When Virginia Coach Mike London met with reporters Monday, he declined to name a starting quarterback, mostly talking around the issue. When Virginia released its depth chart later in the afternoon, it said junior Michael Rocco or redshirt sophomore Phillip Sims would be the team’s top quarterback for Saturday’s game at Duke.
But when London appeared on his weekly radio show, he had a different story. It appears that if Sims recovers sufficiently from a lower-leg injury he suffered against Louisiana Tech, he will take the reins from Rocco against the Blue Devils.
“If he’s 100 percent ready to go, he will get snaps with the first unit,” London said Monday night about Sims. “If he’s not [and] cannot perform because of a lower-leg injury, then Mike will be in that position.”
“That’s as honest as I can be about the situation,” London added. “I want everyone to know we want what’s best for the team. Michael’s been fantastic throughout all of this process. He understands it.
“You have to perform at a high level and it’s just that Phillip has performed every time he has gone in. If the leg’s okay and he performs well, then he performs well. If not, then it’s back to the same situation. At least it’s been vetted, I think, the proper way.”
Sims has appeared in every game this year, but he had his most impressive performance when he replaced Rocco on Saturday. After entering the contest with Virginia down by 20 points, Sims completed 10 of his 17 passes for 166 yards, threw two touchdown passes and nearly led the Cavaliers to a dramatic comeback victory.
If not for a missed field goal, Virginia would have scored on all three drives Sims led.
The Alabama transfer has now completed 60.9 percent of his passes this year for five touchdowns and no interceptions. Saturday would be Sims’s first career start after coming off the bench in eight games last year with the Crimson Tide.
Rocco has started 18 straight games for Virginia dating to last year, but he has been inconsistent and turnover-prone recently. For the season, he’s completing 60.3 percent of his passes, but he has eight interceptions and just six touchdowns through five games. Seven of those interceptions have come during the Cavaliers’ current three-game losing streak.
Though Virginia’s players have largely stayed out of the fray when it comes to the team’s quarterback controversy, running back Kevin Parks said Monday it was clear this weekend that Sims was ready to assume the starting role, if necessary.
“You can just tell through his play that he’s a leader,” Parks said. “When he came in [against Louisiana Tech], it was like he had been in there before. He had great poise calling the plays in the huddle. A big thing was calling the right play.
“Like he told me, whenever his name is called, he’s going to be ready. No matter how deep the game is, or late in the game, he’s going to be ready.”