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Mike London's balancing act: present vs. future

In addition to having to worry about fixing the myriad issues plaguing his current team -- the one that's 2-4 overall and 0-3 in Atlantic Coast Conference play -- first-year Virginia Coach Mike London also must concern himself with laying the foundation for what he hopes will be successful future teams. It's a multi-faceted charge that requires London to balance loyalty to the players who are at or nearing the end of their collegiate careers with the desire to develop younger players who could take on significant roles in coming seasons.

For instance, fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica did not perform well Saturday in a 34-point loss to North Carolina. He has thrown as many interceptions (six) as he has touchdowns this season, and his completion percentage (57.8) has not been as sharp as it has been in the past. There is a feeling among a solid portion of the Virginia fan base that London should cast Verica aside and replace him in the starting lineup with either redshirt freshman Ross Metheny or true freshman Michael Rocco.

But, partly because he believes Verica gives the team the best chance to win games right now and partly because Metheny and Rocco have not demonstrated in practices and games that either is ready to take on such a role, London has said he will stick with Verica for the time being. London is aware that how he handles this situation and others like it this season will be used against him -- either way -- by opposing coaches on the recruiting trail.

"First and foremost, I'm responsible for the players here at the University of Virginia," London said Monday. "I have to be the safeguard of how they feel about themselves. The relationship the head coach has with them is one of trust and mutual respect. Also being able to evaluate them, and you've got to be very honest with them. In Marc's case, because of where we are with the other quarterback situation, right now he's the guy that's taken the most reps that's won games. That if he stays within himself and plays within himself, it gives us an opportunity.

"At the same time, recruiting is always the lifeblood of any program. In his situation being a fifth-year guy, you have the other young players that are behind him, but if there's someone else that is out there that is a quarterback that is talented, that you also want to say, 'Listen, this is an opportunity for you this particular year to come in and help us.'"

Ideally, London said, there would be another quarterback or two with significant experience on his belt that might be an option to turn to at a juncture such as this during a season. But the backup quarterbacks currently on Virginia's roster are not juniors or redshirt sophomores. After Verica, London's top two next best options are guys that had not taken a snap in a collegiate game entering this season.

"You encourage the guy that you have," London said. "You keep trying to develop the ones that you have underneath of them. And you go out and recruit some that are talented because you never know what they might bring to the table, so it's a balancing act, but it's one that I've got to do."

Sophomore tight end Colter Phillips and sophomore linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said Monday that they remain confident in Verica as both a leader and a quarterback.

"Marc's a true competitor, and him not having his best game last weekend, it's not Marc's style," Phillips said. "He realizes that he's just going to do the best he can for the team, and he's going to play his role in helping us become a better team, whatever that is. Marc's working hard right now, and I really respect him. I know he's getting a lot of criticism and all that, but all the guys on the team have a lot of confidence in Marc. We now Marc is going to do his job, and he's going to play well."

By Steve Yanda  | October 19, 2010; 10:39 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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"First and foremost, I'm responsible for the players here at the University of Virginia," London said Monday. "I have to be the safeguard of how they feel about themselves. The relationship the head coach has with them is one of trust and mutual respect."

Comments like that are why I wholeheartedly support Mike London as coach of this team. He recognizes that the vast majority of these players will hang up their cleats for good when their collegiate career is over, so there has to be some consideration given to developing these kids as men, as well as football players. To a man, everyone who I've heard interviewed who played for London in the past has said that he genuinely cares about them as people, not just football players, and wants what is best for them. So I resolve to clam up and let him do his job, even if it means I have to watch the team stumble its way to the finish line this season. I believe Coaches London Bennett are what the University needs.

Posted by: jburksva | October 19, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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