Mike London pleased with Keith Payne's adjustment to new mind-set
Virginia fifth-year senior tailback Keith Payne hasn’t raised eyebrows for his play on the field in a game in quite some time. Payne left the team prior to the beginning of the 2009 season. Then he returned to the squad this spring after the arrival of first-year coach Mike London. During the first few days of training camp, London was asked frequently about Payne’s academic eligibility, which was in question until he passed his final summer school classes.
Now that he seemingly has cleared all of his hurdles, Payne aims to start generating news for his football-playing ability. And if that means Payne has to take a subordinate role on the team, London said that’s just fine with him.
“Keith is blessed with a tremendous amount of talent," London said. "And Keith is going to have to also understand that whatever aspirations that you might have -- hopefully your first aspiration is to graduate and get a degree here -- but if you have aspirations beyond that, then special teams and being a significant contributor on special teams is going to also help you if you aspire to go on to the next level.
“Keith is out of the, 'Well, I'm just a featured, main back,' and into, 'Well this is what the team needs.' If you can be the wing on the field goal protection, if you can be the fullback on the kickoff return, if you can get involved on any other special teams unit, that's how you're going to improve your status with not just your teammates, but if you do have aspirations to move on.”
London said thus far Payne has embraced the roles coaches have asked him to play on some of the special teams units. He’s demonstrated an ability to excel in those roles, too.
“If he can do it at a high level and say, ‘Whatever I can do to help the team,’ then that's what it's got to be,” London said. “I think his mind-set has changed from what I just discussed with you, as opposed to, 'I was a big back coming out of high school. I was the man. All I did was run the ball.' Now, his role is you can be the running back here, but you also have got to embrace the other roles that special teams can provide for us.”
In addition to his special teams work, Payne is one of a half dozen candidates striving to earn the No. 1 spot on the team’s depth chart at tailback. London said remains in search of a “go-to guy” at that position.
August 19, 2010; 12:12 PM ET
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