Ross Metheny, right, will earn his degree from Virginia this summer and then have two years of eligibility left when he transfers to South Alabama. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Metheny’s departure leaves the Cavaliers with two quarterbacks – rising junior Michael Rocco and rising sophomore David Watford – that have game experience. Virginia will enter spring practice with three scholarship quarterbacks, as freshman Greyson Lambert enrolled at the school in January. The Cavaliers also will add the services of freshman quarterback Matt Johns in the fall. Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Strauss transferred out of the program in November.

“Ross Metheny has expressed a desire to have the opportunity to transfer and play his final seasons elsewhere,” Coach Mike London said in a statement. “We are happy to accommodate him and I want to thank him for everything he has done for the program. He’s been a valuable member of our team and I wish the best for him in the future. Most importantly, I appreciate the work he has done in the classroom that will allow him to graduate with a degree from Virginia.”

Though Metheny entered Virginia’s 2011 training camp in a three-way battle for the team’s starting quarterback position, coaches chose to make Rocco the Cavaliers’ starter and were dedicated to getting Watford playing time, as well. Metheny, a native of Stephens City, Va., appeared in two games in 2011 and five in 2010. He finished his Virginia career having completed 15 of 19 passes for 207 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

“When you give your heart and soul to a program since your junior year in high school, and you do everything you’re asked to do for three and a half years, and you’re considered a team leader on the team, and you have proven success in games, and you’re in a two-way quarterback battle all through the summer, and then you don’t even get an opportunity to practice, it was a frustrating year personally,” Metheny said in a telephone interview.

“But I didn’t want to be a distraction to the team. I wanted to respond to the adversity I was facing and take the role I was dealt and become the emotional leader on the team and be with those guys there on the sideline. I think I embraced that role throughout the season and made the best of the opportunity that I could.”

Metheny is on track to graduate with a degree in sociology at the end of the second summer semester in July and will be eligible to play immediately at a FBS program provided he enrolls in a graduate degree program that Virginia does not offer. Metheny said he will transfer to South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference and begin working toward a master’s degree in educational leadership. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“Obviously, it’s a tough decision for me,” Metheny said. “It’s a life-changing decision, really. It’s a bold move that you’ve got to be willing to take, but with that being said, I wouldn’t leave the University of Virginia without graduating from here. . . .

“My heart and soul is here at U-Va. I’m always going to be a Cavalier and a Wahoo, and that’s another reason why it’s important to me to graduate from here as a football alumni. That way when I’m 50 years old I can come back and kick it with my lifelong friends that I’ve made with my teammates here. That will mean a lot to me.”

The loss of Brown – who was one of 12 true freshmen to earn playing time in 2011 – weakens the depth on a Virginia defensive line that is looking to replace three starters. Brown, who said he no longer wished to play college football, appeared in 10 games and registered four tackles. His most memorable moment last season came when he flushed Miami quarterback Stephen Morris out of the pocket on the final play of the Cavaliers’ 28-21 road win.

Royal, who has been dismissed from the team, did not appear in any games for Virginia in 2011 and did not travel with the team to its Chick-fil-A Bowl appearance in Atlanta. He appeared in four games in 2010.

Virginia, which went 8-5 overall and 5-3 in ACC play during Coach Mike London’s second season at the helm, opens spring practice March 19.