UVa head coach Mike London
LONDON: Good afternoon.
Yes, great opportunity to get into our second conference game. It's another road game opportunity for us to play a Duke team that's been playing well. We have to be able to play well and do some things on the field with our play to give us a chance to compete and play and win.
That's all part of it, just having a chance to go on the road and play again and get back to playing the type of ball I know we're capable of.
I'd appreciate any questions.
Q. Mike, one thing we didn't ask you about Sunday or Monday was your kickoff returns. It seemed like it was a rerun every time they'd kick it down to the left side, your guy would run basically along the right sideline. What can you do to mix that up or do you need to mix it up some in terms of your returns?
LONDON: Well, we have to make sure that the game plan for that, it's multiple opportunities depending on the kicks, even if the kick is kicked where we maybe game planned to do some things with it.
I think that's one of the things we talked about during the start of the season, as the season has gone on, the kickoff return unit was one of the pluses for us with Khalek Shepherd returning. They did a good job of coverage. Our average starting position was at the 17, 18 yard line. That was exasperated by a couple penalties.
There's some things that we can do with a couple different schemes about ball placement and how maybe different returner look, still having Khalek back there. That's something that's approached with Coach Poindexter. We've addressed that and look for an opportunity, again, to have some returns.
We always look at the other team's kicker. Is he kicking it into the end zone? Are teams bringing the ball out? If they are, then what opportunities may be presented to you?
We have a good kicker, good coverage team, there appears to be opportunities to return kicks.
Q. Duke is off to their best start since 1994. Watching them on film, what are they doing better this year?
LONDON: Well, I tell you, Coach Cutcliffe has done a great job there just hanging in there with his message, just talking about his philosophy. The players have bought in. It seems like (Sean) Renfree and Conner (Vernon) have been there forever. I think when I was at Richmond we played against them.
It matters when you have an older, experienced quarterback, some receivers that have been around the system that he's teaching.
What you see is that they're executing. They're executing their offense at a very high and efficient level. They're playing with a lot of energy. He's got them playing well.
Q. Renfree didn't play the fourth quarter Saturday. They tell us he's day-to-day. Does it make it difficult for you?
LONDON: It's the system, the scheme they have in place, that presents the challenges. I'm quite sure that Boone is a quarterback that's got a lot of talent. When you look at him on the face of it, he's running the ball more. I'm quite sure he can execute their offense, too, by throwing the bubble screens, play-action passes, things like that.
(Sean) Renfree is a great quarterback, great quarterback, one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the ACC. Obviously it would be something that they'd miss him, but I think at the same time the other quarterback can run the system.
When you're surrounded like a guy like Conner (Vernon), some of the other people they have, they have enough confidence in Boone and the rest of the team to pick up the slack for the quarterback.
Q. Mike, without giving a full injury report, could you say whether Phillip Sims practiced Tuesday and today?
LONDON: I could say that Phillip will more than likely be the starter for us. Second day in a row he's moved around, done a nice job. Doesn't seem to be hampered by anything. That's kind of the game plan right now.
Q. One of the reasons it seemed like you hesitated to make that switch coming into the season was because he was a little bit behind in the learning curve. Do you feel he's completely caught up there?
LONDON: I think the level that he's caught up has been his performance in games. I think every week is always a better week in terms of his knowledge of the offense. Puts himself into him having performed the last three and a half weeks or so that he's deserved an opportunity to start a game, to get the reps in practice, to get the concentration on the finer details of things.
I think we feel pretty good that he's ready to handle those things now on the offense, how to run it, to match some of the physical tools and skills that he has.
Q. Now that you've gotten to know Phillip over a few months here, not even just in terms of on the field, what have you made of him off the field as a person? Has anything surprised you in terms of who he is, maybe something you didn't know before he came to Virginia?
LONDON: Well, I remember when I was at Richmond and he was at Oscar Smith, and they won a state championship. Tim Smith was on that team. Perry Jones was on that team. We met at a banquet. Rich Morgan was head coach being honored at a similar banquet. We were sitting at the same guest of honor table. Having a chance to meet him, his family, mom and dad at that time.
Over the course of time here recently, he's come and got really acclimated to the team. He didn't come here saying, I'm from Alabama, I'm this, I'm that. He came in and adapted to the team culture here. Guys have accepted him. He's ingratiated himself to his teammates. Didn't come in with a lot of bravado, pounding his chest. He just came in and worked, tried to learn the way we do things here.
Over the course of the season, the last few weeks, you've seen the performance side that appears it merits, when he was coming out of high school, back in that time, about his skill set.
As time goes on, like any other player that's in your program, you get to know more about him because you go through the ups and downs, the good times, bad times with him. You kind of see what they're made of. Those times are being forged right now. We'll continue to have that type of relationship, not only with Phillip, but all the players.
Like I say now, it appears that players have confidence in him, in his abilities.
So, like I say, we're excited about having him having the opportunity to be the quarterback at this upcoming game.
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