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College Football: Sims’ goal just to ‘move sticks’
U.VA’S NEW STARTING QB SAYS HE WON’T
TRY TO BE FLASHY AGAINST DUKE
TRY TO BE FLASHY AGAINST DUKE
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
A year ago, Phillip Sims didn’t envision the situation he’s in now.
Sims was the backup quarterback at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide were on their way to a national championship, and Sims was content.
A lot has changed since then.
Sims transferred to Virginia in May to be closer to his ailing father, who was under care at U.Va. Hospital. The NCAA granted him a waiver to compete right away, but Sims struggled to digest the Cavaliers’ playbook quickly.
After five games as the backup to Michael Rocco, Sims finally will get a chance to start.
The former blue-chip recruit from Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake will make his first start since the 2009 Division 6 state semifinals on Saturday when the Cavaliers (2–3, 0–1 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit Duke (4–1, 1–0).
“He deserved an opportunity to start a game and get the reps in practice and get the concentration on the finer details of things. We feel pretty good that he’s ready to handle those things now,” Virginia coach Mike London said on Wednesday’s ACC coaches teleconference. “It appears players have confidence in him and his abilities. We’re excited about him having the opportunity to be the quarterback in this upcoming game.”
Sims said he received the news he would start during Tuesday morning positional meetings. He said he took the news in stride. He acknowledged that more expectations come with earning the starting job and he has to “deliver on that.”
Still, Sims said he hasn’t put too much pressure on himself.
“I’m just being asked to go out and do the things I’m capable of doing,” he said during a separate teleconference. “Nobody is asking me to go out and be Superman, be Michael Vick, Peyton Manning or anything like that.”
Sims said his job is to “continuously move the sticks.”
The low-key approach is the same one he adopted when he first arrived on campus. Sims said he just wanted to fit in and help the team be successful. He said he didn’t come to Virginia to “be a big-name guy.”
“When he came in, it was like he had been in there before. He had great poise calling the plays in the huddle,” Virginia running back Kevin Parks said.
“A big thing was calling the right play. Like he told me, whenever his name is called, he’s going to be ready,” the sophomore said. “No matter how deep the game is or late in the game, he’s going to be ready.”
Sims has completed 28 of 46 passes for 340 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Rocco lost his job primarily because of turnovers (eight interceptions).
However, Rocco’s firm grasp of the offense is what allowed him to keep the job for 18 straight starts. He beat out Sims and sophomore David Watford in preseason practice.
Sims said he knows approximately 95 percent of the playbook. He stepped in last Saturday against Louisiana Tech after Rocco’s third interception and nearly rallied the Cavaliers from a 20-point deficit. He passed for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Sims said he was able to “get in a good groove” by completing a few early passes, but he wasn’t sure the performance earned him the starting nod.
“To be honest, it didn’t really cross my mind,” he said. “I was put in the game and they called my number. I went in and do some good things, and I did some not-so-good things. It wasn’t like I was perfect.”
It was good enough to overtake Rocco, whom Sims said he talks to every day. Sims added that he understands being named the starter guarantees him only the first snap of the game. He said after that, anything can happen.
Still, he’s thrilled to have his first week of preparation as a starter since high school. He said the two years at Alabama and the five games as Rocco’s backup helped him figure out the level of dedication it takes to be a college quarterback.
“It’s not just a one or two hour a day thing. It’s got to be a job for you,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526