The Virginia Cavaliers had a great season in 2011. UVa finished the season with an 8-5 record and ended a four year bowl game drought. A lot of the credit for this goes to head coach Mike London, who has quickly turned the program around since replacing former coach Al Groh. London has done an excellent job of recruiting over the past two years.
One of the good consequences of that recruiting is competition at certain positions. The Cavaliers have three quarterbacks jockeying for the
starting position (Michael Rocco, Phillip Sims, and David Watford). Rocco is the incumbent starter. He had a solid performance in 2011; he threw for 2,359 yards and 11 touchdowns. While Rocco’s numbers were good, they weren’t great. Rocco showed himself to be a game manager, rather than a player that can take over a game and win on his own.
David Watford was the number two option last season. During the first seven games of 2011 London used a rotation at quarterback between
Watford and Rocco. Neither of them thrived in this system, as the rotation wouldn’t allow either of them to get into a groove. Watford is more of a
playmaker then Rocco is, but he still lacks consistency and experience. Last season Watford was only able to throw for 346 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. The good news for the Cavaliers is that Watford was only a freshman in 2011, so he is only beginning to tap his potential.
The real wild card in this quarterback competition is Phillip Sims. Sims came out of high school as a five-star recruit. He signed with Alabama and was a member of the Crimson Tide for his freshman year. He transferred to the University of Virginia to be closer to his family. The NCAA has allowed Sims to play immediately with the Cavaliers (rather than wait the usual year for eligibility).
As of now it is unclear who the frontrunner is for the Cavaliers. Rocco is by far the most experienced of the three when it comes to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s system. Watford may be drawing the short straw this season, as he will probably be the third string quarterback. Sims is the most talented of the three but also the least experienced in Virginia’s offense. Right now it appears that the job is Rocco’s to lose, with Sims right on his heels.