Virginia Quarterbacks: Can Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims Coexist?

Despite Michael Rocco’s Success Last Year, His Days As Virginia’s Starting QB May Be Numbered

The big news out of Charlottesville, Va. today was that the NCAA has granted Alabama QB transfer Phillip Sims a waiver, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for Virginia this season. While it’s great news for the Hoos faithful that they’ll have 2010’s best recruit ready to suit up, there’s still a big issue to address — what happens to incumbent starter Michael Rocco. If you’ll recall, in his sophomore season, Rocco threw for over 2,600 yards and 13 touchdowns as the starter last year. He knows the system and still has room to grow within those confines. Plus, the team won eight games under his direction last year — not a small feat considering recent seasons in Cavaliers Country have been less-than-stellar.

But will Sims be content to sit and watch Rocco until he messes up? They have the same eligibility left, so it’s not as if one can take the reins when the other’s wrapped up his career. Obviously, Sims and the UVA staff still consider him the elite talent he was out of high school, despite a very small sampling of college action to truly draw from. Odds are, he’s not sitting for long, especially once he wraps his head around the offense. Still, what’s the determining factor that says when Rocco’s time is over, and Sims’s time begins?

When the news of Sims’s transfer first appeared back in April, we did a thorough breakdown of both passers, coming to a noncommittal conclusion. Per that piece:

“So what’ll it be? If Rocco starts, Virginia must desperately attempt to kick-start the offense, while remaking much of their defense on the fly. There could very well be a step back from the success of 2011. But if Sims comes in? I think it’s a high-risk, high-reward situation. With a method of attack, the offense centers on Sims to be the playmaker and distributor. If it succeeds, the results will far surpass what Rocco could produce, and the Hoos could find themselves at 9-3 or 10-2, playing for an ACC title. If it fails, (Mike) London could be staring at 5-7 or 6-6, and would lose Rocco in the process.”

I think this is still pretty accurate today, too. But again, it’s all about how quickly Sims can grasp the offense, along with Rocco’s success. If the team is pummeled in non-conference games with both Penn State and TCU, Mike London could pull the plug on Rocco and decide that it’s time to roll the dice with Sims, win or lose. The first five games will be big indicators. If they’re any less than 3-2, London will be foolish not to take action. As much as I’d like to give Rocco the benefit of a secure starting job, this is a competitive business environment at the end of the day, and UVA has to go with what’s best for them. Even if it burns one young man’s career for the promise of another one’s, that’s just football.

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