Rocco, Metheny, and Strauss, from left to right, from the Hoos's first practice of the fall. // via CavsCorner
The start of fall practice has also marked the official beginning of one of the most compelling position battles in recent memory for Cavalier fans, as the quarterback spot is wide open. QB competitions are nothing new for UVA football. Two years ago, Jameel Sewell beat out Marc Verica for the starting spot, and Verica owned it last year over a slew of first-years. However, the four suitable options Mike London has to choose from and the lack of a clear frontrunner make this year's race unique.
Predicting who will lead the Wahoo offense when the team take the field against William and Mary is a difficult exercise at this point. The inside word is that second-years Ross Metheny and Michael Rocco (the two that saw the field last season) have an edge thus far. However, redshirt first-year Michael Strauss and true first-year David Watford are right in the thick of things.
Since the extent of my inside knowledge on the situation consists of reading about what the "inside word" may be here on Streaking the Lawn, I am not going to delve much into the handicapping the race. But here's an overview of the potential student-athletes who could be lining up under center on September 3rd, based on what we've seen and on ESPN's evaluations.
Ross Metheny: Metheny, out of Stephen's City, Virginia, is probably somewhat familiar to most Cavalier fans as an option off the bench most of the year. His stats were pretty stellar too; he completed 13 of 17 passes for 3 TDS and 1 INT in the 5 games he appeared in (though they were compiled only in the VMI game and in blowout losses). Ross's mobility and ability to throw the short ball well make him a pretty good fit for the spread offense. The lefty did show the potential to elude the pass rush and make plays, though there would definitely be a learning curve involved in doing so in big game situations. Metheny told NBC29, "I want to be the guy, and I'm confident I will be the guy. If I wasn't, then I don't have any business competing. I'm sure they'll tell you the same thing. It just comes down to making the most of your opportunities."
Mike Rocco: Rocco was the other quarterback that saw time in relief of Marc Verica last season. He saw a little more game action but had limited success, appearing in 6 games to complete 13 of 25 passes with 1 TD and 2 picks. He did run a series early in a close BC game, making him the only backup to see meaningful time. Rocco also saw the lion's share of the first-team snaps in the Spring game. Overall, he appears most comfortable with the flow of the offense. Mike is probably more of a pure passer than Metheny, but while athletic, he isn't nearly as mobile. Great quote by Rocco, again to NBC29: "I'm here to win the starting quarterback job, and I'm confident in it. Whatever happens, happens, but I believe we're all here to push each other, and whoever comes out on top is going to be a great Virginia quarterback."
Michael Strauss: Strauss, the Miami native, had originally committed to Tulane before switching over to London's squad. Comfortable primarily from the shotgun, he is also suited for the spread-offense. Strauss is a complete passer with a cannon for an arm. He redshirted last season, so has enjoyed the benefits of two springs and summers with the coaching staff. Like the other young players, he is in need of polishing, but fans have been excited about his potential upside.
David Watford: Watford was an exciting 757 pickup last summer for London's coaching staff. He enrolled early, and has been on-Grounds since January. While Watford is a bit of a dark horse in the race, as the youngest and rawest prospect, he is the most intriguing all-around athlete. He is another dual-threat spread offense quarterback that can throw a good deep ball, but also possesses terrific speed and scrambling ability. If he doesn't win the competition this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Watford back leading the team as an upperclassman. There hasn't been much talk about a potential redshirt, and I don't think that it's something Watford is too interested in, but it may not be a a terrible option for the future of the program.
In the past, we have experienced uncertainty at the spot, with quarterbacks being rotated in and out and evalutated on the field; however, I am confident in London's ability to make a strong decision about what he will see in practice and stick with a quarterback we can all get behind. I think a great solution would be to tab the "veteran" Mike Rocco to start, with Watford seeing some time as a change of pace to run the "HooCat." What are everyone's thoughts on these guys? Who will start for the Cavaliers?