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Rocco to Start at QB Against Richmond

Michael Rocco has started the last 13 games at quarterback for the Virginia football team. And that streak will continue on Saturday when the Cavaliers open the 2012 season against Richmond.

Rocco was listed as the starting quarterback on the depth chart released by head coach Mike London on his Twitter feed on Monday afternoon. Rocco had been challenged this summer by sophomores David Watford and Phillip Sims.

"It became apparent that Michael has the best grasp of the offense right now," London said minutes after the depth chart was released. "To start a game, he's the guy we feel most comfortable with right now because of what he knows - knowing the systems, the schemes, and knowing the players that he'll be throwing the ball to or handing the ball off to."

"I believed that, like I said earlier, that I was the starter throughout the spring and into the summer. And like I said, it was my job to lose," Rocco told reporters after London's announcement.

"I believe that I'm here to play quarterback, and I'm here to play quarterback at a high level," Rocco said. "So I was excited whenever I heard from Coach London that he was going to go with me as the starter. But really, in my mind, I was preparing for Richmond, to be the starting quarterback."

Rocco threw for 2,671 yards -- a Virginia school record for a first-year starting quarterback -- and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011. Last year's season opener against William & Mary was the first start of Rocco's career.

"I'm really just kind of a different player (compared to a year ago,)" Rocco said. "I've been through it now. I've seen my struggles, I've seen what I need to improve on. So I've just kind of learned from that. I still have the same mentality though. I go in with the same mentality - just to get the ball, make smart decisions, and lead the offense."

"He's put himself in the position to be the guy right now," London said. "I'm quite sure he'll work hard at it. He takes pride in that."

Sims -- who transferred to Virginia in May after spending the 2011 season as AJ McCarron's backup on the BCS national championship team at Alabama -- is listed as Rocco's back-up on the Virginia depth chart.

"Phillip has a big arm, strong arm, been in college games as well. He's a guy that's learning our offense," London said. "To expect him to know the whole offense by the time the season started, I don't think that would be fair to him."

London also said there was no script to get Sims on the field, which was the approach the coaching staff took with Watford for the first half of the 2011 season. As a true freshman, Watford split snaps with Rocco for Virginia's first seven games, before settling into the back-up quarterback role for the rest of the season.

London said Monday that the current plan -- with the caveat that it could change at any time -- was for Watford to redshirt this season. Watford was listed as Virginia's third quarterback.

"With David, it was a tough call. David has done everything that we've asked and some," London said. "He's matured tremendously. His physical talents and skills have improved greatly."

"His physical skills are such, I think David is going to be a terrific quarterback," London added. "He concedes that Michael knows the offense better than he does right now. He sees that there's a talent that Phillip has."


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