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The sophomore said being redshirted last year was a low point, but also an opportunity to learn.
Courtesy of UVa
Virginia quarterback David Watford hasn’t played any games since the fall of 2011.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Don’t ask Virginia quarterback David Watford how he spent his spring break.
It’s not an interesting story.
According to his cousin, UVa receivers coach Marques Hagans, Watford went home to Hampton for two days and then returned to Charlottesville to resume training.
Coaches notice things like that. So do teammates, head coach Mike London said.
Watford began the spring atop UVa’s depth chart at quarterback and goes into the Cavaliers’ spring game today at 1 p.m. at Scott Stadium as a leading contender to start in the fall.
This is Watford’s third spring at Virginia, but he hasn’t played since the fall of 2011, when he appeared in 10 games as the backup to then-sophomore Michael Rocco.
The Cavaliers’ quarterback situation became more complicated last May, when Phillip Sims, who had been the back-up on Alabama’s 2011 national-championship team, elected to transfer to UVa.
After petitioning the NCAA, Sims was granted immediate eligibility and the Cavaliers decided to redshirt Watford, who had played as a true freshman in 2011.
“It was a tough time in my life, really a low point, not for the fact I was redshirting but because I had put so much work in,” said Watford, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Hampton High School.
“Being redshirted wasn’t a slap in the face. It was more like, ‘Wow, it’s really come down to this!’ A part of me growing and maturing was just being able to accept that fact and to really buckle down.”
Watford regularly took reps with the scout team, impersonating opposing quarterbacks like Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner. He also became more of a student of the game.
“Not saying I didn’t work hard, but I wasn’t working hard enough,” Watford said. “I wasn’t watching enough film. I wasn’t breaking down enough coverages. Just the fundamental things held me back and I wasn’t being enough of a leader.
“I didn’t know how to lead. I didn’t know how to control the huddle. I feel I can do all that stuff now.”
To outsiders, it was hard to see how Watford would get on the field in 2013 with the expected return of Rocco and Sims, who started eight and four games, respectively, and combined to pass for more than 3,000 yards in 2012.
Watford’s big break came when Rocco asked to meet with head coach Mike London in early December and was granted a release from his scholarship. Rocco later transferred to Richmond.
“Rocco did what he had to do, and I’m not mad at him,” Watford said. “I wish him nothing but the best, but him leaving left an opportunity for myself, Greyson [Lambert] and Phil.”
Lambert, a redshirt freshman, was listed No. 2 on the depth chart at the beginning of spring drills.
Little reason has been given for Sims’ drop to No. 3, with London cautioning reporters not to read too much into the depth chart.
“I don’t know nothin’ about how it came that way or what’s going on,” Sims said early in spring practice. “But, it is what it is, man. Offseason went as good as I could have hoped for. I don’t think it was that.”
At the time of his release, Rocco said there was “an unhealthy environment for any quarterback at UVa” and hinted that he might not be the only Cavaliers’ QB to transfer.
In a later interview, Rocco clarified his statement, saying that nobody was mistreating the UVa quarterbacks but that there wasn’t playing time for all of them.
A guy like Watford had to wonder if he was ever going to play.
“I didn’t really worry about it,” he said. “The thought kind of crept into my head. There was a part of me, wanting to be a leader, to challenge myself to kill that thought.
“I didn’t come here to sit. Nobody came here to sit. I didn’t have the thought, ‘I’m going to be stuck behind these guys.’ It was more like, ‘I’m going to play, whatever I have to do.’ ”
London said the quarterbacks are being evaluated on the basis of accuracy, decision-making and ability to run the huddle.
“David’s in a bit of a unique situation in that he played early and then redshirted,” said London, who could have added that the reverse is more usually the case.
“So, there’s a hunger for him to get on the field and contribute. There’s a knowledge base that he’s [acquired] through playing and watching.”
A change in offensive coordinators from Bill Lazor to Steve Fairchild has been relatively seamless, according to the quarterback.
“We have a ton of weapons,” Watford said, “and coach Fairchild’s offense is limitless. I’m excited, just so excited for this year.”
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