Despite starting four games for the Cavaliers last season, Phillip Sims is still having to compete for the role of UVa's starting quarterback.
That lineup carries about as much weight as a snowflake right now.
Why? Because first-year offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, and first-year assistant Tom O’Brien, the associate head coach for the offense -- not to mention coach Mike London -- have yet to see any of these quarterbacks throw the ball in the new system. Sims, a former transfer from Alabama, was a fan favorite last year, but there is nothing concrete about the spring depth chart. It’s a blank slate for each of them, as practices begin today in Charlottesville.
“The great thing about the fresh start is for all of those guys concerned because now there are fresh eyes on the whole quarterback situation,” London said. “… With this new scheme and system, and the accountability we’re placing on the players, there are basically three fresh eyes between Larry Lewis, Fairchild and O’Brien. I would say even the fourth one would be Jon Tenuta, since he’ll be going against these guys, to evaluate those quarterbacks on who could best run the system, who can best make the decisions that are necessary.”
Watford played as a true freshman in 2011 but redshirted last year. Sims started four games last year in place of Michael Rocco, who has since transferred. Sims finished with nine touchdowns and four interceptions, having completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 1,263 yards. Lambert and Matt Johns are both redshirt freshmen.
“Phillip has an advantage of having played this season, David has the advantage of having played and watched what has gone on, and Grayson and Matt Johns are just soaking everything up,” London said. “Now the challenge will be who can best pick up the system and who can do the things that are required for our offense to be successful. I think the evaluation of that is more critical than the who right now. Who can handle what Steven and the offensive coaches are going to be asking of the quarterbacks?”
The bigger question is if London can find one quarterback who can do it instead of two. Rotating signal callers has become an unpopular trend in Charlottesville, but in London’s defense, a true star has yet to emerge. Virginia’s quarterback competition has been an ongoing storyline during London’s tenure as head coach, and the saga will continue this spring -- starting with today’s depth chart.
“I think Phillip is a competitor,” London said. “He wants to compete. I know he has a strong arm, and he likes to throw the ball deep. He likes to throw those deep, intermediate routes. Like every player, particularly a quarterback, it’s a timing game and you have to work on your timing -- when to throw, when to pull it down. Different things like that. I think that if you think about it, having come from Alabama, and coming to us, and now with Steve Fairchild, it will be basically his third system in the last three years that he’s played. Being able to adapt to that is going to be critical, as it will be for David, who sat and watched a system. With Phillip and everyone else, the learning curve is going to be important with these 15 short practices we have in the spring.”