David Watford will enter camp as No. 1 quarterback
Redshirt sophomore leads Greyson Lambert; starter to be chosen in early August
While Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims spent much of the 2012 season competing to earn snaps under center for the Virginia football team, David Watford waited patiently in the background. He continued to get stronger, study film and refine his throwing ability, all without complaining about his lack of an opportunity.
Now, with the departure of both Rocco and Sims, Watford may finally get his chance. Coach Mike London revealed Monday at the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. that Watford will be the team’s top quarterback entering camp. Redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert will compete for the starting job as well and a starter will be named in early August.
“I think going into this season, there is no quarterback controversy,” London said.
The back-and-forth between Rocco and Sims at quarterback was a defining subplot of the Cavaliers’ 4-8 season in 2012. With new coordinators in place on offense, defense and special teams, London would like to avoid any unnecessary drama and uncertainty.
“The rein is not handed to David, because Greyson Lambert is going to be special as well,” London said. “But we want to be able to—with the new coaches we’ve had on staff—[say], ‘Hey listen, let’s pick a guy early, let’s get it established and let’s go.’”
Watford played in 10 games in 2011 while backing up Rocco, but he was forced aside when the Cavaliers brought in Alabama transfer Sims prior to the 2012 season. Watford, a former three-star prospect from Hampton, Va., took a redshirt year and used the time off to mature as a person and as a player.
“Over the course of having to deal with playing, sitting, watching, studying, getting better, he became a great teammate, a great leader,” London said. “So now, the opportunity to show all those attributes will be presented when we open camp.”
The mobile Watford completed 41 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns and four interceptions in 2011. Last season, he helped run the scout team and his leadership abilities blossomed. When Navy Seals visited the team with no prior knowledge of the players’ roles, they reported back to London that Watford was one of the team’s best leaders.
“When you talk about a guy like David Watford and the things that he went through over the last year—having to redshirt after playing his true freshman year—that shows a lot about his character as a person,” senior offensive tackle Morgan Moses, who roomed with Watford, said. “…As a character standpoint, I don’t think you can get any better than Dave. He’s a great leader off and on the field.”
When players voted on teammates to serve on a “leadership council” in lieu of captains, Watford was the leading vote getter. Lambert was also among the top choices even though he has yet to suit up for Virginia after redshirting last season.
“Going into August camp and knowing that there are guys on our team that respect these two players immensely, that bodes well for us,” London said.
Lambert, a three-star prospect coming out of high school from Jessup, Ga., has impressed teammates and coaches with his accuracy and arm strength. He outperformed Watford in the team’s annual spring game, completing 21-of-36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
“Having David Watford and Greyson Lambert, two quarterbacks that have the talent and the potential to lead us, I think you talk about those two guys I think you could put either one of them in there and we can win with them,” Moses said.
While either may have the ability to start, London is unlikely to rotate two quarterbacks as he has done for parts of the past two seasons. Entering his fourth season, London admitted the quarterback shuffle may have contributed to the team’s offensive inconsistencies last season.
“The impact was the inability to put points on the board like we needed. Not being able to sustain long drives,” London said. “Obviously, the quarterback situation may have contributed to some of that but I think more than anything else is the execution or the lack thereof.”
Moses and senior defensive end Jake Snyder, who represented Virginia at the ACC Kickoff Sunday, said the quarterback rotation may have caused other complications last season.
“It’s definitely tough when you’re rotating quarterbacks, especially on the offensive line. It’s different timing for each quarterback,” Moses said, before adding that he thought the competition under center improved the team’s quarterback play overall.
Snyder called using one quarterback “common sense.”
“I do know historically it’s generally better to have one quarterback than two and I think that’s just pretty much common sense,” Snyder said. “You do want some consistency back there, I think any team would want that. It’s really not my concern, though, because I’m a defensive guy and that’s what I’ve been focused on.”
Virginia will open its season Aug. 31 against Brigham Young in Charlottesville before hosting powerhouse Oregon Sept. 7.