Six different QBs have started games in London’s five seasons, with three of the incumbent signal-callers – Michael Rocco, David Watford and Greyson Lambert – losing their jobs at some point in their runs due to ineffective play.
Lambert, a redshirt junior, is back for 2015, along with fellow redshirt junior Matt Johns. Both started games in 2014, with Johns, who began the 2014 season third on the depth chart, putting up the better numbers (122.57 passer rating, 8 touchdowns/5 interceptions, 6.85 yards per attempt) to Lambert (115.74 passer rating, 10 TDs/11 INTs, 6.25 yards per attempt), who nonetheless appears to be the favorite to start the season opener at UCLA on Sept. 5.
For London, coming off a 5-7 season in 2014, the program’s fourth losing season in his five-year tenure, getting the quarterback call right coming out of the spring would seem to be key to his continued employment.
“It’s important, very relevant to our success, being consistent in how we play, how we execute,” London told reporters before a Friday scrimmage. “One of the things we talk about with the quarterbacks is when you look at them and you’re evaluating them, they have to be very, very consistent, they have to be critically accurate, they have to be able to facilitate the run after the catch.”
“Each position group has things that they have to do in order for us to be successful, and they’re doing it right now. We need to continue that. The consistency of doing that will give us a chance to win games,” London said.
London and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild noted that Lambert and Johns have each had up-and-down springs.
“We’ve been a little hot and cold early on. Not as consistent as I’d like. We are better. We’ve got some experience there,” said Fairchild, who is in his third spring on London’s staff.
“There are some things when you look back, but there are things we can improve on. The quarterbacks are a big part of it,” Fairchild said.
Virginia’s offense finished 90th in total offense in 2014, gaining 374 yards per game.
Fairchild’s group in 2013 was 97th nationally (368 yards yards per game). The 2012 offense under Bill Lazor gained 397 yards per game, good for 81st nationally.
The trend is declining productivity since the 2011 season that saw UVA win eight games and play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, a season that saw the Cavs gain 400 yards a game (44th nationally). Even London’s first team, the 2010 squad that finished 4-8, gained 405 yards per game (57th nationally).
It should help the 2015 ‘Hoos that there is experience on the offensive line, which should provide more consistent protection for the quarterbacks and clear more consistent holes for the running game, which ranked 100th nationally in 2014, gaining 137.8 yards per game.
A solid line and more productivity out of the running game will create time and open up passing lanes for the quarterbacks, who feel more comfortable with their game experience from 2014 and their third spring with Fairchild getting them ready for the fall.
“I’ve been here for a little while now. So it’s very comfortable, but it’s very competitive,” Lambert told reporters on Friday.
“It’s a lot better, obviously, having that game experience,” Johns said. “Last spring, that was my first time ever getting reps in college, basically. So having that game experience makes practice a lot smoother. But I think our coaches do a great job of making our practices almost more difficult than games. That way, when the games come, there’s no coaches on the field, we’re able to perform.”
– Story by Chris Graham