Despite an outstanding performance in 2011, Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco has a lot less job security as of Wednesday, while his highly-touted but underachieving backup David Watford may be on his way out of Charlottesville.
With the NCAA’s decision that Alabama transfer Phillip Sims is eligible this fall, Virginia has a new wildcard at quarterback, which might pay huge dividends if the sophomore realizes the potential projected for him when he came out of Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, ranked by ESPN the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Sims languished on the bench last year at Alabama, and likely faced two more seasons as a backup to A.J. McCarron, who guided the Crimson Tide to the BCS national championship last year. In transferring to Virginia, Sims claimed the move was for family reasons and requested that the NCAA waive its requirement for Division I transfers to sit out a year. On Wednesday, the waiver was granted.
“I was pleased we were able to work with the NCAA and get a resolution regarding this matter,” Virginia coach Mike London said in a statement. “We look forward to having Phillip and the rest of our team in camp this August.”
Sims redshirted at Alabama in 2010 and opened last year splitting time with McCarron. But the left-hander quickly emerged. Sims finished 2011 with 18 completions in 28 attempts for 163 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. In the 2011 spring game, Sims completed 9 of 12 passes for 135 and two scores.
This is a major coup for London, who continues to land the top players from the talent-rich Tidewater area of Virginia. At Oscar Smith, Sims started four seasons and holds state records for career yards (10,725) and touchdown passes (119).
Rocco, lightly recruited out of Liberty Christian in Lynchburg, blossomed last year as a sophomore, leading two fourth-quarter comebacks, and throwing for 2,671 yards, leading Virginia (8-5) to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, its first postseason appearance in four years.
Watford also started last season splitting time at quarterback with Rocco, but struggled as a true freshman, completing 30 of 74 passes for 346 yards with four interceptions and three touchdowns.