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If healthy, Phillip Sims will start Saturday for Cavaliers

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Since Mike London arrived at Virginia, very little about the Cavaliers' quarterback situation has been absolute. So the coach's latest announcement was only fitting.

Phillip Sims will start this week against Duke.

Probably.

London also said during his weekly "Coach's Corner" radio show that Sims hurt his leg during a fourth-quarter drive against Louisiana Tech. If Sims isn't healthy by Saturday, London said, the start will go to Michael Rocco.

That said, it's hard to imagine Sims, a transfer sophomore, won't get the ball in Durham. The play in question involved him scrambling and getting upended by Bulldogs cornerback Brice Abraham.

Abraham hit receiver Tim Smith hard on the next play and knocked him out of the game. Sims didn't leave, though, and threw a touchdown on that drive and his next one. He's also practiced since then.

For London and the coaching staff, Sims' inexperience is no longer enough to justify Rocco's inconsistency.

"This is football, and you have to get the best player on the field," London said on the radio show. "Michael's been fantastic throughout this process. He knows you have to be able to perform at a high level. It's just that Phillip has performed every time he's gone in, and has performed well."

Sims has also earned the admiration of his teammates.

Wide receiver Adrian Gamble said he was wowed the first time he caught a deep pass from Sims, and running back Kevin Parks praised Sims' leadership.

"When he came in, it was like he'd been in there before," Parks said. "He had great poise calling plays in the huddle."

The coaching staff has been waiting for Sims to realize that potential since he arrived from Alabama.

His struggles have been with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's timing-oriented passing game. Instead of letting Sims wheel around and look at receivers, the playcalling at U.Va. requires strictly-run routes and precisely-timed throws  — something the receivers have also occasionally missed on.

"I just have to get my timing down, get my feet coordinated with the routes, and trust in the receivers," Sims said. "That's probably the easiest way I can put it. Just trust the receiver is going to be where he needs to be exactly when he needs to be there, and letting the ball go before he's there.

"When you learn a new offense, probably one of the hardest things is trusting the receivers, because you don't have chemistry with a lot of the guys, so you wait until they break open to throw them the ball."

That won't fly against Duke, but Sims also has all week as the de facto starting quarterback to learn.

It's a vote of confidence that came late, and with a caveat, but provides the Cavaliers' offense with a much-needed breath of fresh air.

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