Mike London's Weekly Press Conference Transcript - Louisville Game
Sept. 8, 2014
COACH LONDON: We’ll start with a brief comment about Louisville, our ACC opponent this week. I’ve had a chance to meet Coach Petrino over the last couple of head coaches meetings. I’ve known him over the years and his coaching accolades and things that he brings to his team. Their team is playing very well. This will be a great challenge for us. We’re excited about the challenge as these guys come into Charlottesville. So I’ll take any questions.
Q. You guys are second in the country in turnovers forced through two weeks. What does it say about the players? What’s it say about the schemes that you guys have been able to bring in two years ago, basically, alter everything sort of two years ago. Was there a missing piece of this defense, and now two years later you’re tops in the country two weeks into the season?
COACH LONDON: It’s been a mindset, a concentrated mindset on turnovers and how it changes the game. Obviously we had success last week with the seven turnovers and if you look back – has led to about 31 points. I don’t think we had that all of last season. The guys defensively are doing a pretty good job with Eli, and Max Valles coming off the edge and some of the other things that are happening, they’re causing havoc. And the strip sack, cause fumble, the interceptions, all those things that have been geared towards playing better defense. The players have bought into that. We have to continue that. We have to continue. It’s great that we had it in two games, but we need to do it particularly this game because this team we’re playing is a very good team. But the mindset defensively has been to create turnovers and give yourself a chance to win.
Q. I know Richmond, first drive on Saturday when they were kind of combatting certain things and you guys adjusted and kind of shut them down. What do you think of Louisville’s offense? Is it similar to what Coach Petrino had with them in the beginning or is it a whole new thing now? And by beginning, I mean the last time he coached with them. How does the offense compare to the offenses you’ve faced already this year?
COACH LONDON: Well, you see multiple personnel groups that they have. Whether it’s two-backs, two tight ends. They can run the ball well. They’ve averaged over 200-something yards rushing. The running backs that they have, the two of them that they’ve used in the last couple of games are hard, aggressive, physical runners. You do see some elements of the spread passing game as well because they have such skill guys on the outside. He does a great job of mixing in his personnel groupings with the type of plays that they run. They will run the ball, and then they will throw the ball deep. That is the other thing they do. They keep you off balance with the personnel group that comes into the game.
Q. Obviously Bridgewater was the centerpiece of what they’ve done previously. What are your impressions of Gardner? I think he’s thrown it 50 times this year without a pick, which is ideal in any circumstance. But for a guy starting for the first time, seems pretty impressive on the outside.
COACH LONDON: No, he does. He’s poised back there in the pocket. He manages the game well. You can look at where he’s looking to throw the ball and the completions, being efficient. He gets the ball to their playmakers. We watched the game against Miami and this past game that he can put the ball money on the spot. It’s important that our rush lanes and being able to try to get after him, pressure him a little bit and not give him a whole lot of time, that’s going to be critical for us. But he has done well for his football team. He’s led his team by doing the things that they’ve asked him to do and hand the ball off or throw the ball to those receivers who are very dynamic.
Q. Was Louisville as dominating on film as they looked against Miami on TV and what stuck with you out of watching that game?
COACH LONDON: Well, when you look at them play against Miami they excelled in all three phases, offense, defense, and special teams. They scored touchdowns on special teams. They did a great job, getting after a young Miami quarterback, Brad Kaaya, and then their defense is so fast. What you think is a hole, because of their pursuit they run and they close it up. Offensively they can attack you vertically. Like I said, they’ll lineup and run the ball right at you because they’ve got size on the offensive line. But it’s been impressive the last two games. They’ve put up points and they’ve held teams to minimal points. Again, I believe this defense last year was the number one defense in the country in total defense, of total yards given up. So you can see a lot of the carryover. Even though there is a new coach, there is a lot of carryover into the players that are making it happen.
Q. When you’re playing two quarterbacks, do you worry at all about them trying to maybe force an issue on the field just to try to get a result that maybe makes them shine in a brighter light?
COACH LONDON: No, when your quarterbacks are in the game, there is a game plan to follow. We want them to be efficient and productive in throwing the ball where it needs to go. If they can do that and play close to the coaches’ scripts that we have for them, then they can be productive. This past week, this past game they were productive, both of them. That’s what we always strive for.
Productive, being efficient, and being able to carry the game plan message as they’re managing the game out there on the field is critically important.
Q. Greyson didn’t throw down field much the first week, but did a lot more Saturday. Was that because those were the plays that were called or was there some guidance to him that you need to look to do that some?
COACH LONDON: There are always options. You just don’t run one pass route in your throwing game. There are always options, and the quarterback has choices. I’d say he made some choices that resulted in long catches and catch after run, and we’re always going to try to encourage that with Matt, with Greyson, with David, and that is the structure of the offense. If they can do that, then we feel pretty confident that they make their reads, they make their throws, and they can be successful in doing that.
Q. Why do you think these quarterbacks are better equipped to sort of handle the emotional aspect of being in the two-quarterback system? Sort of not knowing with when exactly they’re going to play. What about these two guys makes them equipped to sort of handle that part of it?
COACH LONDON: Probably the main reason is because they’re best friends. The other reason is they cheer for each other. Perhaps the latter is that they don’t care who gets the success as long as the team wins. I’d say those are probably the biggest three reasons.
Q. Taquan Mizzell, do you feel like he’s just one broken tackle away from breaking out because he hadn’t been as elusive as I think everyone expected and was hoping for?
COACH LONDON: I do believe the fact that when get to that second level and we’re talking about through the defensive linemen and into the linebacker area, and you go back on film, he’s one wiggle, one tackle away from having an explosive play. So he does have that kind of skill and that talent. Obviously, we need that kind of skill and talent versus this defense we’re getting ready to play. But The Smoke, as we call him, is a guy that can be dynamic – he’ll need to be dynamic for us, and we believe that he can do those things that can turn a routine run into a home run. So we’re looking forward to him being able to do that.
Q. Daquan Romero will be in here later. I think Saturday was the first pick by a Virginia linebacker in four years? Then double digit tackles. Is it a matter of scheme fitting him, him picking up the scheme? Just natural progression of age and maturity? What have you seen from him through two weeks?
COACH LONDON: I believe all of the above. What you said, him being familiar with the scheme, the things that we’re asking the guys to do, DaDa has done that in an area that shows his experience. He’s become a leader. He understands the defense better. He can perform and he can execute those things that Coach Tenuta has asked out of our linebackers. That was a good interception that he made. His tackles are very aggressive, physical tackles that he’s making. He’s back from the shoulder injury that he had. So he’s played and played well. I just think it’s a benefit from, again, for all these guys being older, the scheme, the systems, being more familiar with a lot of things and being very comfortable about what he’s doing and what he’s asked to do out there. So it’s a positive for him and it’s good that he had, in essence, probably a career game.
Q. To follow up about the quarterbacks. Their skill sets seem pretty similar. Does that make a rotation more manageable than it would be with two guys who are dramatically different types of players?
COACH LONDON: No, not necessarily. Again, some of the things we ask them to do and the throws we ask them to make are based on accuracy. If you go back and look at passing attempts and completions and touchdown opportunities, those are the most important things to us. They are, I would say Matt is probably more agile than Greyson, but at the same time, the things we’re asking him to do falls within the package offensively of what we’re trying to do as well. So the thing about those two guys, they’re great learners. Again, we’ll see how much we’ve learned coming out of this game against Louisville.
Q. What was yesterday like coming in after a win finally? Was there a sense of relief among the players? Now are you ready to cross the next one off your list, which is trying to break a long ACC losing streak?
COACH LONDON: Believe it or not, yesterday was back at work, back at the grind. We’re happy for the win, like you said, but we’re nowhere near satisfied with where we are right now. We have a challenging opponent coming in. As you said, it’s an ACC opponent. It’s an opportunity for an ACC win. The focus has been on climbing the ladder, and we’re just another step in the rung right now, and that’s what we’re focused on.
Q. When you think back to last winter, did you anticipate this kind of start to a season for Canaan Severin?
COACH LONDON: Canaan was a young man who was trying to find himself as a football player, as a student here, just being a great teammate. He has a great life story. If you have a chance sometimes you need to talk to him about it. Where he’s been and what he’s gone through. But he decided consciously to lose about 20 pounds, and he did that after spring into the summer because he wanted to be able to run faster. He wanted to increase his endurance. He caught footballs almost every day. So when you see Canaan now, you see a guy that wants to improve. I’ve always said the biggest improvements of players are sometimes after that spring practice, those summer months when no one’s really there watching you as much.
If you had to say a guy that made the most improvement on the team in changing his body, changing his diet, the way he eats, he probably would be that guy and it’s shown in his performance. So, like I said, he’s done nice things and I know he wants to continue to be the guy we can throw to and rely on.
Q. You noted after the game the other day the average rush per carry had increased from the opening game. Where would you say your running game is right now? Is it where you expected it to be or what is it going to take to kick it up another notch?
COACH LONDON: You’d always like to run the ball more, run the ball more efficiently. Like to run the ball with a guy like Kevin Parks. We haven’t forgotten he’s the ACC’s leader in returning rushing yardage. So those are the things that we know we have to understand. We have a guy that’s a pretty good player at a running back position. So whatever we need to do to create that running game, again, that will open up the passing game for us, which is something that’s critical. But we definitely are cognizant of the fact that you have to be able to run the ball effectively and efficiently because that will lead to a lot of things. When you have a guy like Kevin, it’s important that we try to utilize his skill set.
Q. Obviously the first week of play that stuck out with Quin was the touchdown run. This next week the play that stuck out was the interception, the tackle. How on film has he graded out? How well has he adjusted to the college game these first two games when you guys go back and watch everything in total?
COACH LONDON: He’s along in progress. This is his second college football game. Again, his benefit is having a guy like Anthony Harris back with him. There is room for improvement with him. But he’s a very physical player who will come up, hit you, tackle you, and the more he plays, the more he practices, the better he’ll get. So his learning curve is always being extended. His ability to show what he has as we saw on Saturday, go up at the highest point, get the interception, make some tackles and make some physical tackles, is something that he continues to do so we’re happy about his development, but, again, with the guys we’ve got coming in this week, we’ll see. This whole team will see the test of where we are. We played UCLA, very tight, very close. They played a very good University of Richmond team, and now we’ll see. I don’t know where Louisville will be ranked, but we’ll see where we are in terms of being able to look at ourselves and engage how much we’ve improved and how much further we need to go.
Q. Are you content to continue to play two quarterbacks for the foreseeable future? Would you like to one kind of emerge?
COACH LONDON: I’m content with anybody that can help us win or whoever the guy is back there – making it happen for us. If it’s playing one, it’s one. If it’s playing two, it’s two. So there is no timetable. There are no secret formulas or magic potions to say we’re going to have this guy. Right now it’s been productive for us, and we’ll continue to do that until it proves otherwise.
Q. Last week you were talking about when guys made mistakes and got pulled out of the game, a hold or lining up in the wrong formation. How many instances like that did you have on Saturday?
COACH LONDON: There were a few addressed to the sideline area. One of the great things that allowed us to do that last week was we played around 55 players – that’s a lot of players having an opportunity to play. We talked about playable depth. A lot of times you get your opportunity to play in a game that kind of got away from Richmond. But, again, we’ll continue to hold the players accountable to the standards of executing the way we need to execute in order to be successful.
Q. This is the start of what will be an annual series between these two teams. I know it’s just a sign of the times with expansion everywhere. But is it weird not to have Maryland on the schedule this year for the first time in however long and to be getting ready for a new ACC team?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, we all know the whole big five, the whole conference alignment, realignment, expansion, whatever you want to call it. There are some natural rivalry games that are done. So it’s everybody having to get used to the fact that a team that you used to play before you may never play again unless perhaps you may meet them in a bowl game opportunity. But Maryland is obviously a border state and has been a recruiting — we go against them a lot in recruiting. Let’s just put it that way. So, you know, their focus is on their team and their conference and their direction. Ours is on our team and our conference and direction. So I’ll just leave it at that.
Q. The numbers about your defense that pop off the page are the sacks and the takeaways, but you’re playing run defense numerically, statistically quite good. You mentioned Louisville’s ability to run the ball. How do you think you matched up there? How pleased have you been with just your straight run defense?
COACH LONDON: It’s one of those things that if you can, again, stop the run and it’s no secret we’re a pressure defense, so you apply pressure to the passing game and rush the passer, want to hit the passer, disrupt throwing lanes. But it is a fact that they like to run the ball as well. They’re very physical. When you watch them play, they’re very physical up front. They’ve got two physical tailbacks that are on the ball. So our work will be cut out for us because we’ll see what that plan is as Saturday starts to unfold. But, again, I go back to our guys knowing the run fits and the gaps that’s helped us much more than in the past. We’re going to have to have those types of efforts again this week.
Q. I think in the preseason Mike Archer called Maurice Canady your best shut down corner. How often has he been thrown at in the first two games? And because of the way he takes away one side of the field, how much has that given more opportunities to a guy like Tim Harris who obviously had a pick on Saturday?
COACH LONDON: Maurice is very confident and to be a corner out there you have to be very confident. He is probably our best cover guy that’s healthy right now. He’ll go, take anybody, into the boundary, into the field, wherever. There is an amazing amount of confidence he has in having a guy like him that can take a guy, their best receiver is a challenge. But it’s also a challenge he embraces. Thus far he’s done well.
Q. One last question on the QBs. Will it be a predetermined rotation Saturday or will it be more riding the hot hand?
COACH LONDON: Well, we’ll decide that as we go into tomorrow’s practice. Tomorrow is a Tuesday practice, our first practice. As we put the game plan together, so as we move forward in that, and we’ll decide kind of the game plan of how we’re going to do what we’re going to do with both quarterbacks. But right now, it’s about Louisville right now and game planning and finding out what plays, what personnel groupings, what guy can offer us the best opportunity to be successful against them.
Q. You guys have thrown quite a bit to the tight end in the past, but that hasn’t been part of what you’ve been doing this year. Is that a protection issue, more max protect kind of stuff or just something different?
COACH LONDON: I’d just say the teams we’ve played right now have not given a whole lot of opportunity to isolate throws to Zach Swanson or Rob Burns. I would say that before the season is over, and in whatever game we’re playing, there will be times that through match-up or through game planning that we’ll try to utilize the tight end in the passing game. Thus far they’ve been in protection, and they have been in the run blocking positions. But I would say that we would plan to help utilize their skill set as well.
Q. Do you pay any attention to the attendance? Is it part of your job? Or do you feel if you play well, it will take care of itself?
COACH LONDON: No, I appreciate the people that show up and come out to support the players and support the team. Obviously, being successful on the field leads to a lot of people wanting to know what’s going on. So that is the focus. Coach the team, play the games, and let everything else take care of itself.
Q. For each of these two games, I think UVa has issued a heat alert for fans. Have you guys been affected by the heat? Cramps or anything? How have you seen your team’s conditioning in hot conditions?
COACH LONDON: It’s been kind of a significant theme throughout the early part of August and in these last two games. I remember, if you talked about earlier how we changed our practice, how we practiced, there’s been things of a nutritional standpoint and a recovery standpoint, hydration, sleep, there are so many different elements that are included now into the way we train and perform. Against UCLA we had some guys cramping, but it wasn’t as bad as what they were experiencing. In this game I don’t recall anybody cramping or having any issues. It has to be a buy-in approach with the players. You can have all this technology and science of what you do, heart monitors and things, but if the players don’t buy into going to bed when they’re supposed to, eating nutritional foods, it doesn’t matter. I know for a fact our soccer team, our men’s basketball team are involved, heavily involved in the recovery aspects. I’m a believer in that as well. I know we’re heading down that road or into that path of taking care of things that help you be successful. We’re not talking about blocking and tackling, but talking about what you put into your body, how you sleep and things like that. The science has been quite remarkable with that being able to last and sometimes outlast an opponent.
Q. Do you want to mention where you guys went this summer to get some of that information?
COACH LONDON: I’ve known Chip Kelly for a while. He was at New Hampshire and I was at Richmond as a coach. We had a chance to go visit and talk then. Again, there are some neat things about what’s going on out there nationally, but particularly not only with the NFL, but other college teams that are focused on the player’s nutrition and recovery. It’s been something that’s been different for us in practicing. I’ve seen it in the games. I’ve seen it in their legs. We’ll continue to keep doing it.
Q. Do you believe your team offensively puts pressure on defenses? And are you concerned with the predictability of the types of things you guys are trying to do?
COACH LONDON: You always want to be productive on offense, defense or special teams. You always want to put a plan together where you can minimize their best players, maximize your best players. That’s always something that I’ll continue to demand from all the coordinators. Can we play better offensively? Sure, absolutely. Can we play better defensively? We can. So the team continues to forge that kind of identity as far as who we are and what we are on all three facets. Special teams is getting there. Offensively getting a few people back hopefully will allow us to forge an identity to be even stronger as far as what we do on that side of the ball.
Q. I’m curious with what you’ve seen on film with your quarterbacks and with the ball in the air, there were a couple of long plays on Saturday. How would they grade it out in terms with their play with the ball in the air?
COACH LONDON: There are so many elements of corner play. Long time ago I was a corner at University of Richmond myself, so I’m just speaking from experience a little bit. You’ve got to be able to play the run. You’ve got to be able to play a crack block by a wide receiver, and obviously you’ve got to defend the pass, whether it’s zone or man coverage. You can look at a couple balls that were thrown in the air that you want to play that ball better, get your hands on it. But you also looked at a couple plays. The pass is broken up, passes defended, tight coverage that resulted in positive results as well. So we’ll continue to keep teaching, coaching the DBs to go up at its highest point and try to get that ball down and making sure the receiver doesn’t get it. Where we are with interceptions and what we’re doing to put pressure on the quarterback, we want to improve those numbers and those opportunities.
Q. What do you see from their defensive line and what do you think is impressive from Louisville’s front?
COACH LONDON: They play really fast. They know how to get off of blocks well. If you look at their entire defense, their front seven, when you have linemen that can handle their gaps, and there may be a hole there momentarily, but because they can run, they close that hole up pretty good. That’s athleticism, and overall speed. Their defensive line will give you a multiple look, but they are very stout, very aggressive, and we’ll have to make sure that we put a game plan together to try to neutralize some of that or accentuate the positives in our camp, and that will be the challenge this Saturday.
Q. This is a random question, but back to the nutrition thing. The new NCAA rule about unlimited food and snacks, how has that played out? Has that changed anything for you guys at your training table or offensive linemen feasting these days? I’m just curious did you change anything because of that new rule?
COACH LONDON: The new rule allows for student-athletes and not just football players, we’re talking about all student-athletes, the opportunity and access to snacks or to other meals. Here at the University of Virginia, our student-athletes, a plan has been put in place, and everyone enjoys that opportunity to take advantage of. I can’t speak to the other coaches, but I can speak to the fact that because of it and it goes back to talking about nutrition – we’re not having double cheeseburgers or anything like that. What they put into their bodies is still very important. You can ask that question better when Ross gets up, because he’s taken advantage of all the snacks that he’s had a chance to have. But, again, this university, the athletics department has responded in a way that benefits all student-athletes, and we’re very appreciative of that.
Q. Back to the attendance thing. Forgive my stupidity. Do you have pep rallies every week or just before the first game?
COACH LONDON: I’m not sure every week, but that’s something if the students are out there and you want to do something like that before a home game, I’m willing, we’re willing. We are, like I said, we play to make sure that what’s seen on the field is a product that people want to come and support. Again, I appreciate the people that come out. But whatever it takes to galvanize our students, our fan base, whatever it is, love to get involved with it because I appreciate those who come to the game, and hopefully we make it exciting enough that people will keep coming back and they’ll bring someone else with them and bring someone else, and that’s how it grows. Hopefully this week against Louisville is another game that people will come and support the players.
Q. I know that in some schools a coach can send a mass voice mail to every student at the same time. Do you do those kinds of things here?
COACH LONDON: I will be doing things like that and trust me, I love our student body here there are things that we will come up with, coming directly from me as an outreach and as an opportunity to embrace our students. Like I said, the first game they were phenomenal when they were there. The second game against Richmond, they were there, but maybe not as much or as many before. But I tell you what, that’s been a surprise. They’ve come out and hopefully they’ll come out again our third home game.