As Penn State heads to Charlottesville to take on the Cavaliers of Virginia, we here at BSD turned to an authority on the 'Hoos to gain some insight about the Lions' week two opponent. Brian Leung is the manager of SBNation's UVA blog, Streaking the Lawn, and was gracious enough to answer our questions. Be sure to head over there to read my answers to his queries, too.
Black Shoe Diaries: In just his second year at UVA, Mike London reversed the downward spiral towards mediocrity that characterized the final years of the Al Groh regime. What did he do differently that's hastened this rebuild?
Streaking the Lawn: Where do I begin? Mike London is drastically different from Al Groh. Whereas Groh was short with the media and didn’t really play the "charismatic" card much, London embraces the media, seizes on the opportunity to make public appearances, and has taken great strides to improve UVA’s image. Taking Spring practices on the road when he first got here, and therefore being able to showcase the team to the talent-rich Tidewater / 757 area, was ingenious. Setting up TV deals to document the "Building of a Program" was ingenious. Beating Virginia Tech in their own backyard was… well, that hasn’t happened yet. But at the rate London is going, it should be. Soon.
London’s ability to be extremely appealing to players is also a huge plus. They can relate to him. He’s been there. And with that in mind, they can buy into his system a lot quicker than they could with Groh.
BSD: During the Groh years, UVA at its best was one of those perennial 7-8-or-9-win teams that there seem to be, like, a dozen of in the ACC every year. What's the ceiling moving forward with London?
StL: "I see skies of bluuue, and clouds of whiiite…" Seriously. There’s no ceiling here. Since London took over at the helm, UVA has gotten multiple Top-25 recruiting classes, which means that last year’s marked improvement was just a preview of what he could be doing with a bunch of players he recruited, and even more promising, a bunch of players who were highly recruited. Playing in the ACC Championship Game, though likely not this year, is right around the corner (we were one win shy last year), and a BCS Bowl isn’t too far away after that.
BSD: In his preview of the 2012 season, Bill Connelly wrote that the UVA offense starts with do-everything back Perry Jones. What makes Jones so important to the Hoos, and what can Penn State do to neutralize him?
StL: What can’t Perry Jones do, seriously? Part of it is his compact frame. He’s small, which might lead you to believe he can’t run as fast. But he’s SO powerful. So think of him like a cannon. Compact. Dense. Powerful. A benefit of his compact frame is that he can be relatively tough tackle, and similarly, he’s pretty good at squirming his way out of a bad hold. Honestly though, I’d be less concerned about him and more concerned about our secondaries. Seeing the inexperience on Penn State’s secondaries, I wouldn’t be surprised if we took this game to the air (like I suspect you will do to us) and try to get the job done that way.