By Steve Roney
At 4-7, Virginia is in a familiar situation: playing for pride and another winter break without a bowl trip.
At the center – or rather, under center – of it all is Michael Rocco, the workmanlike junior quarterback who gives five-star effort. In giving that effort, Rocco takes snaps away from Phillip Sims, perhaps the more talented signal caller.
Excluding tonight’s game against North Carolina, Rocco has started six of UVa’s games, with Sims leading the way for the other four.
Throw out the Richmond and Penn State games, and each quarterback has piloted the Cavaliers to one win – Rocco the thriller over Miami, Sims the beat down of NC State.
Along the way, the two quarterbacks have put up similar statistics, with Rocco’s edging Sims – albeit slightly – across the board: completing 61.5% of his passes to Sims’ 57.5%, accounting for 12 touchdowns and 8 interceptions against Sims’ 10 scores (eight passing, two rushing) and 4 picks, for an efficiency rating edge of 132.5 to 124.3.
The real difference between the two is felt on the field; Rocco looks like an overachiever while Sims exudes raw potential and flashes of brilliance.
With another season drawing to a close, and a youth movement in full swing at the other skill positions, which player should take the remainder of Virginia’s snaps?
Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, or even close to it - otherwise, Al Groh would still be in town. However, Sims parlayed his Parade All-American, top-ranked high school quarterback status into a scholarship offer from Nick Saban and Alabama.
At Alabama, Sims acquitted himself well enough to push and share time with A.J. McCarron – who currently has a top-10 quarterback rating and Heisman candidacy. In limited action (eight games), Sims completed 64% of his passes, and spent the balance of his time preparing to take the reins of a National Championship team.
The Cavaliers haven’t had a quarterback with this much raw talent in a decade or more. The saying goes that if your team has two starting quarterbacks, you don’t have one.
UVa. needs to figure out who that quarterback is.