UR's Rocco Ready to Face Nephew, Cavaliers

New Richmond coach Danny Rocco says he had a few reasons to keep tabs on the quarterback competition at Virginia this summer.

The first reason was on a professional level -- his team needed to know who to prepare for. Rocco's first game as head coach of the Spiders comes Saturday, when Richmond visits the Cavaliers at Scott Stadium.

But the other reason was more personal -- Rocco's nephew Michael, who started all 13 games for the Cavaliers in 2011, was among the three quarterbacks competing for the job.

"Yeah, I was certainly hoping that Mike would be the starting quarterback and have a great year. I just don't need for him to play great on Saturday," Danny Rocco said Wednesday. "And we're committed to making that as difficult as we possibly can for him."

Virginia head coach Mike London -- a Richmond alum who coached the Spiders to the 2008 FCS national championship -- announced on Monday that Michael Rocco would remain the Cavaliers' starter to open the 2012 season. Rocco was challenged by sophomores Phillip Sims and David Watford this summer.

Michael Rocco led the Cavaliers to eight wins and a Chick-fil-A Bowl appearance in 2011, and his 2,671 passing yards were the most by a first-year starting quarterback in Virginia history.

Rocco is one of 12 starters returning for the Cavaliers in 2012, a fact his uncle has taken note of.

"As I have studied this opponent, I think this particular Virginia football team is a pretty good football team," Danny Rocco said. "They've got experience at some key positions. And they've got some talent returning - some real play-make-ability on this roster."

Danny Rocco took over the Richmond program last December, after winning 47 games in six seasons as head coach at Liberty. The Spiders finished 2011 on an eight-game losing streak, and two-thirds of the roster entering Rocco's first season are underclassmen.

But Rocco says there's still a way his new team can open the season with an upset.

"We've got to be able to physically compete," he said. "And I like our chances in doing that. These guys have worked hard. We're bigger, we're stronger than we were a year ago."

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