On Wednesday, amidst the breaking news that Notre Dame was joining the ACC, Mike London and the rest of the conference's coaches held their weekly ACC teleconference.
UVa head coach Mike London photo courtesy of VirginiaSports.com
LONDON: Yes, we are excited about the opportunity to get into our conference play. This is our first road game, first travel situation for a good few numbers of first-year, first-time players. But we're anticipating a hard-fought contest, and we look forward to going to Atlanta. Thank you.
Q. When Georgia Tech played Virginia Tech, they did a really good job shutting down the run. There is some sentiment that maybe is playing in the first game of the season. You have a lot of time to prepare for that offense. With only one week to prepare, is it difficult? How big a challenge is it?
LONDON: I mean, first of all, Coach Johnson is very detailed. Just great tactician when it comes to running the triple option. He's got answers for a lot of things. He played in a lot of games using that offense. So he has a remedy for a lot of defenses, a lot of looks, a lot of stunts, a lot of blitzes. And you, while you're getting ready for it, you just don't know what you're going to see - double slot formation, on balance formation, parts of the pistol formation.
Obviously, the advantage is someone that's been running an offense for such a long time. It's advantageous to them. But all you do defensively is try to make sure you take care of the necessities of the triple option, that's the dive, the quarterback in the pitch. You try to make it simple for your guys, and you try to do maybe some things that hopefully will cross up the reads of the quarterback.
But you're right. You have some time to practice it and study, and study the techniques. It's something you don't do when you're preparing for other teams that might be spread style or high prostyle team. But the more concentrated time that you have, the more prepared you may be. That doesn't always mean you're going to be tackling and diving. The dive's handed off. So it does, it makes it interesting.
You have to do a lot of maybe spring practice, devote a practice to it maybe early in your August camp. Devote a couple sessions to it and go from there.
Q. Last year when you played -- Coach Johnson said y'all physically beat them up. Is that something you saw and you think that's something you can repeat?
LONDON: Well, I don't know about the part about physically beating them up. I think when you have assignment oriented football and you want someone to tackle the dive, whether the dive guy gets the ball or not, that's important. When you want someone to take the quarterback and hit him legally and he doesn't have the ball, that's important.
So I think you just have to carry out all the elements of whatever your defense may be and make sure there is someone to count it for. Any one of the players could get the ball. It's a physical game on both sides, because the low scrambling, and the blocking and having to use your hands to stay on your feet on the perimeter and on the inside. It becomes a physical game for both sides because of the kind of offense and game it is.
Q. Coach, maybe I misphrased the question. I think what he meant was you lined up and ran it down their throats when he was talking about beating them up. You rushed for almost 272 yards, which is a lot. I know it's not a lot for them with their option. You were running more of a power game; is that right?
LONDON: Well, you do what you're capable of doing. I mean, your game plan is predicated on what's moving the ball. At that time for whatever reason we're able to run the ball. But I'm quite sure Coach Groh, I've never been around anybody that can gameplan teams and what they're doing. So that was last year.
Now we go into this game with a game plan and try to do a couple things, show some new wrinkles. But understand for us, we have to be able to run the ball in light of last week. So we have to make a concentrated effort of doing that.
Q. To kind of continue that line of questioning, does Georgia Tech's defense look different to you this year?
LONDON: You still see coach running the elements of the three-four. What you also see is now there are some four down linemen look. Make him one of the four rushers. So you see vintage three-four and a lot of stuff the coach has done. But you also see some different elements of four down linemen look and coverages and things like that.
But I tell you, they look fast. That is one thing when you look at them, they look fast and they're running the ball really well.
Q. You alluded to it, but the toss and the stretch is working really well. Looking back at them, what was so successful on the line?
LONDON: I don't know. I think it's just the fact that sometimes you're playing at home and it was a big game for us. They were ranked. It was a big game. So sometimes the atmosphere kind of assists the players in the way they play. I don't know if it was one thing or the other that they were doing or weren't doing.
We just happened to be clicking that day and blocking the people that we were supposed to be blocking, like I said. But that was last year. This year you see a lot more activity. You see a lot more athleticism you see a lot more of guys changing up who is rushing off the edge; three-men front to a four-man front.
So there are a lot of different looks that may cause more problems, because last year they were the three-four.
But this year they're more multiple. Coaches have different guys being in the
position to make plays for them. So we have our work cut out for us.
Q. What were your -- when did you find out about the Notre Dame issue, and what do you think about Notre Dame joining the ACC and the fact that it will be playing five games to start out with?
LONDON: I tell you, we practice in the morning. I just literally walked in the office. I've got all kinds of papers and memos and things laying on my desk. People come up and ask me about that. I'm looking at a little page of John Oliver about it. But I know Notre Dame is a great academic school. I know their brand is something that the ACC and Atlantic Coast Conference and the types of schools that are there can enhance on both sides, theirs and the ACC.
I don't know the particulars about who we play and how we play them. I understand maybe it's five games or something like that. But I think it can be positive for the league. When I find out more in detail about it, I definitely would be making some further comments about it. But right now from the standpoint of them, the team, the University, what it stands for would be a positive for the ACC.
Q. In an unrelated follow-up, how much of a relief is it this year not to be having all the questions about Al Groh and first game trip back to Charlottesville and first game with Al et cetera, et cetera?
LONDON: Well, other than you just asking that, this is football. The prior relationship with the past relationship that I have with coach is a tremendous amount of respect. I learned a lot of football from him. He promoted me within the ranks here at Virginia.
So he's moved on. We've moved on. It's three years apart now. I'm sure they have goals and aspirations that they're focusing on just like we are.