Ratcliffe: Sims' time at Virginia a big disappointment - The Daily Progress: Sports

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Ratcliffe: Sims' time at Virginia a big disappointment

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Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 8:57 pm

We all knew last fall that something had to give at Virginia’s quarterback position. In an era where the demand is often “Play me or I walk,” there was no way the Cavaliers could keep seven QBs happy.

There were five of ‘em on the roster, all with eligibility remaining for the coming season, and two more incoming freshmen at the position.

What we didn’t expect was that Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims, both of whom had a timeshare on the starting job, would leave the program prior to the 2013 season.

Rocco, of course, left of his own accord, perhaps a bit impatiently after getting jerked around from starter to reserve status, back to starter. While he would never be mistaken for Matt Schaub, Rocco was a veteran with great knowledge of the system.

Sims couldn’t stand his own prosperity and he’s gone after failing on so many levels.

The one word that would describe the whole Sims odyssey is disappointment and Sims has only himself to blame for his predicament.

Sims was heralded as the guy who could help take Virginia football to another level. A Virginia native son, he transferred home from Alabama, bringing along haughty five-star credentials and a golden arm that had Wahoo fans frothing at the mouth over the possibilities.

But Sims laid an egg big enough to produce an omelet that would stretch from Charlottesville to Tuscaloosa.

A former Crimson Tide coach said of Sims: “He has Alabama talent, but he’s not an Alabama guy.”

Apparently he wasn’t a Virginia guy either.

Now, academically ineligible, he’s got major work to do in order to prove that he’s anybody’s guy. Academics wasn’t the only shortcoming. The sense I got from talking to inside sources is that Sims simply didn’t do what he was supposed to do, not only in the classroom, but the weight room, strength and conditioning, or anywhere else.

All this was hinted during the spring when Sims, the obvious incumbent starter for this fall, suddenly dropped to third team status.

I remember standing on the sidelines at Scott Stadium, chatting with a former UVa star running back whom I won’t name here, as he asked what was Sims’ deal. I related what I had heard that the kid wasn’t doing the necessary work, which totally baffled the former Cavalier.

“How could anyone in that position not bust his hump every day?” the former player said. “How could you not take advantage of such an incredible opportunity?”

Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

That’s the sad part, is that a kid with such potential allowed all that to just slip through his fingers.

While Virginia certainly isn’t a college football juggernaut, do you realize how many kids out there pine to get a free UVa education and to be a starting quarterback on a major college team?

Coach Mike London doesn’t ask a lot of his players. His golden rules are to go to class, show class and treat people with dignity and respect. He also expects players to give football their greatest effort in the weight room, in the film room, on the practice field.

“When an individual strays from those directions, it is very disappointing to me,” London said. “Phillip Sims did not make the commitment he needed to succeed here.”

What a strange case, fairly unique in my knowledge of Virginia football history. I cannot remember another Cavalier with such big-time credentials out of high school (Sims was ranked by some recruiting services as the No. 1 QB prospect in the country), signing with a major football power, flopping, returning home and flopping again.

The scenario has us all wondering if the kid just felt like he could get it done on just raw talent and nothing else mattered. Certainly his arm wasn’t overrated. Former UVa offensive coordinator Bill Lazor used to marvel at Sims’ quick release, his ability to make all the necessary throws, and arm strength/velocity.

What we suspected was, did Sims do all the required work to totally learn the offense, to recognize coverages and read the defense. The reason I say that is that the kid used to talk about how he didn’t like to make the checkdown throws that are often the best choice. Instead, Sims preferred to show off his big arm by throwing bombs, seldom completed.

Perhaps the saddest part of the story is that either Sims was unaware of his poor work ethic or in denial.

When asked about plummeting on the depth chart after the spring game in April, this is what he told reporters when they informed him that they had heard coaches weren’t pleased with his offseason work:

“That’s news to me,” Sims said. “If somebody wasn’t happy with what I accomplished and did this offseason, it’s a shock and it’s news to me … Workouts went good. Academics were good. I don’t think I had a bad offseason by any stretch of the imagination. So, if that’s the knock on me, hey, I’m fighting invisible … I’m fighting things I can’t control.”

Say what?

With that sort of attitude, perhaps Sims’ departure will be addition by subtraction for Virginia. We do know that David Watford, who is likely to start the season after sitting out a year, has done all the right things. Ditto for backup Greyson Lambert.

With new offensive coaches with fresh ideas, there’s no way Watford is going to blow such an opportunity.

As for Sims, here’s hoping that it won’t take strike three for him to wake up.

Soon after the news broke about him being out at Virginia, Sims tweeted: “This is definitely not the end but sometimes you have to get knocked down to get back up and reach your dreams. I will be back. I promise that. For those who followed and supported me through it all, if I have let you down in any way, I sincerely apologize.”

Sims needs to take a long look in the mirror because the person he most let down was himself. Talk is cheap. The only way to get back up and reach the dreams is old-fashioned hard work. There’s only a handful of blessed souls who can do it on talent alone.

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