Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Sims will eventually crack UVa's starting lineup

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by quarterbacks: Nothing gets the football banter going quite like 'em.

Q: Ah, so the NCAA's decision that Alabama transfer Phillip Sims will be able to play immediately for UVa has stoked the chatter on the blog, has it?

A: Oh, yeah. On both sides, too. You've got UVa fans analyzing the potential benefits to their program, Tech fans taking shots at the NCAA for not forcing him to sit out a year, UVa fans wondering how harmful a QB controversy would be, Tech fans pumping up their own QB. ... It's great. Especially given that it happened during baseball's all-star break, which is a brutal time for sports discussion.

Q: So, you think Sims will win the Cavaliers' quarterback job?

A: Eventually, yes.

Q: What does "eventually" mean? That incumbent Michael Rocco is a dead duck?

A: Nope. It means eventually, a guy who threw for more than 10,000 yards in high school is going to take the reins. Without having seen Sims throwing a pass in a cross-sabres helmet yet, it's difficult to predict how long that will take. But I'd set the over-under at Week 5, when UVa hosts Louisiana Tech.

Q: That long, huh? How come?

A: Because Rocco deserves - and will get - a chance to show how much he's improved as a second-year starter. Don't forget: David Watford played quite a bit early last season before coach Mike London finally decided to go with one guy. Rocco won that battle; he'll have an opportunity to do it again.

Q: But won't fans get restless and start chanting for Sims if Rocco struggles?

A: Of course. That's what fans do. And there could be some struggles given that Penn State, Georgia Tech and Texas Christian are on the schedule in the first four weeks. That's why Week 5 - against a manageable foe - seems the most likely time for a switch.

Q: Speaking of Penn State - will the Nittany Lions even be playing football this year after the Joe Paterno bombshell this week?

A: Yes. But if I'm the powers that be in State College, Pa., I'm on the phone with the NCAA right now, offering to shelve the program (specifically, the games) for a year.

Q: Why punish current players and coaches who had nothing to do with the scandal?

A: Because that's how most punishments work. There's fallout. Coaches commit violations, leave and the schools get sanctioned. Players accept cash on their way out of town, and their teammates reap the bowl ban. This is a million times worse than any of that. In this case, you make a statement to the world that you understand the university was broken, a warped sense of football importance was at the core of it, and you're taking a year off as a symbolic gesture that you're focusing on what matters.

Q: But what would happen to opponent schedules? To the Big Ten standings? To Penn State's recruiting classes?

A: I don't care.

Q: You really think Penn State would do this?

A: Of course not.

Q: What will we hear from them then?

A: The same thing we've heard from them all along: "We Are Penn State!" I understand pride in the school - Happy Valley is an incredible place - but every time I hear that it makes me cringe (particularly in the first game after the news broke). The timing's all wrong. The message comes across as crass, and I'm pretty sure they don't care.

Q: Top comment on the blog this week?

A: Let's go with giles, a Tech fan weighing in on the Rocco-Sims debate: "If you don't think Sims will take over during this season, then you are looking at a dead UVa offense. That being said, when Mr. Sims comes marching into Blacksburg in November, they will crack him like a Chesapeake crab."

Q: Wait - that's the most insightful take of the week?

A: No, no. There were others with more depth. But his had the Chesapeake crab reference. He wins.

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