Michael Rocco has started 17 consecutive games at quarterback for
Virginia has lost two straight games, Rocco is struggling, and backup Phillip Sims is enticing. So what should coach
From the outside, the timing seems right for a change. A non-conference home game against a suspect defense — the Bulldogs are allowing 36.7 points per game, 111th nationally — is about as comfortable a starting debut as a coach could offer a quarterback.
And there will be no other similar opportunities. Following Louisiana Tech, Virginia closes with seven
Moreover, Rocco ranks last among the conference’s starting quarterbacks, a group that includes Maryland true freshman
Not coincidentally, the Cavaliers are reeling from back-to-back hammerings, 56-20 at
Why, if not for Penn State's four missed field goals — Virginia escaped that afternoon 17-16 — the Cavaliers would be 1-3 and in full-blown crisis.
Miscues by receivers and linemen have made Rocco's life more difficult, but as he well knows, when the offense goes south — Virginia ranks 98th nationally and 11th among 12 ACC teams in scoring at 21.8 points per game — the quarterback shoulders the blame.
None of which means I'm pound-the-pulpit convinced Rocco should sit Saturday. Two reasons:
* For all his high school credentials and Alabama pedigree, Sims' limited relief appearances have been less than inspiring.
* London, Lazor and the players are the best judges of whether Sims' practice performance and playbook knowledge merit him starting.
True to coaching protocol, London revealed little at his Monday news conference.
"Nothing has changed as far as our approach going into this game," he said when asked who would start. "Practice, the way we practice, how we handle the game plans, that will all be evaluated. So not only the quarterback position, but there's other positions that have to do well, play well and eliminate some of the mistakes and errors. So we are looking forward to this game, this opportunity, and we'll see."
We'll see. That's how my dad often ducked me on matters of similarly great import, such as: Can I have the car Friday night? Do I really have to eat ALL the peas on my plate?
But this is what happens when you not only accept a renowned transfer from the defending national champion, but also help him gain an
Rocco’s above-average performance in helping the Cavaliers reach last season’s
London and Lazor chose wisely in sticking with the incumbent to start the season. Rocco earned that. But only borderline perfection on an imperfect team was going to prevent the inevitable questions about Sims, who certainly didn't leave Alabama, where he was AJ McCarron's understudy, to assume the No. 2 role at Virginia.
The questions started when London benched Rocco for two second-half series against Penn State. When the Cavaliers went three-and-out and Sims lost a fumble, Rocco returned.
As Virginia learned in defeat last year against
If London and Lazor turn to Sims, they'd best stick by him.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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An update from Wednesday's ACC coaches teleconference: