10 Things I Learned 2011 … Spring Practice

Michael Rocco and the QBs drew a lot of attention in the spring.

Spring practices are in the book … but I think a lot of Hoo fans are left wondering what actually was accomplished. The answer? A lot … though perhaps not as much as one might have wished. (Isn’t that always the case?) So let’s get into what we don’t know, what we know now that we didn’t know before, and what we hope we know by the time the season arrives.

1. The Quarterbacks. Going into the spring, just about every discussion about Virginia football involved some mention of the quarterbacks. Coming out of the spring, I think the same is true. Unfortunately, that is not likely to change any time soon.

To get right to the conclusion, the simple fact is that we still do not know who Virginia’s starting quarterback will be in 2011. That should not come as a surprise to Virginia fans as it was somewhat unrealistic to think that 15 spring practices would provide that answer, given the jumble in the depth chart going into the spring. Having said that, I think it was fair to hope that coming out of the spring, the top two spots on the quarterback depth chart would be definitively established, giving a little more structure to the quarterback competition come this summer. The fact that that did not happen in the truest sense – we have a top two in a “sort of” sense but nothing more – is at least a little surprising.

The problem, of course, was a lack of separation among some of the quarterbacks. Granted, there was at least some separation, as it quickly became evident that first year David Watford is both a very talented quarterback prospect and entirely unready to lead a college football program. The latter again should not come as a surprise, given that Watford threw all of about six passes for Hampton last year as Mike Smith committed to re-establishing the Crabbers’ run game (and stuck to his guns in that regard), but I still sensed that there were fans hoping that Watford could come in and be an unexpected savior for the Virginia quarterback corps in 2011. Maybe that ultimately will be the case … but not in 2011.

I could go into a long breakdown of how the other three quarterbacks – Mike Rocco , Michael Strauss , and Ross Metheny – did over the course of the spring … but then what would we all have to look forward to in my “Summer Reading” series? Suffice it to say that each had their ups and each had their downs, each had their days where they looked to be the best of the bunch and each had their days where they most assuredly did not.

In fairness to the group, it made it all the harder to evaluate the progress of the quarterbacks as the wide receivers kept dropping like flies. Take, for example, the windows into which Mike Rocco was late throwing during the Spring Game. Caused by indecisiveness on his part? Or slow reads? What about a lack of comfort with the receiver to which he was throwing? Or was timing just off in the routes due to the inexperience of many of the fill-in receivers? If you can provide a definitive answer on the cause, you are one up on me as I certainly cannot.

So where did things end up? What do we know? We know that barring something crazy happening, Watford will redshirt in 2011. We also know that for now, Rocco and Metheny are supposedly in the first group going into the summer and Strauss and the aforementioned Watford are in the second … but that is as loose a designation as it gets when it comes to Rocco, Metheny, and Strauss and the pecking order between those three easily could change before the first snap of camp. While Watford technically still is in the race for the starting position, the other three really are in the race, and no one has come close to winning it outright yet.

But while the staff did not announce their starter – or even, if you get right down to it, the depth chart – I don’t feel like I can beg off on making a guess at the 2011 starter, having said I would in this column. So my guess on who takes the first snap? Mike Rocco . Do I feel confident in that prediction? Not necessarily, but I feel more confident about