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Oct. 12, 2015

An Interview With:

COACH Mike London

Q. Coach, as you had a chance to evaluate the tape, you talk about that 17‒point first quarter. What stuck out to you? Was it an issue in the secondary or in the front seven that you guys have been able to identify that may have caused the negative result?
COACH LONDON: Just veteran players making critical errors as far as judgment is concerned. You can’t have ‒‒ you have explosive plays, but you can’t have ‒‒ as a matter of fact, they had six explosive plays, 20 yards or more. We had six explosive plays. Five of those came in the first four drives they had. After that, we significantly reduced the explosive plays allowed because we made adjustments and settled back down and settled into what we needed to do. That was critical at the beginning.

We played well. We finally got the turnovers we kept talking about, scored on defense on one of the turnovers. Goal line stand – we got a fumble. But we got to have that type of focus for four quarters at the beginning of the game all the way to the end because, as you see, games go all the way to the end, and it requires an absolute focus to make sure you do what you’re supposed to do.

Q. Coach, you mentioned the adjustments you guys made in the second and third quarter. Throughout the season, you guys have kind of started slow in the first quarter. Looking towards Syracuse, what do you guys need to do to get off to a faster start in the first quarter to avoid those situations?
COACH LONDON: When you look at Syracuse, it’s a team that’s an option-oriented play-action pass type offense. They require the defense to cover every element of the dive, the quarterback, the pitch, and play-action pass – just so many different things. We’re going to have to make sure, as I said before, have the kind of the mindset that is paying attention to the details. The details are in the opportunities for this team to win, and particularly when you’re playing against an offensive unit like Syracuse.

Defensively they do a lot of different things ‒‒ they’re fast. They run. They show you different fronts, and they bring different people. So us being very detailed in how we put the plan together and execute the plan is going to be critical for us.

Q. Richard Burney got in on special teams the other day now that his redshirt is off, do you hope to integrate him into the tight end group? As for the tight ends, there have not been a lot of passes to those guys recently. Have you had to use them more as blockers than maybe you’d hoped to?
COACH LONDON: First question, Richard Burney, we’ll bring him into the field in terms of offensively what he can do. He can run – that’s one thing. His opportunity, particularly from a special teams standpoint, and upgrading that area is something that was critical.

As of yet, there have been some balls that have been thrown to our tight ends. There was one thrown that was dropped, a critical one that was dropped. We’ll continue to keep using the tight ends from the standpoint of they are a very big part of our running game, and they should be a part of the passing game, particularly when we’re going to play action pass as well.

But Richard has proven himself. He’s one of those guys that benefited from the open week. And now getting him more reps like some of these other guys that we talked about that we decided to play, it will be important for us.

Q. Last week you told us Tra’ was cleared to play, from what I understand, he did not play Saturday in the secondary. Was it just a coaches decision? Did it turn out he wasn’t ready to go? What is his status moving forward?
COACH LONDON: Tra’ played in the special teams unit. It was a decision during the game that we played Darious Latimore, first opportunity to play. Actually did a pretty good job. And then as the game went on, just the opportunities to put Tra’ in just didn’t materialize. Tra’s now, like I said, he’s a veteran guy. He’s back. He’s 100 percent, and I would expect him to be fully part of what we’re doing with this team.

Q. Coach, nine time‒outs on offense this year, three delay of game penalties on offense with indecision, I guess, from the booth or something. Why is that an ongoing problem? What can be done to fix that going forward?
COACH LONDON: A lot of it is ‒‒ has got to start with making sure we put our quarterback in the position based where we are on the field and the best position to succeed. We have to do a better job of getting the calls out to them. We call from wristbands, and quarterback has to look down at his wrist and get the signal. That’s something that I brought up to the offensive staff that has to be corrected and has to be done.

And many of the players break the huddle and go to the wrong side in terms of alignment. You have to utilize those time‒outs to get them in the correct look, but you’re right. There’s some things that obviously we can reduce significantly by making sure that we have the plays ready to call and then ready to signal to the quarterback at the appropriate time. So we’re not looking like we’re hurried. And that’s a big component of it, and that will be fixed.

Q. Mike, you mentioned the resolve of the team and their attitude. I think those of us that have been around it have seen that. How closely do you monitor that? Do you worry that that could become an issue down the road?
COACH LONDON: I have a great group of captains. I hope you get a chance to talk to some of them this week, today, whatever it might be. I have a very good and steady group of leadership council, where we talked about them before. They’re a group of guys that are very solid, very steady. The mindset has been incredible.

Again, the goal is to win football games. We all get it. I get it. That’s what it’s about. And the improvement of that is critical as well.

But there’s no quit in this team. There’s a tremendous amount of fight. Again, I would ask you guys to ask them. Coaches can sit up here and talk about how things are going, and it’s important that you get the message from the players because the message is no one’s quit on them. We’re getting ready for the home game against a Syracuse team that played LSU very well. They have their quarterback back now, who started this past game for them. So we’re excited about the opportunity to play again.

Q. Matt Johns looked a little uncomfortable in the pocket several times. Do you sense that he’s getting anxious back there? And have you addressed that with him? He’s probably been a little subpar the last couple of games.
COACH LONDON: I would say that, obviously, the first quarter – if you go back and ask Matt, we knew they were going to bring pressure. Obviously, they’re one of the third or fourth best defense in terms of total defense, but they’re going to bring pressure. With that, what you need is a level of confidence.
I don’t know if you’re heard the phrase sometimes of a quarterback hitching up in the pocket. Where the rush is coming and the blitzers are coming, being able to step up. Early on, we felt there were throws Matt could have made irregardless of the rush. He wasn’t going to get sacked. As time went on, he did better with that.

And he knows he’s got to take care of the football. He’s got to take care of the football from the standpoint of interceptions and when to throw it and when to throw it out of bounds – and to be efficient with that.

So there may be a little bit of ‒‒ I wouldn’t say hesitancy on his part. He’s a guy that wants to make plays. He wants to do the right thing. Just take the coaching and teaching, and I believe Matt will do that and look for him having one of his better games. He’s going to have to. We have to perform better from Matt’s standpoint even though he’s involved in, I believe, total yardage of ACC quarterbacks, he’s like number three. But he’s number one in interceptions. Obviously, being efficient is critical for our success.

Q. Coach, as a follow-up on Matt Jahns, did you guys anticipate it might take some time for him and Thorpe’s chemistry? There was an overthrow. Both had a drop, but then they connect on fourth and 23. Is it taking a little time for them to kind of get back on the same page after it ended?
COACH LONDON: I don’t know about that. Obviously, there were three opportunities when the ball was overthrown with T.J., and we got behind the defenders. Those were explosive play opportunities as well. Sometimes it’s just a matter of inches. We connect on a few of those and maybe we’re sitting here in a different situation and talking about other things.

No, again, it’s part of football. I mean, you make the throw – you got to make the throw. It was good enough for the receiver to make the catch. The receiver has to run the route the way he’s supposed to run the route, and all those things have to mesh together in order for the play to be successful.
We’ll continue to keep throwing the ball down the field because we believe we have a guy that can go do it and go get it. We’ll keep doing that and look forward to connecting on those long plays.

Q. You’ve used three tailbacks, gave them a significant amount of carries. Are you okay with that? Or would you like to wean it down to two?
COACH LONDON: All three have been very productive in what we asked them to do. Albert Reid had the 70‒yard run, runs the wildcat. Smoke Mizzell is a guy that runs the ball as well, but he’s also a guy we keep in the game because he made a tremendous one‒handed catch. He runs the jet sweep as well as being a running back.

And then Daniel Hamm, we knew that he was one of our better players coming out of the spring. Unfortunately, he had the cast on the hand. There may be opportunities to put two of them in the game at the same time because they provide different opportunities for us ‒‒ we talk about opportunities to be successful. Right now I think the roles that all of them have of the three that are playing will get better. They’ve been productive.

As I said, I think we rushed for 139 yards or something like that. It’s probably the most we’ve done in a while. We need to keep finding ways to be productive like that.

Q. Coach, just going off that, you mentioned you guys have rushed for over four yards per carry. Were you guys able to do ‒‒ adjust on the offensive line in terms of run blocking? Is that an area of improvement that you noticed in that game and that’s something that can carry on even in this game?
COACH LONDON: Obviously, you have to address the personnel issue, number one, offensive line‒wise, and that will dictate some of the things that you can do, that we will do. Because you look at matches ‒‒ or matchups, excuse me. You look at the style of what we’ve been doing to try to create some space, whether it’s sideline to sideline or up the middle or off tackle. We’ll have to look at ways to continue to use the type of players that we talked about for positive gains from that standpoint.

And that’s part of the game plan of it. Like I said, Syracuse is a very fast defense. They run to the ball well. They have number 13, he’s a defensive end.

He’s a rusher. He’s unbelievable. He gets off the ball. He does a great job of rushing the quarterback. So that’s going to be important for us to protect our quarterback.

But also keep finding ways to run the ball because it opens up for the passing game. So that’s something we should be able to do, continue to keep working on.

Q. Have you ever faced three true freshmen in your first six games before? What do you see from Dungey on tape?
COACH LONDON: I can’t recall. Obviously, there are players that their high school careers were such that they put them in a position to be a starter in college football. The one at UCLA had a career day. So I’m hoping that this guy doesn’t have one.

Dungey is a complete guy. I believe he’s number one in the ACC for passing efficiency. I think he’s got seven touchdowns, maybe one interception. Threw the first one last week. He’s very efficient with the ball. Because of the style of play, option style, he’ll run the ball. He’s got the wherewithal that he’ll pitch it when he needs to.

So having him back in their mix, I’m sure, makes their overall offense more efficient in terms of what they try to do. But he’s a very good football player. As I said, the question was asked how do we make sure that we start fast and stay on target, on focus? If we stay on focus, as far as whom our responsibilities are, because it’s the style of offense that, if you lose focus, then they can get good plays ‒‒ big plays on you.

Q. So you allowed your punter or place kicker after the penalty to kick it?
COACH LONDON: Yeah. You are allowed to. Dylan Sims for us is ‒‒ I believe he had three touchbacks in the game. He’s done a pretty good job as far as that’s concerned. So the ball being on the 35 and he’d been kicking the ball deep. We’ll go that route.

Q. You mentioned Syracuse’s pursuit defensively, speed defensively running toward the ball. Is that something you can counter with misdirection and such? I mean, South Florida hadn’t been doing much at all on offense and rung them up for 45 the other day. They must have done something right.
COACH LONDON: Yeah, they were doing a lot of things right. Obviously, scoring points. If you’ve seen over the last few games, the points have been able to be scored on Syracuse have gone up. Everybody watches everybody’s film, and you try to find the different ways and what you already have in the plan that could either accentuate or attack some of the things that they might be doing to give you a chance.
So we will look into that as far as being part of our game plan as well. I know it’s important for us. We want to continue to have explosive plays. We want to continue doing that. We know that what we call, who’s running the ball, what we’re doing with it, that’s critical. As you said, there were ways that USF was able to exploit some things, and we’ve got to look into that as well.

Q. You got Doni Dowling back last week. What kind of role is he going to play now?
COACH LONDON: I love Doni Dowling. He’s a tough, aggressive guy. He’s had kind of two knee situations. He’s back, but at the same time, we want to be smart about what we do with him.

Our receiving corps at this point has done a nice job. When you add T.J. Thorpe back and you have others in the mix, it’s just finding a role for Doni to be successful and help his team win, not just get him in a play or two and that’s it. That’s an ongoing discussion about where he is right now even though he wants to play. He’s a great young man with a tremendous heart.

Again, we just have to be smart about what we do and how we utilize him.

Q. Chris Peace, I think he was out there more the other day than any other game. Is he a guy whose role could grow as the season goes on?
COACH LONDON: Definitely. The question was asked about what you can do at the beginning. One, we’re going to play more players defensively up front. I know we had different packages that go in, but Chris has got to be a guy that also could go in and take some reps off Andrew Brown, Donte Wilkins. There’s guys that we have to be able to do that in order for us to sustain the level of intensity that’s needed. When you look at Chris, he’s also increased number of special teams plays as well. That’s critical for us because he’s also got now game time experience.

We’ll see more of these guys having opportunities to go in and play and help this team.

Q. Coach, as a follow up, you being an old D‒line guy, has the philosophy ‒‒ how much has the philosophy ‒‒ or has it ‒‒ had to change with players like Trent Corney and Kwontie Moore, who are bigger players? Moore gets the fumble return. Versus a Valles and a Harold with the speed you had last year.
COACH LONDON: Obviously, it’s a different type of skill set. Those guys, with Max and Eli coming off the edge, they were pass rushers extraordinaire coming off the edge. And Max was a stand up sam linebacker that could take a tight end man to man anywhere across the field.

You have to adjust to a certain extent of the type of guys that you have. They are ‒‒ Kwontie is more of a defensive end. You remember he played for us last year inside a little bit. Trent Corney, when he’s not ‒‒ he’s not a stand‒up guy. He’s a down defensive end. He’s got to learn all those techniques.

So it’s a little different. That’s what you’re going to do defensive‒wise. You’ve got to find out the talent that you have and utilize them the best way that you can to help them be successful.

Q. Just similarities between you guys and Syracuse in terms of in the non conference taking on a top ten team and giving them a pretty good game. Obviously, Syracuse against LSU, you guys against Notre Dame. Did you watch that LSU game? I think it was the day after ‒‒
COACH LONDON: Just finished watching it.

Q. I guess what kind of effort did you see there? What makes them kind of dangerous in that respect when they played them?
COACH LONDON: They played at home. They had ‒‒ their quarterback situation was different. They played inspired. As I said before, they ran around pretty good. The quarterback distributed the ball.
If you saw the different ways the ball was moved, not just running, but through the air. Play action pass or off the run, throwing the ball down the field vertical.

They played a very inspired game against, I believe, LSU was number six, seven, eight in the country at the time – definitely into the third and fourth quarter when things started to get away.

Coach Shafer is a good football coach. He’s a good man. I’ve known him for a couple of years, and he’ll have the team ready to play.

Q. I know Andrew Brown had a hand thing going on. What’s his status? Is I know he’s not playing as much? We’ve heard a lot about him in the off‒season. I think Miles-Redmond is on the conference call tomorrow. How is he contributing at this point?
COACH LONDON: Andrew’s ‒‒ the hand issue was very uncomfortable wearing a big club. We finally got through that. Now he’s back to just taping up his two knuckles, two fingers together there. He’s one of the guys you talk about has to play more, will play more.

Myles Robinson has been a guy who’s played well against the run. You talk about a guy who draws a double‒team block to allow Micah Kiser or some of the other guys to make plays. Myles Robinson has done a really good job of doing that as well.

For us defensively, we’re talking about the start. As we start moving forward, the ability to be able to rotate a lot of guys that rethink that we know that can help us and are talented up front. Andrew is one of them. Myles’ play has increased. He’s done a nice job. Donte Wilkins.

David Dean has been outstanding for us. But a guy like that just can’t play every snap all the time. So we’ll be smarter how we rotate those guys because we need to. It’s fourth quarter, a lot of pushing, a lot of block destruction and things like that for those guys up front. Unfortunately, the other side, the offensive line, you don’t have that luxury. But defensively, particularly with the front guys, we do.

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