Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco has been able to hold on to his starting job despite competition from Alabama transfer Phillip Sims, coach Mike London announced Monday.
Rocco started all 13 games last season, throwing for 2,671 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But London opened up the competition once Sims arrived and was granted his immediate eligibility. Rocco, Sims and David Watford were involved in an open quarterback competition during preseason practice, but London always maintained that Rocco had the edge over the other two quarterbacks in the race to win the job.
He confirmed that Monday.
"It just became apparent that Michael has the best grasp of the offense right now," London said during his weekly news conference. "He’s the guy that we feel most comfortable with right now because of what he knows, knowing the system and the schemes and knowing the players he’ll be throwing the ball to or handing the ball off to. He’s done nothing to lose his position. We talked about his leadership, his knowledge of the offense, and so he’s put himself in a position to be the guy right now and I’m quite sure he’ll work hard at it, he takes pride in it. That’s how it worked out."
"I believe that I was the starter throughout the spring and the summer," Rocco said. "It was my job to lose. I root for Phil and David as hard as I can. I would never want anything bad to happen in their career and their life. But I believe I’m here to play quarterback at a high level. I was excited when I heard Coach London was going with me, but in my mind I was preparing to be the starting quarterback. I was excited, but I had a confidence in my mind, too."
London added that he knew it would be a tall order for Sims to overtake Rocco while learning a new offensive system.
"With respect to Phillip, he has a big arm, strong arm, been in college games as well. He’s a guy that’s learning our offense," London said. "To expect him to know our whole offense by the time the season started, I don’t think that would be fair on him. He knows enough of the offense that we understand his situation will be on-the-job training as the season goes on, how much he picks up, the communication, all those things."
London also said he would try to redshirt Watford, who served as the backup to Rocco last season.
"With David, it was a tough call," London said. "David has done everything that we’ve asked and then some. He’s matured tremendously, his physical talents and skills improved greatly. They are three selfless players. They want what’s best for the team. My plan is to try to redshirt him."
A few other UVa notes:
Drequan Hoskey will start at cornerback over true freshman Maurice Canady. London said Canady will see plenty of playing time in nickel and dime packages and on special teams.
Offensive tackle Kelby Johnson has been suspended for the first two games of the season for a violation of team rules.
Drew Jarrett has won the starting place-kicker job. Ian Frye will handle kickoffs, while Alec Vozenilek will be the punter.
Khalek Shepherd is a little banged up, so he won't return kicks. Darius Jennings, Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are listed as kickoff returners, while Dominique Terrell and Demetrious Nicholson are listed as the punt returners.