Brian Leung of Streaking the lawn and I exchanged questions and answers this week about the upcoming Indiana-Virginia game. My answers to Brian's questions can be found here. His answers to my questions are below.
1. One year and one game into the Mike London era, how to Virginia fans feel? Was it a popular hire? Are you happy with the progress so far? Do you think he is the right coach to maximize Virginia's potential as a program?
Virginia fans are cautiously pumped about Mike London
and the future of Virginia Football. We've gone through a lot over the past decade, a decade which involves beating our in-state rival only once. And even though last year we had but four wins (two of which were FCS teams and only one of which was a conference game), I think most everyone is pretty excited at the amazing recruiting job he's done and the slow, but steady, progress on the field. If he wasn't a popular hire off the bat, he was quick to get there. I have been pleased with the progress and think he's the right coach, but like many other UVa fans, I'm waiting until two years from now before I make any real judgment. He's certainly done nothing to make me question his ability to produce results.
2. Your quarterback, Michael Rocco
, posted some solid numbers against William & Mary. When I previewed UVa in July, the position was wide open. Is there any sense of whether Rocco is secure in the job or whether some of the others might see meaningful playing time this season?
The position isn't "wide open" anymore, but by no means has Rocco secured the job. Three QBs got playing time last week, and everyone has generally positive things to say about each. But that's what happens when you play an FCS team to kick off the season (even if it IS one of the "powerhouse" FCS teams). Coach London has been very clear that if Rocco can't perform, he won't hesitate to put Ross Metheny
in as QB1. True freshman David Watford
will likely get quality playing time all season long, even if he's not next in line for the starting position. Rocco's solid numbers are in no small part due to an impressive showing by the offensive line that gave him plenty of time to survey the field and make smart decisions. He'll be interesting to watch when he faces a faster, stronger team.
3. Ditto the running back position. Kevin Parks
had an excellent game. Is he presumed to be the solution for UVa at that position?
Actually, I thought Perry Jones
was going to be the solution at this position. Kevin Parks surprised us all (obviously). I'll be surprised if Parks is able to put up those kinds of numbers all season long (and if so, I'm starting the Heisman campaign now)... see above regarding faster, stronger opponents. But with young, inexperienced quarterbacks at the helm (I can only remember off the top of my head Rocco airing out just one long ball), we're going to rely pretty heavily on Jones and Parks this year to get the ball moving.
4. Al Groh's last team was decent on defense and mostly bad on offense (other than hanging 47 on some hapless non-conference opponent). Mike London's first team was pretty solid on offense and bad on defense. What accounts for that sudden transformation.
Simply put, Mike London found a way to utilize players in a way that Al Groh did not -- the most glaring example is Keith Payne
last year. Payne saw limited playing time in 2008, and actually dropped off the team in 2009. When he came back to the team in London's first year, he found himself at the end of the season as a second team All ACC back. Also, under Groh's last season, we tried this bizarre spread offense that...did not work. When London came, we switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3. The changed caused all sorts of confusion, and in fact, Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid admitted that it's largely his fault, as he tried to oversimplify the defense to the point where it was simply ineffective.
5. As noted in the last question, Virginia struggled on defense this year, but was very good last week against W&M. Was this progress or simply a consequence of the opposition, and why?
Changing up the 4-3 made a big difference. We also moved some linebackers around to utilize some of these guys a little better. LaRoy Reynolds moved over to the weak-side LB position and has a lot more room to cover now. That said, I have no real choice but to chalk it up to weak competition there. W&M's scoring drive late in the game did at least expose some holes in Virginia's defense -- nothing I can put my finger on, but 63 yards in 11 plays is nothing to scoff at. I think there has been progress -- there better have been progress -- but I also think this weekend's matchup will be more telling.