One of the more compelling story lines associated with Virginia’s late-season surge in 2011 was Coach Mike London’s decision to hand the reins of the offense over to quarterback Michael Rocco and scrap the team’s plans of working in freshman David Watford under center for a set number of plays each game.
Rocco excelled once he became the full-time starter, leading the Cavaliers to four-straight wins that put them in position to win the ACC’s Coastal Division heading into the final week of the regular season and an appearance in a bowl game for the first time since 2007.
But since Rocco and Watford are just one year apart — Rocco is a rising junior; Watford will be a sophomore next year — a nagging question since Virginia lost to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A bowl has been whether London will redshirt Watford this season to allow some more breathing room between the two quarterbacks’ eligibility.
But London emphasized this week that he has no plans to redshirt Watford, and he’s actually looking forward to going into the season with two signal callers he can trust for the first time since returning to Virginia two years ago.
“We’ve got guys that have played in a game and there’s separation between them,” London said. “Both of them have pretty good skills, but Mike had a pretty good year, he had a really good year. I think David has … made tremendous improvement in terms of his knowledge of the offense. … When we go into our first game, he’s gonna be getting ready to play in the game.”
Given Rocco’s development over the course of last season, it’s hard to imagine London will go back to alternating Watford into games like he did a year ago. But it seems he’s more comfortable with the Hampton native should Rocco go down to injury or falter, and London still sounds intrigued by the sort of athleticism Watford brings to the table.
In 2011, Rocco completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,671 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In spot duty, Watford completed just 40.5 of his throws to go along with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Cavaliers’ also have their quarterback of the future at spring practice this year, since 6-foot-5 signal caller Greyson Lambert of Georgia decided to graduate from high school early. His development won’t be rushed, though, with two quarterbacks itching to get on the field already.
“I think right now David is competing with Michael Rocco to put him in position, to put David in position, to say, ‘You know what? I can handle this offense. I can run this offense,’” London said. “I think one thing for sure coming out of spring is there’s a No. 1 and a No. 2, and both have played in college football games.”