Player Spotlight: Michael Rocco
Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco grew up a Penn State fan. His father and uncle both played for the late head coach Joe Paterno, and his grandfather coached under Paterno for 19 seasons. Rocco was offered a chance to play at Penn State, but he instead chose to break family tradition by taking his talents to Virginia.
He made his first appearance with the Cavaliers in 2010, playing in six of the team's first 12 games as a freshman. His debut came against VMI, as Rocco went 4-for-6 for 64 yards. Rocco would play in five more games his freshman season, and was the first option off the bench in four of those remaining games.
In 2011, Rocco stepped up and out as an offensive leader for the Cavaliers. Rocco started all 13 games in 2011 and, at the age of 19, became the youngest UVA quarterback in the program’s history to win his first two games as a starter.
In his first career start, Rocco passed for 174 yards, and he only improved from there. Most notably, Rocco passed for a then career-high 307 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland.
It was Rocco’s first 300-yard game and marked his fourth 200-yard game. Rocco would finish out the 2011 season with 2,671 passing yards and six games where he passed for 200 yards or more.
In the post-season, the Cavaliers headed to the Chick-fil-A Bowl to take on Auburn, where Rocco threw for a career high 312 yards. It was only the second time a UVA quarterback has passed for more than 300 yards in a bowl game. Although the Cavaliers lost, Rocco’s offensive prowess was evident; he finished 2011 with a record of 9-5 as a starter.
Rocco, a junior, came into the 2012 season looking to further prove himself as an offensive playmaker. He was not guaranteed the starting job, however, as sophomore David Watford and Alabama transfer Phillip Sims entered into a close competition for his job. Rocco ultimately proved himself in training camp and retained the job.
Last weekend, in the Cavaliers’ first game of the season against Richmond, Rocco passed for 311 yards in just three quarters, only one yard shy of his career-high 312 yards passing yards.
In his time with the team, Rocco has made it clear to his fellow teammates and opponents that he is an excellent decision maker; he is able to correctly read defenses and make the right plays to earn his team yardage and to score points.
Rocco so far has shown that he is more inclined to make short to medium range throws, but he is capable of throwing a deep ball if need be. He is very focused in the pocket and oftentimes calls his own plays at the line of scrimmage, which is something the Nittany Lion defense will need to be aware of and prepared for.
Rocco has proven himself as a capable offensive leader and, when the Nittany Lions travel to Virginia on Saturday, he will be facing them not as a former fan, but as a bitter opponent ready for success.
Breanna Jacobs is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact her, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.