John Denton's Knights Insider: Competition to Remain at QB

Sept. 14, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF head coach George O'Leary likes to stress to his players that every day they step on the practice field that it's gameday in an attempt to promote competition at all positions.

And there will continue to be plenty of competition at the quarterback position for the Knights in the days leading up to Saturday's game at Buffalo.

O'Leary said Monday on his weekly Conference USA conference call that quarterbacks Rob Calabrese and Jeff Godfrey will split repetitions with the first string before he names a starter at the position.

The status of the starting quarterback was reopened this week after Calabrese struggled for three quarters of UCF's 28-21 loss to NC State. Godfrey, a true freshman, entered the game late in the third quarter and led the Knights on two long scoring drives. And he had UCF in position for a tying score with 51 seconds to play, but a fifth turnover of the game ended the drama.

O'Leary said on Sunday that he planned to meet with the quarterbacks and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe before deciding on a starter. He has vowed he'll play the quarterback that gives UCF (1-1) the best chance of beating Buffalo (1-1), but he wants to see more work from Calabrese and Godfrey.

``I spoke to both quarterbacks and I told them that they are both going to receive first-team reps this week and then I'll make a decision later in the week on it,'' O'Leary said. ``One was productive and one wasn't and the name of the game is to move the chains and that's what we have to look at. There's so much more involved than just naming a starting quarterback. I'll name one by Thursday this week, but they're both taking first-team reps.''

O'Leary stressed that he wants to better focus UCF's offense and hopes to tailor it around whichever quarterback he ultimately chooses. Calabrese, a junior, is a mobile, but is more of a pocket passer. Godfrey showed off his dazzling running abilities on Saturday by dashing for 53 yards and two TDs.

O'Leary said the play-calling and schemes will remain basically the same regardless of which quarterback plays on Saturday. The coach's preference is to play one quarterback the entire game on Saturday rather than alternating possessions.

``The offense is basically the same and nothing changes,'' O'Leary said. ``I always look for a (quarterback) who can manage the game, move the chains and take a bad play and make it a good one out of it. On Saturday night, Jeff did a better job of it than Rob.''

Calabrese, who was effective and efficient in the season-opening win against South Dakota, completed 10 of 18 throws for 106 yards. But he was intercepted twice - once on a tipped pass and another time on a high throw.

Despite UCF trailing 28-7 at the time, Godfrey entered and breathed life into the team. He led drives of 55 and 75 yards - both of which were capped by his scoring runs. And on UCF's final drive, he took the Knights another 39 yards -- 20 of which came on a pass to Quincy McDuffie. A hard hit caused a turnover, but it couldn't dampen the enthusiasm surrounding Godfrey's impressive play.

``Jeff came in and was very productive. He basically moved the chains and did it with his arms and his legs,'' O'Leary said. ``I was very happy with him. But the key to the game is that you can't turn the ball over five times and even be close in games. I gave the kids credit for fighting back and got back in it. It came back down to a catch and fumble, which turned out to be another turnover. But Jeff Godfrey did very well.''

Calabrese is a no stranger to having to share snaps. He was forced into action as a true freshman and split time with Michael Greco. He won the starting job heading into last season, but he struggled out of the gates and played behind senior transfer Brett Hodges.

Calabrese held off Godfrey, Miami-Dade County's all-time leading prep passer, after a heated quarterback battle throughout the spring and preseason camp. And he looked much more poised and prepared in the opener, hitting his first nine throws and 12 of 15 overall.

O'Leary stressed that not all the woes from Saturday's poor start were Calabrese's fault. UCF's offensive line struggled with run blocking, making the offense largely one dimensional.

``I wasn't disappointed in him, but when you are given the opportunity you've got to go out and produce. That's what the game is about, it's a business and they know it,'' O'Leary said. ``Not everything you draw up is great, but you have to take a bad play and make something good about it. A lot of the mistakes weren't his, but it falls back on him and he has to compensate for those mistakes and make a good play. He did a good job the week before, but (against NC State) there were five turnovers and three of them went for scores. You're just never going to be in the games when that happens.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.