The last time Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims started a football game, he was a highly-recruited senior at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake.
But that's likely to change Saturday when Virginia travels to Duke.
“I can say that Phillip will more than likely be the starter for us,” coach Mike London told reporters during the ACC's weekly teleconference on Wednesday.
Sims, a redshirt sophomore who arrived at Virginia this summer after transferring from Alabama, would take over for junior Michael Rocco. Rocco has started the last 18 games for Virginia, dating back to the start of the 2011 season, but has thrown seven interceptions during the Cavaliers' current three-game losing streak.
"Am I excited? Definitely," Sims told a television reporter Wednesday afternoon. "It's been a long time. It's been three years. So I mean, I'm just excited to get back out there and get a start."
"I just want to go out and help my teammates," Sims added. "Go out and make some good throws; lead the offense up and down the field. Score some points. We're trying to get back on track as a team, and we really need to put up a good show this week as an offense, collectively."
Sims has relieved Rocco in all five Virginia games this season, completing 28-of-46 passes for 340 yards and five touchdowns. Those five scoring passes have all come over the last three weeks.
London had said during his radio show on Monday that Sims' status for Saturday depended on how he felt, following a lower leg injury suffered in Virginia's 44-38 loss at Louisiana Tech last weekend. But on Wednesday, London said Sims didn't appear hampered by the injury in practice.
"He deserved an opportunity to start a game, to get the reps in practice, to get the concentration on the finer details of things," London said. "I think we feel pretty good that he's ready to handle those things now on the offense, how to run it, to match some of the physical tools and skills that he has."
Sims admits the past two months have been a crash course in learning the Virginia offense. He was given the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback in camp this summer, shortly after he arrived at Virginia, but was beaten out by Rocco.
"It's a complete 180. Just coming in, probably the first week of training camp, you feel like a freshman all over again," Sims said. "But now I feel pretty good about the offense. It's not a struggle for me trying to find a receiver now. Now I know where the receiver's going to be, and they're there."
Sims was regarded as a five-star recruit coming out of Oscar Smith, where he teamed with fellow Cavaliers Perry Jones and Tim Smith to win a state title in 2008. After backing up AJ McCarron on Alabama's BCS national championship team last season, Sims trasnferred to Virginia in May for family reasons, and was granted an NCAA waiver making him eligible to play immediately.
Sims understands his highly-recruited reputation preceded him at Virginia. But as he says, "Nobody's asking me to go out and be Superman."
"People don't care about what you've done in the past. They want to see what can you do now," Sims said. "And just going out and being able to have some successful drives, it shows my teammates that I'm not just coming in just to be a big name, or to be some guy that everybody used to talk about. I want to be a guy that people talk about in future years."
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