Phillip Sims knows first-hand what it takes to win a national championship, after spending last season as the the backup quarterback on Alabama's BCS national title team.
"I mean, you can't win championships if you don't have competition at each position on the football field. It's just the way football is," said Sims, now a redshirt sophomore at Virginia. "Each and every one of us wants to play. We've all got to beat each other out. It's going to make us all better at the end of the day."
Virginia fans got their first look at Sims on Monday, as the Cavaliers opened preseason practice on the school's intramural fields at The Park. Sims was one of five players in red jerseys, competing for the team's starting quarterback position.
Sims, a Chesapeake native, arrived at Virginia in May, after transferring from Alabama to be closer to his family. The NCAA granted Sims a waiver last month allowing him to play for the Cavaliers this season, setting up another preseason battle for the team's quarterback job.
Virginia's other quarterbacks include last year's starter, junior Michael Rocco; rising sophomore David Watford, who split time with Rocco last season before eventually settling into the back-up role; and a pair of true freshmen, Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns.
Monday's practice was the first time Virginia's coaches also got a first-hand look at Sims.
"All of our quarterbacks, you always look for their ability to throw the ball where they need to throw it," head coach Mike London said before Monday's practice. "Not just watching (Sims), but watching Michael's progress. David's progress. And it's one day. You don't put everything into one day's worth of evaluations. But we're looking forward to the process here. This week of practice, and how much guys can retain and pick up, and then execute once we get out on the field."
Rocco started all 13 games for Virginia in 2011 -- throwing for 2,671 yards (the highest total for a first-year starter in school history) and 13 touchdowns -- after winning a four-man competition for the job last summer.
"It's going to be a competition throughout the whole year, even whenever a starter is announced," he said Monday. "We're just excited to compete as a team. We've got a great group of quarterbacks here. We're all going to compete and encourage each other, and let the best man win."
Watford appeared in 10 games as a true freshman last season, throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
"Whatever Coach London has in plan for me after camp, I'm okay with it," Watford said. "Whether it's redshirting or whether I'm playing. I'm working hard to get on the field. But whatever Coach London has at the end of the day for me, it's up to him. It's his call."
But Watford also told reporters on Monday that he wasn't interested in a position change.
"I don't think I would, honestly," he said. "I came here to play quarterback, so that's what I want to do."
Sims played in eight games as AJ McCarron's back-up at Alabama in 2011, completing 18 passes for 163 yards and a pair of interceptions. He was asked on Monday what he would need to do to win Virginia's starting job this summer.
"That's not up to me. That's up to the coaching staff," Sims said. "Whoever they feel is the best at the end of camp, and going into the first game of the season, that's who they'll go with. I have no problem. This is a coaches' decision. I'm just here to play football."
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