Mike London is back in the commonwealth, adding William & Mary to the list of college football teams in Virginia that the former Richmond and Virginia coach has led. Friday night, he’ll be back at Scott Stadium, but this time, on the visitor’s sideline.
Veteran sports writer Dave Johnson is chronicling London’s first season leading the Tribe for the Daily Press in Newport News. Johnson took time out to answer four downs worth of questions about William & Mary going into Friday’s game at Virginia.
1. Now that William & Mary has played a game, how would describe Mike London’s go-go offense? What worked in the first game and what still needs some work?
Johnson: It’s unlike anything William & Mary fans have seen in the past, both in formation and tempo. They didn’t go quite as fast as I imagine the coaches want, but much of that could have to do with it being the opener. The Tribe had 80 plays from scrimmage, its most since 2015 and 20 more than what it averaged last season. W&M scored 30 points and should have had 50-plus. One touchdown was called back, a receiver dropped a pass in the end zone, and the Tribe had to settle for too many field goals.
2. Four quarterbacks “started” the opener, thanks to a funky formation and trick play. Going forward, what is the Tribe’s plan at quarterback?
Johnson: Yeah, that was something I’ve never seen before. OC Brennan Marion is very imaginative, and I wouldn’t rule something like that happening again. My semi-educated opinion is that Hollis Mathis is their QB1 but Kilton Anderson will see a good amount of time as a change-up. Mathis is a major dual threat and ran for 127 yards rushing vs. Lafayette. But, as it showed last week, Virginia’s defense is a different animal.
3. Defensively, W&M has switched to a 3-4 scheme. How does that fit the current personnel and how would you grade that unit in the opener?
Johnson: The coaching staff believes it fits their personnel better than the 4-3, especially with four linebackers. The Tribe did play some 3-4 in third down situations the past few seasons, so it’s not a complete upheaval. In the opener, W&M gave up 21 first downs and 254 passing yards to a Lafayette offense that averaged 171 last season. But it also had an interception and recovered three fumbles.
4. London is an emotional guy. Does he have any feelings about returning to UVa, where he coached as a head coach and assistant, and is that adding any motivation for his players?
Johnson: Yes and, I think, no. London didn’t try to avoid the question this week, pointing out that his daughter played basketball for Debbie Ryan and his brother played football for George Welsh. Two coaches he accurately referred to as “legendary.” London coached there 12 years total, with some very good times as well as some bad, so it’s understandable that he has strong feelings about Charlottesville. But I don’t think it’s trickling down to his players. They just want to shock the world.