To review, sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco has started the first five games of the season for the Cavaliers. He has completed 63.1 percent of his passes, but also has thrown seven interceptions. He suffered a rib injury late in the second half of Virginia’s 30-24 loss Sept. 24 to Southern Mississippi and was removed from the game late in the third quarter. He took about 63 percent of the offensive snaps Saturday during a 21-20 overtime win over Idaho, but played just one series in the fourth quarter and overtime.
True freshman quarterback David Watford entered the season at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. London insisted he would find time for Watford to play in each game, and he followed through on that pledge. Watford has played in all five games, though much more extensively in the past two contests. He has completed 50 percent of his passes. He also has thrown for as many touchdowns (two) as Rocco. One of those touchdown throws came in overtime Saturday against Idaho. Watford played nearly all of the fourth quarter and overtime period.
What follows are London’s full responses to the two questions he was asked today regarding his team’s quarterback situation:
On whether he thought he’d have the quarterback situation settled by this point in the season . . .
“Going into the season, at first because of coming out of the spring, the battle was basically between Rocco and [redshirt sophomore Ross] Metheny,” London said. “And then as we got into the early part of camp, we started seeing what these guys can do, and we started seeing a skill set that David had that we said: ‘You know what? Let’s get him ready, as well.’ And he started taking over a lot of the reps in practice outside of Michael Rocco’s reps.
“Going into it, we always wanted to – I always wanted to make sure that, people say, ‘Well, if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.’ As our team is, the way we are, if we have one quarterback that’s trying to develop, then you need a backup. And the only way to get the backup going is to put him in games. So we went into it with David having the ability to go in and play in series and as the game has gone on.
“Now, Michael Rocco, a true sophomore. Ross Metheny is a redshirt sophomore. I have Michael Strauss, who is a redshirt freshman and now David, a freshman. They’ll have a luxury of having an older guy or a hierarchy of an older guy and a younger guy. But we are where we are right now, and I think the way that we have to continue to develop this team this year is to make sure that not only does Michael get his opportunity, but that David, because of the skill set that he has, to give him an opportunity and to find those times in the game to get him in there.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to be consistent with that, and if the growth part of it takes off for one of these two guys, then it will make us a better team in the end. We’re in the open week now, and we’re trying to continue that curve, particularly for Michael, but also particularly for David being a true freshman of learning the playbook and the things that are necessary to help us win.”
On how tricky it is to decide when to insert Watford without throwing off Rocco’s rhythm or making it seem as though London is judging Rocco’s performance . . .
“It’s very tricky sometimes,” London said. “One, as the head coach you’ve got to be the guardian of these young men, who they are and what they want to be. Sometimes there’s ego and sometimes there’s that competitive edge that even though you might be hurt: ‘I can go. I can go, Coach.’ And you look out there and you’re observing that the ball’s not coming out of the hand quite the way that you’ve seen in practice when the young man or guys are healthy. The situation that maybe you want him to kind of get out of the pocket a little bit, that’s more conducive to one player’s style than the other.
“As you watch the game, you try to be mindful of not trying to disrupt a guy’s rhythm by changing every series, but at the same time, you just try to do the best you can in assessing what’s going on on the field and as they come off on the sideline, as you talk to them, as you observe them. And then make those decisions.
“It’s difficult, but it’s something that at the same time, where we are right now, that we have to do. So we’re looking to get better play, not only from the quarterbacks, but for wide receivers to get open, for offensive linemen to hang on and give [the quarterbacks] more time to get it down the field, different things like that.”