GREENSBORO, N.C. — The first question Mike London faced Monday at the ACC’s annual football kickoff seemed an obvious one, if only because it ultimately will be an unavoidable topic the entire fall: What does Virginia’s embattled coach need to do this season to keep his job?
This did not catch London by surprise, not on the heels of a disastrous 2-10 campaign. But as he tried during an 80-minute session with reporters to bring attention to the Cavaliers’ bevy of returning defensive starters or the ascension of redshirt sophomore Greyson Lambert to the top of the quarterback depth chart, talk always seemed to circle back to his precarious job security.
“My focus is just on this team,” he insisted at one point. “I can’t help what’s being said and what’s being written.”
Just two years ago, London led Virginia on an 8-5 season that ended in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. But the fall has been precipitous since, culminating in nine straight losses to end last year.
London, though, remains optimistic, pointing to a roster that is more experienced after several strong recruiting classes.
“I believe we’re in a better situation to be as good as we’ve ever been because of where we are and with the type of people we have coming back for us,” London said. “I have faith in our players. I have faith in the schemes and the system that we’re running.”
But even his players couldn’t avoid the hot-seat talk.
“I’ll be lying to you if I didn’t hear that kind of stuff about Coach London,” running back Kevin Parks admitted.
London will get no favors from an unforgiving 2014 schedule that includes nonconference matchups against UCLA and BYU, as well as road games at Florida State and Virginia Tech. But he refused to lay blame on Virginia’s schedule makers, noting he approved some of the contests and will “embrace” the challenge.
As for this season’s expectations, London put it simply: “The obvious of playing better. You can’t go 2-10.”
Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer hopes the battle to decide the team’s new starting quarterback won’t take long.
The competition under center will take shape next month, with redshirt senior Mark Leal, redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley, Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and several freshmen vying for the job. The Hokies, picked to finish third in the ACC’s Coastal division in the league’s preseason poll, open the season against William and Mary before traveling to face Ohio State on Sept. 9.
“The only thing I’m going to say is we’re going to do it quickly. We just can’t wait,” Beamer said. “You’d like for it to separate on the field, but if it doesn’t, we’re going to have to make some gut decisions.” . . .
Beamer confirmed redshirt senior offensive lineman Brent Benedict is expected to be medically disqualified for the 2014 season after complications from a blood clot in his leg following spring practice. . . . London said senior Jay Whitmire (T.C. Williams), Virginia’s projected starting left tackle, “likely” will miss the start of the season because of a back injury.