The first indication that he would likely be Virginia’s new starting quarterback came Tuesday morning during a position meeting and it didn’t involve any sort of grand ceremony, redshirt sophomore Phillip Sims said.
At the outset, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor simply told the quarterbacks that Sims would be taking the first-team reps during practice that day. And though there has been, and will be, plenty of fanfare in the coming days in advance of the Sims era officially starting Saturday at Duke, the man in the middle of all the hoopla hasn’t allowed it to consume his mind.
“I just took it in stride,” Sims said Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters. “It’s not really something you can sit there and think about too much. You’ve got a job to do and now people are asking more of you and you’ve got to deliver on that.”
This, though, is something of a new beginning for Sims’s college career. The Alabama transfer hasn’t started a football game since leading Oscar Smith High to a AAA state championship back in 2009. Sims said that should help with preparation this week, and that the knee injury he suffered Saturday against Louisiana Tech hasn’t been an issue this week.
But he was wary of putting too much stock into his move up the depth chart. He was quick to point out that being the starter only guarantees he’ll take the first snap of the game. It’s how he does from there that will determine his fate.
“Nobody’s asking me to go out and be Superman or be Michael Vick or Peyton Manning or anybody like that,” Sims said. “I’m just being asked to be Phillip Sims and go out there and do the things that I’ve been taught to do within this offense and help my team win and move the ball offensively.”
That’s exactly what he did Saturday against Louisiana Tech, leading the offense on two touchdown drives upon replacing junior Michael Rocco late in the third quarter. Four of Sims’s 10 completions in that game went for 20 or more yards, emblematic of the accurate deep ball that has drawn raves from coaches and teammates in practice.
Sims said he wouldn’t mind playing the wide-open, pass-heavy style Virginia utilized during its near comeback against the Bulldogs because throwing the ball down the field “is something I’ve always done.” He joked that not doing so would “waste the talent I’ve been blessed with.”
But he hadn’t been focused on whether London and Lazor would declare a new starting quarterback this week.
“It wasn’t like I was going out there and was perfect and didn’t make mistakes, so I really didn’t . . . know a change was going to be made,” Sims admitted.
As has been the case throughout the year whenever Virginia’s precarious situation under center came up, Sims emphasized his main goal is to get the team back on track after a three-game losing streak.
He says any sort of pressure isn’t his concern at this point.
“At the end of the day, nobody else is gonna go out there and play this game for me Saturday,” Sims said. “All the anticipation and all that stuff, it means nothing if we don’t go out and perform on Saturday.”
Much more on Sims’s first few months in Charlottesville, and his ascension up the depth chart, coming your way later this week in the paper.