London names Rocco starting QB

Michael Rocco will get the ball as the starting quarterback at Virginia, winning a tough three-man battle with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims and last year’s backup, David Watford.

UVa. coach Mike London confirmed the decision at his weekly press conference on Monday. Rocco, a junior, started all 13 games last season, completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,671 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while leading the Cavaliers to an 8-5 record and the program’s first bowl appearance in four years.

“Michael has the best grasp of the offense right now,” London said. “To start a game, he’s the guy we feel most comfortable with right now because of what he knows – knowing the systems, the schemes, and knowing the players that he’ll be throwing the ball to or handing the ball off to.

“He’s done nothing to lose his position. He’s improved. We talked earlier about his leadership, his knowledge of the offense. He’s put himself in the position to be the guy right now. I’m quite sure he’ll work hard at it. He takes pride in that, so that’s how it worked out,” London said.

Sims, who transferred to Virginia in the spring, was a five-star recruit coming out of high school in the Hampton Roads area and was the backup the past two seasons at Alabama, the 2012 national champion. The redshirt sophomore was a highlight in the Crimson TIde’s spring game, completing nine of his 12 pass attempts for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He played in eight games as a freshman in 2011, throwing for 163 yards in mop-up duty for ‘Bama.

“Phillip has a big arm, strong arm, been in college games as well. He’s a guy that’s learning our offense. To expect him to know the whole offense by the time the season started, I don’t think that would be fair to him,” said London, adding that Sims “knows enough of the offense, enough of the concepts that we use, that to understand his situation will be kind of on-the-job training as the season goes on.”

“We want to see if he can continue on and improve to where we think he could be a pretty good quarterback,” London said.

London said he plans to redshirt Watford, who completed 40.7 percent of his passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions as a true freshman in 2011.


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