On the ACC teleconference on Wednesday, UVa head coach Mike London covered a host of topics, most notably once again was the quarterback situation.
Mike London photo courtesy of VirginiaSports.com
MIKE LONDON: We're excited about the opportunity to have a home opener against Richmond. It's been two games since we last won and players have practiced hard this whole camp. We're going into this game with everybody basically intact and looking to start the season off right.
I was listening to your coach's show on Monday night and wanted to verify something that you said. Did you say that you expected ten true freshmen to play and possibly as many as 14, or if you use those numbers, in what context was it?
MIKE LONDON: Yeah, we expect ten that are committed to play. They don't show up on our two deep, then they're definitely going to show up in the four phases of special teams. In that way, they don't show up on the two-deep roster, but they'll go in the game.
There are three to four other players that we're still looking at here in making the decision about whether we'll play them or not. I think this group, this team this year will be representative of a nucleus of good, young players to come.
I wanted to ask you about this new rule with the player's helmet coming off in a play. What are your impressions with that rule, and the potential for a ten-second runoff at the end of the game. What are your thoughts on that?
MIKE LONDON: I tell you, all of a sudden your equipment man and the fitting of the helmets become really, really important, having four chinstraps buckled. What's even become prevalent is if a young man gets a haircut. We put the helmet on, we fit them. A guy gets a haircut, and we make sure they go get it refitted again, because you don't want any situations or anything that could cause the space within the helmet and surrounding your head to come off.
You need to be really in tune to that, and players understand particularly a ten-second runoff, that helmet comes off absent of having to go out or absent an offensive player with a penalty by pulling the helmet off or some other foul, that that could be costly. We practice a couple of scenarios where I've told a guy that, hey, this play is coming your way. After the ball has safely gotten past, want him to take his helmet off and point out to the players that at that point right there he's going to have to come out of the game.
I think what's happened more than anything else, guys don't want to come out of the game. So they buckle their helmets up and make sure it gets fitted because one thing players don't want to do is not come out of games. This is going to assure -- I know the value is to get the safety value involved with it. But I think players will buckle up knowing they don't want to come out of the game.
Do you hold to a timeout because there is the possibility of the ten seconds coming off?
MIKE LONDON: You better hope that you have one. The game will dictate that. But I don't think you go into it hoping that you hold on to a timeout because of a potential helmet. But you hold on to a timeout if you have one and if you're driving in the game, beat the clock situation. But maybe one of the situations that may occur that you may have to use that one timeout.
So it makes your timeouts gold. It makes them premium, in all aspects of trying to drive and in the game being involved in a couple of games where we're driving towards the end of the game and having that one timeout is critical.
I think, like I said, again, it goes back to educating the players on keeping all four chinstraps buckled. Any time there is any change with haircuts or anything like that, you get your helmets refitted and just keep talking about it. We've had a pretty good practice and none of those issues have occurred though.
For the last few years, Robert Randolph's been a pretty good safety net for you as a kicker. Are you going to have to fill that hole? Who is that looking at and how difficult is it to work a new guy in with the pressure and everything that he has to experience for the first time?
MIKE LONDON: Yeah, Robert was a very steady, good kicker for us. This year Drew Jarrett will be our field goal kicker. I think the advantage before I got here, the season before I got here, Drew, there were several kickers that kicked at that time. But I think he was the extra point guy.
So he's been in college football games and he's been in competition to win that position.
So he didn't play obviously last season and came out in spring practice and said he wanted to give it a try again. He was battling with Ian Frye who will probably be our kickoff guy. Then in the end, the game time experience and the guy has been in a college football game. Drew won the job.
So he's got a good leg. He's kicked a 50-yarder in practice. But you only know when the pressure's on and when they're out there and people are screaming and the game's on the line about how good they really are. We're going to find out here come the next several Saturdays.
I'm sure your local guys know this, but you have to replace a punter. Who is in line there?
MIKE LONDON: Yeah, we have a young man. Alec Vozenilek is from the Richmond area high school that's been handling the punting chores. He does a nice job with T looking for consistency with him. But the different styles of punting, you have the shield punt where everybody's spread out all over the field. Off that shield punt, you have kind of a rolling, moving target where he rolls out and punts it. And there are so many different punt schemes and things that we do or other teams do that I think will play well to Alec.
Like I said, he's been doing a nice job in camp. And again, we'll find out how consistent and how good he'll be when he starts kicking in games when there is nobody on the field or nobody coaching him.
When you first had Darius Jennings last year, did he look like a quarterback who was making the adjustment to wide receiver, and how much smoother is he this year?
MIKE LONDON: I think he looked like -- in his high school, gel man high school, he was the best athlete. So with a lost direct snaps to him and running kind of a wildcat read offensive-type thing. The way he was catching the ball, he was catching it thumb's up with a direct snap from center.
Now his transition to being wide receiver for us, I mean, different mechanics in receiving the ball. He went through some growing pains there a little bit, not only with receiving, but receiving kickoffs, but now a year under his belt, he's been very consistent and made some really good catches in practice. That's just because of the type of young man that he is. You heard of the Jugs machine. After practice, it's a machine that shoots passes at you, all different speeds and velocity with the ball tailing. I've seen him after practice, and I go back maybe 30, 40 minutes later, he's still out there catching.
I think all the receivers -- Dominique Terrell, a young guy that played last year too -- have really stepped up his game. Become a really good receiver, and hopefully it will show on these Saturdays that we'll be playing.
You had a very spirited competition for starting quarterback. How was Rocco able to go ahead and win that position?
MIKE LONDON: Well, I think with the accumulated amount of reps over the last couple of years, understanding the system, executing the system, and just the maturation process with him also improved. So I think Michael won it because he was more consistent. He had been in games. He understands the philosophy of it, and its accuracy improved during the course of camp. He's worked hard at it. He's worked hard for this opportunity to start our first game.
But the other two guys, Phillip Sims has done a nice job coming from a similar style of offense, coming from Alabama that his learning curve was kind of advanced a little bit. The only thing was he didn't know our terminology, but he's done a nice job learning it. And the young David Watford that I think is going to be a tremendous quarterback.
It's great to have a problem where you have three really good quarterbacks and you have some young guys even behind them that are waiting.
So I think at this position we should be pretty good for a while, and just hope that our quarterbacks are accurate and they're efficient, and they get the ball to some of these play makers that I think we have on our team.
Will you look to play the other two guys at various points or will you start Rocco and stick with him throughout the course of the game?
MIKE LONDON: We haven't really decided as far as that's concerned. I know we decided to look at how the first couple games go. Barring any injury or anything like that, to keep David alive and keep him interested and keep him relevant in this quarterback situation. But outside of the first three or four games or whatever if I can red shirt him, because as I said, I think he'll be a dynamic quarterback.
But there is no actual plan for a series of when the guy's going to go in. We'll play the game in Richmond, hope to get Phillip in and evaluate our situation as we go on. I got into that last year. We'll play the game and decide as the game goes on.