GREENSBORO, N.C. — It’s the fourth week of July and Mike London already has a star-studded recruiting class lined up to sign in February. He’s got a sparkling new indoor practice facility that sits a post route from his office. He’s got national powers flocking to his stadium this season.
When it comes to checking off the essentials for creating a big-time college football program, the Virginia head coach, with assistance, isn’t leaving many boxes unmarked these days.
Now it’s time to produce that consistent winner.
London spent his Monday with media members at the Grandover Resort as part of ACC Kickoff. The 2011 ACC Coach of the Year covered topics ranging from quarterbacks to incoming freshmen to new staff members to, yes, pressure.
“There’s always pressure to perform,” said London, who’s 16-21 entering his fourth season at UVa. “Ours is also measured with the progress that you make. We want to have progress.”
The Cavaliers are coming off a 4-8 season, their second such result in the London era. It made for an offseason drenched in change.
There’s a new offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. The only quarterbacks to throw passes for the Wahoos last year have transferred. Penn State came off the schedule for 2013 and Oregon stormed on. The $13 million George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility is up and shining outside the McCue Center.
The Cavs will surely have a different look to them when they report for camp on Aug. 4, but will that make for a different on-field result?
Virginia was picked to finish sixth in the ACC Coastal Division, according to a poll of media members.
“The pressure is on to perform,” London said. “It’s always been that way. I’ve been a police officer — the pressure to do what you need to do to stay alive. The pressure to make sure these young men understand that they’re here to get an education and play competitive football. That’s nothing new in terms of personal things I’ve done in my life.
“But in this situation here with the university, this job, and the opportunity to bring this program back to a level of success, sustained success, and being relevant led to some of the moves that were made, the commitment to the facilities, the scheduling. All those things fit into what we want and expect more for ourselves.
“We want to play smart, we want to be tough, and we want to play aggressive. I think if you can do those things, you give yourself an excellent chance to be successful on the field.”
Naturally, the mission to achieve that goal will start by choosing a quarterback.
Monday, London said the starting signal caller decision will be made early in camp. This is contrary to what he’s done the last two seasons when he’s juggled the position (Michael Rocco and David Watford in 2011; Rocco and Phillip Sims in 2012).
The QB competition will be between Watford, a redshirt sophomore, and redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert.
London praised both, but seemed to give an edge to Watford.
“Early on in August camp, you’ll definitively know who the starting quarterback is,” London said, “and I would say as we ended spring practice, the guy who has the most experience would be David. The rein is not handed to David because Greyson Lambert is gonna be special as well, but we want to be able to, with the new coaches we have on staff, pick a guy early.”
Either way, that “guy” will be an underclassman. That fits right in with the 2013 youth movement in Charlottesville.
“I think the perception on the outside is that ‘Let’s see what’s going on with this team,’” London said. “There’s 65 players on this team that are freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores and only six or seven seniors. I think what I want to see is the way we progress.”
Many in Wahoo Nation are seeking to spot the same.
“I don’t know,” London said when asked about his job security. “You’ll have to ask them. All I can do is take this team, these players, the new coaches, and put us in the mindset that every game that we play, we want to be competitive, we want to try to win.
“My efforts in trying to make these guys productive on the field and off the field are 100 percent committed to these players.
“You’d have to ask other people that particular question, but I plan on being at Virginia for a long time.”
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was voted ACC preseason Player of the Year. ... The Tigers were picked to win the league, defeating Coastal champ Miami in the title game. ... UVa has been picked to finish last or second-to-last in the preseason Coastal poll five of the last six years. ... UVa defensive tackle Justin Renfrow has graduated and is no longer on the team, London said. .... Freshman receiver Zack Jones, brother of former UVa running back Perry Jones, will attend Fork Union Military Academy this season. London said he got this information from Perry Jones.