to make sure he understands that.
To go from 16 to 9, we had six in the first half and three in the second half. So, again, that’s an improvement we’re looking for. But we’re always striving to eliminate those penalties to ones like jumping offside, illegal formations where you’ve got control of those things.
One of those penalties was a personal foul penalty where the guy ripped the helmet off John Kevin Dolce, and he turned around and chased after the guy and got after him. Well, his actions resulted in him being penalized also.
So the offsetting penalty, which you don’t mark it off, but it’s an offsetting penalty. Then you tell him, hey, listen – had you not responded or retaliated like that, it would have been a personal foul against them.
So you’re always trying to teach, and always trying to show them learning situations that we can get better at. So this game, again, we’re going to try to make sure that we limit any penalties or anything that can happen negatively.
QUESTION: At what stage of your career did you interview at Virginia Tech? I assume you didn’t get hired.
LONDON: I was it was the second time that I came back to the University of Richmond when Coach Reid was the head coach. I was at Richmond as a part time assistant. And then coach Reid hired me from William & Mary to Richmond. I had an opportunity then.
I’m always joking Jim Cavanaugh, because that is the guy that coached Coach Howard. So I can’t stay mad at Cav because his wife taught my wife at Denby High School.
So, anyways we’re very competitive. Our stats are competitive against theirs. But I have a respect for them for who they are and what they do and what they’ve accomplished.
At the same time now I’m here at Virginia. Now the goal is to recruit, to win, and to do the things that are going to make Virginia a team to be reckoned with as well.
QUESTION: What kind of relationship do you have with those guys? When Al got here he put out this thing about all the NFL experience, and it was real cold for a while. And at a time they became friendlier. But what kind of relationship did you have with them?
LONDON: Again, out of professional respect for them. When I went up there and interviewed, Bud was going through some things at the same time I was going through some things. So of the two of us had a chance to become close. And I’d known Brian for a long time. So it’s a relationship that’s again based out of respect and friendship.
But I understand they’re on the other side of the field. My job now is to try to beat or try to put the game plan together and try to out recruit them. Try to do things that will put Virginia in a positive situation.
I’ve always said that the state of Virginia is big enough for two schools to do well and I believe that. But I also know that I’m here to try to do the best we can to play our rival school, this particular school, Virginia Tech who is in our conference. I’m here to do the best I can against them.
So friendship aside or professional courtesy aside, this is a game that all we’re focusing on is winning the game. At the end of the game we’ll shake hands and go about our business and recruit against each other. But that’s the way it’s been even all these years in the system. So nothing has changed.