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Posted at 7:16 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

Poll: Grading Mike London's first season as Virginia's HC

By Steve Yanda

In Mike London's first season as Virginia's head coach, the Cavaliers went 4-8. The wins came over two 1-AA teams, a squad that finished in the bottom half of the Mid-American Conference and a widely renowned ACC program that was ranked No. 22 in the country at the time.

The Cavaliers owned an offense that ranked No. 4 in the ACC in passing yards per game and tied for No. 8 in turnovers lost. Virginia possessed a defense that tallied the fewest turnovers in the ACC and was porous against the run. That same defense ranked No. 4 in the ACC against the pass despite a constantly beat up secondary and a pass rush that generated infrequent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Virginia demonstrated considerable progress in kickoff returns and special teams creativity.

Only three teams in the nation were charged with more pentalty yards per game than the Cavaliers this fall.

As head of the program, London is responsible for all of the above, the good and the bad. He acknowledged as much during his press conference Wednesday.

"Anything that can be measured can be improved," London said when asked for a self-evaluation on his performance this season. "I’m responsible for offense, defense and special teams. I’m responsible for the team and how they performed, in the class room and off the field. And so I would say, even for myself, I’m a work in progress in making sure the things that happen this year, that they get better next year.

"That the semester that we’re getting ready to end up, that that’s a better semester than what it was when we finished in the summer and going into the season, that the improvements made here offensively and on special teams-wise, that they continue to improve, that the defense continues to improve and now that we have a majority of everyone coming back, that there’s a level of success and improvement that can be looked at on the field, in particularly.

"And my opportunities to still get out and embrace our fan base, our football alumni, continue to carry the message of (University of Virginia) President Sullivan, I’ll continue to do those (things) and I’ll get better at doing all those things. In any profession, any person always has an opportunity to improve, and that’s what I’m looking to do as we start the second season."

How do you think London performed during his first 12 games as head coach? The grade you give should reflect only your thoughts on how London fared as a coach this fall. It's fairly well established the success London and his staff have had on the recruiting trail and in getting things turned around in terms of the team's collective classroom performance. Feel free, as always, to expand on your choice in the comments section below and/or email me your thoughts at yandas@washpost.com.

By Steve Yanda  | December 2, 2010; 7:16 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Next: Mike London lobbies for OL Morgan Moses as freshman all-American

Comments

This year's UVA squad had 3 players that could probably be starters on just about any ACC team: Torcia, Moses, and Ras'I Dowling. That's it. And only one of them made it to the end of the season still able to play. That's the sorry state in which Al Groh left the UVA football program.

But even as this was the case, three individual plays (an out-of-bounds hit on the USC QB, an out-of-bounds hit on the Duke QB, and a blown call at the end of the Maryland game, costing UVA a touchdown) cost UVA three additional wins - wins that would have seen them bowl-bound in London's 1st season. And they were in the position to win because of coaching, not because of physical talent or mental discipline.

Bearing this in mind, I think London did a wonderful job in his first season as head coach, regardless of the 4-8 record. Coach London obviously knows the game, but perhaps just as important is that it's easy to see that his energy and personality were infectious with the players. When they won games, you could see that the thing that made them most happy was the fact that they had made their coach proud. It's THIS that's going to get UVA back to the Welsh days of being a consistent Top 20 ranked team...and perhaps more.

I believe that they will reach 6+ wins in 2011 and 2012, becoming bowl-eligible. But I believe that when we get to 2013 - with three classes of top-notch recruits (especially out of Hampton Roads) and a team that's steeped in the London "system", including a truly veteran QB - then we're going to start seeing some really good things happen.

Wa-hoo-wa!

Posted by: rvastar | December 2, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

London was playing with house money this year, as far as on-field results are concerned. As long as he didn't compeltely fall on his face there, he was OK. And he did better than last year, so that was a plus.

His chief job was to foster some hope that things will get better. He stabilized the on-field product, rebuilt relationships with the state's high school coaches (particularly those in the 757), and is bringing in a pretty solid recruiting class. He has been tireless in his off-the-field outreach. He has stressed academics and good behavior, with good results to date.

The concerns: The penalties, to me, should have been brought under control. That's a coaching thing, and it did not seem to get better as the season went along. Also, London may have gambled TOO much. Fake punts and field goals are fan-pleasers, but they lose their surprise effect when done too often, as witnessed by the VT game. Ditto going for it on fourth-and-short while in field goal range; sometimes you just gotta take the points.

But I'm a big London fan, and I'm looking forward to year two..

Posted by: U-Hoo | December 2, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with both commenters above in their positive outlook, however one thing that concerns me is something I certainly didn't expect- the defense. When London was with UVA as a Def. Coordinator, the defense was excellent. In his first year out, to have such a porous defense (rushing particularly) was a worrisome surprise. I hope that gets sorted out, maybe this coordinator isn't right, or maybe he was too involved in the defense, but that's #1a on things to improve for next season, along with developing a new QB.

Posted by: Bog_Reader | December 2, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I think with any first year, coach's mistakes will be made & certainly Mike has made his share. I wondered at the begining of the season how long it would take Mike London to learn a lesson that Al Groh learned his last season with UVa, that he couldn't win with Mark Verica at QB, well unfortunately Mike never learned that lesson & it cost him maybe a chance to be bowl eligible. Even after the team was eliminated from bowl consideration he failed to prepare for the future by benching Verica and giving his young QBs in the program playing time so they could gain some meaningful experience to prepare them for next year. This will put us in the unenviable position of having no experience at starting QB next year & leaving us scrambling thru possibly another 4-8 season, while we break in a new QB. Don't get me wrong I'm still on the ML Express but I can't put blinders on either. mistakes he's made but he has the program on the right track & I believe the foundation he has laid down this year will eventually yield beneficial fruit in the future if we are patient. After the hole Al Groh left us in it will take time to mend fences in instate recruiting & for our team to adjust to a new 4-3 defense & a new offense, after all the team couldn't learn the Spread Offense in one year either in AL Groh's last year, so we will need next year for this team to come together & I believe we will, so GO HOOS!!!

Posted by: HooZazz | December 3, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

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