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College Football: Cavaliers’ quarterback situation either/or



CHARLOTTESVILLE—When Adrian Gamble first caught a pass from Phillip Sims in practice, the University of Virginia freshman wide receiver was floored.

“It was like ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful ball,’” Gamble said Monday.

Gamble may get more opportunities to catch passes from Sims. That’s because Cavaliers head coach Mike London’s depth chart lists Sims or incumbent Michael Rocco as the starter for Virginia’s Atlantic Coast Conference contest at Duke (4–1, 1–0 ACC) on Saturday.

    VIRGINIA (2–3) at DUKE (4–1)

    WHEN: Sunday, 3 p.m.

    WHERE: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.

    TV: Comcast SportsNet

    RADIO: WGRQ-FM 95.9

Sims is a transfer from Alabama. Rocco has started the last 18 games for the Cavaliers. However, Virginia (2–3, 0–1) has lost its past three contests, and London said all of his starters are up for review.

“We’re going to evaluate everything that we do and who the personnel is,” London said. “For me, [offensive coordinator Bill] Lazor and the offensive staff, it’s not just about one individual. It’s about the team and who gives us the best chance.”

Sims transferred to Virginia in May. The NCAA granted him a waiver to compete immediately instead of sitting out a year because his father was ill at U.Va. Hospital.

Sims has appeared in every game this season. He replaced Rocco following Rocco’s third interception in a 44–38 home loss to Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Sims helped the Cavaliers rally from a 44–24 deficit with 166 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Rocco earned the starting job over Sims and sophomore David Watford largely because of his knowledge of the playbook, but he’s thrown eight interceptions.

“You always recruit the next best player or get a player that hopefully can be better than the player you have playing the position now,” London said. “That’s the nature of this game. That’s how you play it. That’s how you do it. When the time is right that one player has exceeded the expectations and the opportunity of another player, whether it’s the quarterback or any other position, then that player warrants an opportunity to get a chance to play.”


London was so disturbed after the Cavaliers recorded 16 penalties for 145 yards against Louisiana Tech he began shuffling the backups on his depth chart.

While no one lost his starting job, London said right guard Sean Cascarano, who had two personal foul penalties and a holding call last Saturday, is now being pushed by backup Ross Burbank.

London said he hasn’t punished any players with extra drills because the loss was punishment enough. But he called unsportsmanlike conduct penalties “selfish.”

“The personal control penalties and fouls, those are things that a young man is not going to be playing if they continue to show a pattern of behavior like that,” London said.


The Cavaliers rank 114th out of 120 FBS teams in turnovers forced (three). London said the lack of takeaways is “baffling.”

Virginia is 116th in turnover margin. London said the three turnovers committed and none forced against Louisiana Tech was a key reason for the defeat.

“You never stop practicing it and never stop preaching the importance of turnovers,” London said. “As we saw in this game, how it negatively affected us.”

But that’s something that will continue to be harped on, will continue to be coached and made an example of.”


Virginia senior outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds is back atop the depth chart after missing the past two games with a hand injury. Reynolds was replaced by sophomore D.J. Hill, who returns to a reserve role.

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526