CHARLOTTESVILLE – Virginia wasn’t certain who would ultimately be Marc Verica’s replacement at quarterback.
After Saturday’s spring game, the Cavaliers still don’t have a concrete answer.
Virginia cycled through four quarterbacks as defense dominated the 40-minute game at Scott Stadium.
Michael Rocco threw two touchdowns, but also an interception. None of the other three – Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss and David Watford – completed more than half of their pass attempts.
Granted, Virginia was down Kris Burd, Bobby Smith, Tim Smith and Matt Snyder – the team’s top four receivers – so it was difficult for a quarterback to have sustained success. Still, the offense combined for 2.9 yards per play during the 98-snap scrimmage.
“I know none of them were perfect; that I could tell from the sideline,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “I know this: We have a long way to go. It doesn’t feel like it, but the reality we still have a lot of practice before that first game. As a coach, you feel such urgency to make it happen right now and that’s how we coach them, and they feel that. Trust me, they feel a lot of pressure to do it right now. It just doesn’t happen that way in football with the quarterback what we do.”
There isn’t much to go from off 2010, when Verica started all 12 games and threw 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for the Cavaliers. Rocco played in six games and was 13-for-25 for 143 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Metheny completed 13 of 17 passes for 171 yards, three scores and an interception – all in games decided by at least 20 points.
Strauss redshirted last season while Watford enrolled this spring after completing his career at Hampton High School late last year.
“I’m looking for a guy to have command of the huddle, to have a presence about him,” coach Mike London said. “In a situation like this when it’s open and it’s competitive, guys have to step up and step forward for that.”
Rocco seemed to do that as much as anyone. He was 17-for-32 for 152 yards, and completed short touchdown passes to Perry Jones and Brendan Morgan. Strauss (6-for-14, 85 yards, one interception), Metheny (3-for-6, 60 yards) and Watford (1-for-5, 6 yards) combined for less than half as many attempts.
While Lazor said he thought he was starting to see some separation, he was reluctant to definitively say so after coaching the game from the field. But it remains a priority for the Cavaliers to have a better idea when spring practice ends in a week who can contend to be under center in the Sept. 3 season opener against William and Mary.
“I would like by the end of spring practice, when we sit down as coaches, to have it clear for us where they stand at the time,” Lazor said. “It might mean there’s a 1, there’s a 2, there’s a 3, there’s a 4. As coach London said before, it might mean there’s a 1A and a 1B who are battling it out. We just have to get some clarity. I think today will help that.”