Coach Mike London’s Weekly Press Conference: October 1, 2012
Coach Mike London talked to the media today following Saturday’s disappointing loss to Louisiana Tech (44-38), the third straight loss for the Cavaliers this season. The Cavs (2-3, 0-1) will try to regroup as they head to Durham this week to face the Duke Blue Devils (4-1, 1-0) for a 3 p.m. contest to be broadcast on the Regional Sports Network. Here’s what he had to say during his weekly press conference and below is the new depth chart.
Q. It seems like you guys came out a lot more wide open offensively the other day. Before the game you had said it was going to be hard to slow them down. How did you feel that worked for the first 20 minutes, and is that something that maybe we’ll see more?
MIKE LONDON: I think trying to utilize it, we talked about going vertical and what’s been mentioned about having enough skill players to stretch the field, that was definitely one of the mindsets. That’s got to be something that ‑‑ we’re concerned about the running game — with the running game part of that last week, this week. There were some elements of being able to move the ball that actually allow you to throw the ball downfield. We’ve been talking about seeing a lot of eight‑man, nine‑man fronts, and the way to try to defend this.
But one way to loosen them up is definitely to make sure you throw deep, or we’ll throw those intermediate routes and those crossing routes that require receivers to push up the field.
I think we kind of ran into an issue in the third quarter when all of that sudden that up‑tempo offense kind of took place there [from La Tech]. We [UVa defense] never could get off the field, the ball is on their hash, close to their sideline, and they just kept it going and going, and we didn’t defend it enough to get off the field and make a stop there.
That’s one of the things that we talk about, where do you go from here, what are you looking at, personnel and things like that, is finding out what we do best. Yeah, we want to run the ball, but what do we do best in terms of moving the ball and with whom in terms of the personnel. So it was good to see, like I told the team, I think there was 11 explosive plays over 15 yards, probably the most we’ve had in a while, 73‑yarder, 30‑something yarder, 43‑yarder, things that you have to have in order to get that consistent running game – but also to allow some of these guys that we thought that could be play makers for us and let them have opportunities to do that. And those are the ways we’re trying to explore how we can get points and get people involved in the offense.
Q. For the past five weeks you have said Michael Rocco is the starting quarterback – with no depth chart, who is the starting quarterback this week?
MIKE LONDON: Again, as I said Sunday night when I talked to you guys on the media conference and after the game, we are going to evaluate everything that we do and the who and who the personnel is. For me, Coach Lazor and the offensive staff – for everyone to understand that it’s not just about one individual – it’s about the team and about who gives us the best chance. And that decision will be made very soon. I’ll let you know that. Everyone will know. But I want to make sure, as Bill and the rest of the offensive staff, we’ve been talking about the who as part of this offense and how we include some of the people that we see have chances to be explosive players for us, we have to look at who gets it to them, who’s blocking for them.
I can tell you this: That inside we’ve moved Matt Mihalik to center; we’ve also, in an attempt to try to make our guard situation more competitive, Ross Burbank is battling with Sean Cascarano, so he knows that there’s competition there. By the same token, Cody Wallace and Conner Davis are battling right there, so whoever at the end of this week in terms of practice, we’ll know who’s going to be the guy that’s going to start there. Bowanko will stay center, Mihalik is behind Bowanko, and Kelby Johnson will be behind Oday, and Jay Whitmire will be behind Morgan.
But we talked about some things, about how we need to prove and progress and get people in those positions, that’s one of the areas that we’ve made a move as of right now, right away, and there are some other areas, some other players that we’re still waiting on some training room reports as far as their availability.
We didn’t get banged up as much, but there are some guys that there are some question marks as far as their availability and where they fit into the scheme of the evaluation we’re talking about is going to be important. And hopefully we’ll know ‑‑ actually know by this afternoon or by first thing tomorrow morning.
Q. There have been a lot of dropped passes this year. It seems like a lot of times they’re on his crossing routes. What is that issue there, and how is that addressed?
MIKE LONDON: You know, it could be a little bit of everything. Obviously the mindset of a receiver, the ball touches your hand, you should catch the b if it turns into being an interception, it’s a turnover, and those are the things that you can’t have. all. Obviously the quarterback should like to throw the ball or you’d like to receive a ball not up above your head but at a point thrown at your facemask. You’d like the route or the window, the receiver to clear a route or the window for the quarterback to throw in and not have to throw, anticipate you running in front of or behind a defender.
So there are different elements to it. But regardless, if it turns into being an interception, it’s a turnover, and those are the things that you can’t have. And quite honestly, sometimes the quarterback gets blamed on that part of it when, as you mentioned, sometimes the ball is deflected off a hand where the route is not run correctly, but ultimately it hurts the team because that’s one less possession we have and a possession that they get.
Turnovers, and particularly this game, the penalties, silly penalties, things that are basically out of characteristic of the way we have played or can play are things that ultimately did us in for this particular game.
I feel really good about where we were, how we were moving the ball, but then we self‑inflicted ourselves with silly penalties that set us back or put us back. That’s on us. That’s on coaching. We’ve got to do a better job of making sure the players understand that no player is worth the penalties that they give us or cause us to have, and we’ve got to do a better job coaching.
Q. You mentioned in the spring that it was critical that the wide receivers take their game to another level, and generally they did the other night. How comforting was that from your standpoint, and how can that help you guys advance?
MIKE LONDON: Well, you know, I’ll tell you, it’s ‑‑ we started out camp and started into the who can play for us. I felt good about Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell being returners, and E.J. Scott having an opportunity to play now, because he had various setbacks, and then with two young players that started emerging early on, Canaan Severin and Adrian Gamble, it was good to see that the ball was distributed, but it was great to see that Adrian Gamble can be a really good receiver.
As we talked about the who and the what in this room, it’s about who are the guys that can go give us some explosive plays and be athletic. Canaan Severin is another guy that has really good ball skills and ability. Got to find a way to get him into the game.
And I think the receiver group is a positive group for us, is a play‑making group for us, but we have to utilize their abilities and skills, and I think that that’s what this week is probably more about ‑‑ understanding we have a lot of respect for our opponent in Duke, but it’s probably more about us and getting the ball to those individuals that can make plays happen for us, and it was good to see some explosive plays occur for a lot of those guys.
Q. Are you kind of baffled by the defense’s inability to force turnovers this season? What do you want them to do that they’re not doing right now?
MIKE LONDON: You know, I’ve been coaching defensive football for a while, and I know that sometimes ‑‑ there have been years I’ve been here, and you’d have like 26, 27 turnovers, and the mentality that you created. If you saw this game, there were two fumbles on the ground that really bounced underneath our guy and into their hands. So when you say baffled, I mean, that’s baffling when the ball doesn’t bounce in your direction or in your hands. When you drop interceptions, on both sides there are opportunities for the ball to hit defenders in their hands and they drop them, and it has occurred to us, as well.
But again, you never stop practicing it and never stop preaching the importance of turnovers, as we see in this game, how negatively it affected us. But that’s something that we’ll continue to be harped on, will continue to be coached and made an example of; the fact that here yet is another example that the team that has the most turnovers usually at the end of the game has a chance to win the game. In a close game like that, with having three and not having any, and then the penalties, as I said, those are things that definitely get you beat.
Again, that’s on us, and understanding the penalties and the need to turn ‑‑ the need to get turnovers and then not give them is very, very critical.
Q. When you say that’s on us, we need to coach them better, you’re not on the field. What was going on?
MIKE LONDON: You know, I would say this: There was a lot of chippiness going on, a lot of that. I can say this: I’ve been coaching for a while; there’s a lot of things that are said and there’s some physicality that’s out there, and you may be standing around a pile and get bumped or you turn around and you take exception to that and you bump the guy back, and it’s always the case that the second man gets caught, and then it’s one of those things that you have to have control and you have to understand that people are going to try to rile, get a rise out of you, and being able to respond with ‑‑ there’s another play, the next play, block them next time or get off the block the next time.
And that was something that, again, was totally out of character for this team to get involved in a pushing match or back‑and‑forth match, and that won’t happen again.
Q. Do you guys talk about consequences?
MIKE LONDON: Well, a big one is the big L that we took. That loss is enough of a consequence that those types of penalties ultimately affect the whole team. And to get penalties like that is a selfish penalty. And as I said last night, any player that engages in thinking that personal fouls and things like that ‑‑ you’re going to have penalties, but personal fouls and things like that or something that’s condoned, they won’t be playing. So the message has been sent, and I expect a level of play out there that ‑‑ again, like I said, every once in a while you’re going to have some kind of block in the back or something that during the course of the game guys are moving and running back and forth. But again, the ones that are personal control penalties and fouls, those are the things that a young man is not going to be playing if they continue or they show a pattern of behavior like that.
Q. You’re trying to kind of get to know Phillip’s game a little bit more. There was a time where he rolled left and there were like 35 yards and he pulled up at the line still looking to throw. Is he a reluctant runner? Is he somebody who’s willing to run, or is that a situation where it just made more sense ‑‑
MIKE LONDON: I don’t know at what part of the game you’re talking about. I know there was a scramble situation. He scrambled to the sideline and got a first down. What you try to take advantage of when your quarterback is scrambling, you tell the defense to stay in coverage. A lot of times where defenses get beat is they see the quarterback running or approaching the line of scrimmage and the primary defender will run to tackle the quarterback, then leave the primary receiver open.
I know that they’re taught to be heads up and to understand what’s going on with the coverage part of it, but I am trying to remember the play that you’re talking about and if ‑‑ well, I would say that if there’s an opportunity for a receiver, if it’s a lot quicker to throw a ball to a receiver when you have a defender coming up on you, then that receiver 35 yards that’s open right now with a defender coming at you, there’s always a decision you have to make.
If it was open enough that you can pull it down and run with it, sure. At the time when it occurred to Phillip, I believe the right decision was made because I believe when he scrambled he got the first down on that..
Q. You mentioned the personal fouls and people would not be playing if they committed them. Cascarano had two personal fouls; is that why you’ve opened up that position a little bit?
MIKE LONDON: No, I just think overall just sending a message that the games in itself are hard enough to win when you’re playing and competing, and anything that you do to contribute to something that requires a decision being made by you post‑whistle is something that we just can’t have.
But that is also part of the issue of making sure that everyone understands that the best players want to have a chance to play, you have to perform. Those things that cause you to lose are things that are not acceptable, and we have to understand that being tough doesn’t mean pushing a guy after a whistle; being tough means lining up in front of him on the snap of the ball and blocking him or getting off a block when it’s time to get that done.
Those are the type of messages that I want this team to understand, that they understood yesterday, and understand from this point on about things we need to do to help turn this thing around and get it back in the direction that we all want to be headed in.
Q. The bubble screens – how do you want to play that if the team sees that on film that La Tech had some success, and then secondly, when it comes to the tackling, how do you guys address that?
MIKE LONDON: I think what happens with the bubble screens – one way you try to defend it is putting three over two. You go three over two, then the running game comes into play. So you have to decide whether it’s through pre‑snap look coverages or post‑snap look coverages, how you’re going to play it, because the offense, they’re pretty good, too. They understand what’s going on.
But it also entails that you have an edge setter to make sure that when the ball is caught, the ball is turned back to the inside to the pursuing players, so that could be your defensive end and your outside linebacker are as heavily involved in defending that play on the perimeter with the safety in the corner. So there’s different ways to defense it and different ways to come up with strategies to understand how you want to play it.
A tunnel screen is one where the receiver heads back towards the line of scrimmage as your offensive line allows the defensive line up the field. Well, that play has got to be played by the defensive line, recognizing that they’ve been ‑‑ the pass pro is light, they have to retrace their steps and run back towards the line of scrimmage.
When you have a volume of different types of screens, which Louisiana Tech did, and then when you look at Duke, what’s been successful for them, there are various types of screens that the technique of the perimeter players, the linebackers and the defensive line is going to be very, very important. And that’s something that we definitely will be working on this week.