To be absolutely clear, no one on the Virginia football team – not Coach Mike London, not Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor, not Michael Rocco or any of the other quarterbacks on the Cavaliers roster – has stated definitively thus far during training camp that Rocco, a true sophomore, will be the starting quarterback for the season opener.
That said, all signs are pointing to Rocco lining up under center at the start of the game when Virginia hosts William & Mary on Sept. 3.
As things currently stand, Rocco is taking the majority of first-team reps during practice, the coaching staff still is not sure whether it plans to redshirt David Watford (a freshman) this season and the season starts in a little more than two weeks. Watford, by the way, has been getting fewer reps than Rocco – but more than redshirt sophomore Ross Metheny and redshirt freshman Michael Strauss – in practice this week.
London declined in a teleconference Friday to explicitly acknowledge that Rocco is the frontrunner for the starting job.
He did, however, note that if Watford “can’t grasp the whole offense, then he won’t play.” And if that ends up being the case, London said, “Ross (Metheny) has played in games. He’s had several reps, and he can step back into that situation of taking snaps.”
So, if we have this straight, Watford is getting the second-most practice reps at quarterback right now. If Watford falters, then he likely will redshirt and Metheny will vault ahead of Watford and, thus, will begin taking the second-most practice reps at quarterback.
If that scenario plays out and somehow Metheny ends up being named the starter for the William & Mary game, then that should be considered a significant upset because it means he will have gone from not receiving many practice reps at all to supplanting Rocco in taking the majority of the practice reps in less than two weeks time.
Granted, Metheny has limited game experience – roughly the same as Rocco – and he’s been in Lazor’s offensive system the same amount of time as Rocco. So it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Metheny to make that leap, if given the opportunity.
But right now, assuming Rocco remains healthy, it seems improbable. Very, very improbable.
If Watford does demonstrate that he can grasp Virginia’s entire offense, then he certainly will remain in play as a candidate. But his current task includes continuing to learn a complex pro-style offense while trying to outperform Rocco, who had all of last season to soak up the offense’s nuances. Not an easy task, to be sure. But – again – not an inconceivable one, either.
As for Strauss, well, he only came up during Friday’s teleconference when London specifically was asked about him. That question came after London had talked about the quarterback situation for eight minutes, a span during which he referenced Rocco, Watford and Metheny by name. So, go ahead and draw your own conclusion there. …
In other news, London said the following regarding the departure of redshirt freshman fullback Ryan Cobb from the program earlier this week:
“Ryan just decided that it was in his best interest to leave. It was nothing negative about football, about players, about anything going on. He’s got his own personal reasons, I believe, in why he made the decision to leave, and supported by his family, and there’s no hard feelings on either side. It’s just that sometimes things happen like that. I wish Ryan well with whatever he decides to do.”
Cobb informed the coaching staff of his decision to leave the program and the university on Sunday, a few days after redshirt freshman Zach Swanson had been switched from tight end to fullback. Cobb already had been behind fifth-year seniors Max Milien and Terence Fells-Danzer on the depth chart at fullback. …
London said “there’s a high likelihood” that true freshman cornerback Brandon Phelps and true freshmen safeties Anthony Harris and Darius Lee will play this season. The coach said those three players have been taking snaps with the second- and third-team defenses, as well as on special teams, during practice.
“The biggest thing for me when you look back in the secondary is we lose (senior cornerback) Chase (Minnifield), (senior cornerback) Dom Joseph is gone, (senior safety) Rodney McLeod is gone, (senior safety) Corey Mosley is gone,” London said. “And one of the things in trying to develop depth is young players that have an opportunity to provide depth backup-wise or on special teams.
“Not to say anything about (junior safety) LoVante Battle or (redshirt freshman safety) Pablo Alvarez, but I think you always have to think about going into the next year about having guys that have been in games, guys that have experienced a college football game and have some reps behind them.”
Another true freshman, cornerback Demetrius Nicholson, has been taking reps with the first team defense since the first day of training camp.