After waiting for two years, including sitting through a post-freshman season redshirt year, Hampton High graduate David Watford is finally going to get his chance to be Virginia’s starting quarterback.
U.Va. coach Mike London announced Monday morning Watford will start the Cavaliers’ opener Aug. 31 against Brigham Young. It’ll be the first time he’s started a game since Nov. 26, 2010, when his Crabbers lost 12-7 to Phoebus in the Eastern Region Division 5 championship game.
“I just feel like all the hard work we’re putting in is really paying off right now,” said Watford of how he reacted when he was told Sunday he’d earned the starting job. “I’m just back to grinding, man.
“Around my guys, we’re just always on the same page. We’ve been working on it since May as an offense as a whole. I feel a lot more confident. That’s the change in David right now and David two years ago.”
Watford, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore, beat out 6-5 redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert for U.Va.’s starting job. Watford grabbed the top spot on the Cavaliers’ depth chart in spring practice and hasn’t given it up.
“I think something that he has is an innate ability to be the leader, to be the face of the program,” London said. “That’s something he’s been doing for a while here, so he’s got respect of the team.”
London said he spoke Sunday in his office with Watford and Lambert. Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild also was present for the discussion. London said Watford’s mobility was a factor in the decision.
“Greyson has a big arm, but part of the offense and what we do and what we’re putting in requires some quarterback opportunities to run,” London said. “Obviously, we all know when we’ve seen David play in a college football game that he has the legs and the tools to do that. Being mobile is important, but I think this decision was based just more on his overall development, having been in college games before.”
In a scrimmage this past Saturday, Fairchild said Watford protected the ball well, didn’t take sacks and got the offense into the proper pass protections and run plays a few times. While consistency in practices was certainly a consideration, Fairchild agreed with London that Watford’s experience couldn’t be overlooked.
“It’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s played in a college football game,” Fairchild said. “At the quarterback spot, that is important.
“I think when we visited with both (Watford and Lambert) together, we tried to be very open about this. Greyson has to be ready to play. There’s no question about that. We run the same offense for both guys. Mobility is a factor in college football … it’s not so much running plays as it is being able to just create plays that aren’t necessarily going well after the snap.”
In 2011, Watford played in 10 games, completing just 40.5 percent of his passes (30 of 74) for 346 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He rotated in the first seven games of the ’11 season with former U.Va. quarterback Michael Rocco, but Watford never started a game.
Last season, Watford redshirted while Rocco and former U.Va. quarterback Phillip Sims split time under center. In the offseason, Rocco transferred to Richmond, and Sims was dismissed from the program. Sims is now at Winston Salem State.
Watford will be U.Va.’s first starting quarterback from the Peninsula District since the ’05 season, when fellow Hampton alum Marques Hagans handled the job. Hagans is now U.Va.’s wide receivers coach.
“We played it like a game,” said Watford regarding the competition with Lambert. “It was like a Saturday for us every time we practiced.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun