Michael Rocco ended last season as the unquestioned starter at QB. Is he still there? Is Phillips Sims waiting in the wings? And what about last year's understudy, David Watford? The Hoos are loaded at QB, but that just opens up more question marks.
In a word? Yes.
However, the situation really is not that simple.
Let's keep in mind that Rocco and David Watford split time at QB for much of last season. Rocco put up decent numbers on the season (222/366 for 2671 yards with 12 TDs and 13 INTs for a QB efficiency of 127). Those numbers are good, but not great (that QB efficiency ranked 68th in the nation). Watford was 30/74 for 346 yards with 3 TDs and 4 INT (QB efficiency of 85). Rocco was better, that is clear. But was he good enough?
After 7 games, coachdecided that the QB platoon wasn't working and announced that Rocco would be the QB going forward. From that point on, Rocco was much better, putting up 113/184 for 1485 with 9 TDs and 4 INTs, for a QB efficiency of 141 which would've ranked 34th in the nation). In the final game, the Peach Bowl against Auburn, Rocco was very good, 26/41 for 312 with 2 TDs and a single INT, against a very good, very fast defense.
So, it stands to reason that Rocco will be back as the starter in 2012. And he almost definitely will be starting week 1 against Richmond. But going forward, the question is a bit murkier. Not only is Watford still there, and still showing tremendous potential as a dual threat QB, but as we all know, former Alabama QB Phillip Sims has transferred to Virginia and is immediately eligible to play. Sims played sparingly for Alabama this past season, playing in 8 games and putting up 18/28 for 163 with 2 INTs and no TDs for a QB efficiency of just under 100. Keep in mind that nearly all of Sims' playing time was in mop-up duty.
All 3 QBs undoubtedly have potential. Rocco knows the offense the best, Watford is the most athletic and Sims has the most raw talent. So, how will it all shake out?
As previously mentioned, the week 1 starter is not really in doubt. Barring something completely unexpected, Rocco will start. It is, however, likely that we will see all 3 QBs in that game. If the game is a blowout, all 3 will get some reps. If the game isn't a blowout, that probably means Rocco is struggling, which will give the other 2 a chance to make their mark.
Going forward, the situation remains in flux. As long as Rocco plays well and the team wins, Rocco will remain the starter. If Rocco struggles, and/or the team does, Watford and Sims will get their chances.
Watford has shown what he can do. He's played well at times, and looked lost at other times. For the most part, I expect Watford to spend this year as a situational substitution. Watford's running ability make him a very interesting option around the goalline and in other short yard situations. He also has a very strong arm, so he could be useful for a Hail Mary.
Sims, on the other hand, is an unknown commodity. He was a tremendous prospect coming out of HS, and was recruited by the nation's powerhouse teams. Sims transferred because of personal reasons, but I think it is safe to say that if he had been the starting QB at Alabama, he would still be there. He wasn't able to win that job, and that's why we've got him now.
Sims has only been at Virginia for a couple of months, so he is still learning the playbook and gaining the trust of his teammates.A lot will depend on how long it takes Sims to get up to speed. If he picks up the offense quickly, and Rocco shows any signs of faltering, Sims may well jump in. If Sims takes a while to gain the necessary understanding and timing, that should give Rocco a slightly longer leash.
As we preview the other units, we'll see that this offense is immensely talented and has weapons all over the field. This team won't need Marques-Hagans-against-FSU performances to win most of the time, so a steady QB who knows the offense and can get the ball into the hands of all those dangerous weapons will be enough.
That doesn't mean that a surpremely talented QB can't make the offense even better. The 49ers of the mid 1980s would've been good without Joe Montana, but they were great because of Joe Montana. It is possible that Sims is simply too good to keep off the field. However, I think it is far more likely that Rocco remains the QB throughout the season.