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Decision on No. 2 quarterback looms for Cavaliers

It seems like a simple question: If the starting quarterback goes down, needs to be yanked or is no longer needed, who steps in to take his place?

For Virginia Coach Mike London, however, that is a multi-layered question the answer to which could have a long-term impact on his program.

Fifth-year senior Marc Verica is the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback; that much is clear. But if – say, on Saturday when Virginia hosts 1-AA Virginia Military Institute – there comes a time when the outcome of a contest has been decided with plenty of time remaining on the game clock, it’s unclear who London would replace Verica with to run the offense.

According to the team’s depth chart, the top two options are redshirt freshman Ross Metheny and true freshman Michael Rocco. And the identifiers “redshirt” and “true” will factor into London’s decision. While both quarterbacks could use some experience – neither has taken a collegiate game snap in their careers – it is relevant that Rocco has a year of eligibility to preserve and Metheny doesn’t.

“It's factored into the equation, but it's not the only determining factor,” London said Wednesday. “The thing for us is if Marc went down, the next guy that goes in is the next best quarterback. That's one of the factors. But being able to move the team and operate the offense is as important, so whether it's Ross or Rocco or (true freshman quarterback) Michael Strauss, whoever it may be, that's going to be the main criteria is being able to finish or win a game for us or run the offense and make sure it's run efficiently.”

If Rocco were to enter Saturday’s game – or any other game this season, for that matter – the chances of him playing five years at Virginia would decrease significantly. London has made clear his desire to redshirt as many freshmen as possible to give them an additional year to develop physically and gain a better understanding of his system.

For Metheny, that year was last year. He has no redshirt to burn. Playing him would not affect his eligibility down the road. So even if London and his staff believes Rocco is the better quarterback – and to be clear, there has been no indication that is the case – it might be more prudent to play Metheny in a blowout.

London was asked Wednesday if he would be more likely to play Metheny in a situation in which a backup quarterback was needed, but the game was not on the line.

“Again, it depends,” London said. “If you use the criteria from the question you just asked, then you would use it that way because of who's got a year of eligibility and who doesn't. But sometimes you look for long-term things. People talk about our holders and things, you know, quarterbacks are typically some of the best holders on your squad, so you'd have to take into account some of the things about who's the best holder of those quarterbacks and who can run the offense efficiently.

“There's a lot of variables that we, particularly, right now have to take into account, and the moment to make that decision is drawing very close here.”

By Steve Yanda  | September 23, 2010; 7:33 AM ET
 
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