NCF Nation: Rob Calabrese

Lunchtime Links

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
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Welcome to your links ...

Kent State safety Zachary Gonosz has been suspended from the team indefinitely after his arrest on charges of underage drinking, displaying a fake I.D. and assault.

UCF veteran Rob Calabrese makes a shift from quarterback to receiver.

Boise State's top target at quarterback for 2012 was in town visiting this week.

Could former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton go No. 11 in the draft?

A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan have done little to separate themselves in the race to become the starting quarterback at Marshall.

Plenty of competition at Navy for starting linebacker spots.

Patriots owner Bob Kraft worked hard last fall to convince the Big East to take UMass.

Nevada running back Vai Taua shouldn't lose hope if he goes undrafted.

Hawaii students want prime seating at football games because they are now paying at student athletics fee that benefits the athletics department.

Air Force cornerback Reggie Rembert isn't sure what his NFL future will bring.

UTEP has some depth on the defensive line.

UCF QB Calabrese out with torn ACL

October, 19, 2010
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UCF quarterback Rob Calabrese is out for the season with a torn ACL, confirming the fears coach George O'Leary had after his former starter got hurt last week.

Calabrese was not hit when he got hurt, following a short touchdown run last Wednesday against Marshall. He began the season as a starter, but played in a reserve role behind freshman Jeffrey Godfrey. Calabrese had been getting reps in a Wildcat package, and O'Leary liked having his veteran player spell Godfrey for a few plays in the game.

With Calabrese out, Stanford transfer L.D. Crow becomes the backup. Redshirt freshman Nico Flores could see some time in the Wildcat formation.

"It’s a shame because he was really doing some good things for us out there," O'Leary said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "You can’t get a redshirt year back on him because it’s the sixth game.

“You know he’ll still be involved with the team and meetings and stuff like that. I think he’s a great sounding advice for Jeff and we’ll continue to use him that way.”

UCF (4-2) plays Rice on Saturday.

UCF off to best start since 1998

October, 14, 2010
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Central Florida has delivered back-to-back smackdowns of Conference USA East division opponents on national television, making the Knights look like serious contenders to win the league.

This time, they withstood their second weather delay of the season to beat Marshall 35-14 in their second straight Wednesday night game. The defense was dominant once again, holding Marshall (1-5, 0-2) to 37 yards on the ground. A.J. Bouye had an interception return for a touchdown, the third time UCF returned a pick for a score this season. That is a new school record.

On offense, Ronnie Weaver delivered a career performance with 150 yards on 30 carries, and the Knights held the ball for 40 minutes. It was about as dominating a game as you will see.

Now UCF is 4-2, off to its best start since opening 5-1 in 1998 -- Daunte Culpepper's senior season. The Knights are 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2o05 and just the second time in school history.

"I thought our guys really responded to the distractions and the weather and handled it all really well," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "I thought we did a lot of things right on both sides of the ball. That was a tough win, because Marshall plays really well up here."

There was some bad news among all of the good -- quarterback Rob Calabrese hurt his left knee in the first quarter following a 2-yard touchdown run and did not return to the game. O'Leary seemed to suggest afterward that Calabrese had suffered a major knee injury, according to John Denton of Knights Insider: "I'm hoping that the doctor is wrong,'' O'Leary said. "It wasn't a contact thing. He went to hand the ball to the referee and as he turned there was a pop."

True freshman Jeffrey Godfrey played the rest of the game, though he got banged up some, too. Calabrese had been coming in for a set of plays during the game to run a few Wildcat formations. Though Godfrey has supplanted him as the starter, if Calabrese is out for an extended period, his loss could be huge simply because O'Leary has been hesitant to play a true freshman for the entire game and vowed not to do that.

Stanford transfer L.D. Crow would be the backup.

UCF gets Rice next, before an important three-game stretch that could determine whether it wins the league: home to East Carolina on Oct. 30, at Houston on Nov. 5 and home to Southern Miss on Nov. 13.
The cure to what ails Marshall is probably not going against the top defense in Conference USA.

But the Herd have no choice at this point, and are hoping a home crowd and national television stage can provide them some momentum when they play UCF tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

[+] EnlargeHolliday
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesDoc Holliday is off to a 1-4 start in his first year as head coach.
Marshall has plenty to play for in a season that has not exactly gone to plan under first-year coach Doc Holliday. At 1-4, this is a make-or-break game. A loss means the team would have to go 5-1 down the stretch to even be bowl eligible. But a win over one of the best teams in the East would go a long way toward restoring confidence that took a severe beating in a last-minute loss to West Virginia earlier this year.

The Herd have not appeared to be the same since that game. Their lone win came against Ohio, when the Bobcats failed to make a two-point conversion with no time left. In its two losses since the West Virginia game, Marshall has been outscored 85-44. That includes an embarrassing 41-16 loss to Southern Miss in which the Herd had more penalties (12) than first downs (11) and gained just 170 total yards.

Quarterback Brian Anderson was pulled after going 4-of-13 for 16 yards in the first half. Though A.J. Graham was better, he hurt his ankle and Anderson will start against the Knights.

Perhaps fans can take some measure of solace in knowing Anderson plays better at home. In two home games this season, he is 41-of-59 for 524 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.

But the bottom line is the Marshall offense has been mediocre, and the Herd have struggled to establish a running game. They rank No. 106 in the nation in total yards, averaging just 300 yards a game, and are 105 in rushing offense. A shaky quarterback and shaky run game have kept point production down, too, as Marshall ranks No. 100 in scoring offense, averaging 19.2 points a game.

“We spend a lot of time in that meeting room to find ways for our offense to be successful,” Holliday said. “We all know being one-dimensional is not one of those ways. Believe me, we are working extremely hard and spending a lot of time trying to find the best way to run the football. It comes down to blocking and we’ve got to do a better job of doing that.”

About the only highlight has been the play of Vinny Curry and Mario Harvey on defense. Curry leads the nation with eight sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Harvey leads the nation with an average of 13 tackles a game, and also has four sacks. Putting pressure on quarterbacks Jeffrey Godfrey and Rob Calabrese is going to be a huge goal.

Marshall has yet to beat UCF in Conference USA play, dating to 2005, and is still smarting from a 21-20 loss last season in which the Knights came back to win with 23 seconds left. The Herd has plenty to get them motivated.

“This game concerns me,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “It’s a big game up there. There’s not a lot of love there, more so on Marshall’s part than our part. It will be an interesting game. I don’t think there will be a lot of handshakes. As I told our team, just take out the West Virginia film. That’s the kind of capabilities they have and I think that’s the effort that we’ll get.”
Sometimes, mid-week games cause some consternation for college football coaches, creatures of habit who are less than thrilled about tweaking their schedules.

But UAB and UCF are just fine with playing those games if they are on national television. The two Conference USA East Division rival square off in Orlando tonight in their first conference game.

"The big thing is we’ve got back-to-back Wednesday games, but I think any time you can get on national TV and the exposure the conference gets and the school gets, you can’t pay for that," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "It’s an odd night, but it’s a great opportunity for both schools to go out and show what they’re about."

It's also an opportunity for both schools to put disappointing losses behind them. The Knights lost in the closing minute to Kansas State after leading for the entire game. Carson Coffman scored with 36 seconds left to give the Wildcats the 17-13 win. As for UAB, three of its four games have come down to the final play.

The most recent came in its last game against Tennessee, a 32-29 double overtime loss that featured five missed field goals from Josh Zahn. Coach Neil Callaway opened up his kicking competition during the bye week, but Zahn has held on to his job.

"We tried to create a lot of distraction with teammates on the field, crowd noise and harassing them," Callaway said. "He won the battle."

As for how Zahn has responded since his tough outing against the Vols, Callaway said, "Obviously, he missed five, but he made two at the end of the game in overtime, which is good. He’s disappointed, but I don’t think he’s so rattled that he can’t perform still."

UCF will see a different UAB team than it is used to seeing thanks Bryan Ellis, who has taken over at quarterback. Ellis is more of a pocket passer and has thrown for 360 or more yards in his two starts. Meanwhile, the Knights will start true freshman Jeffrey Godfrey, but O'Leary plans on playing veteran Rob Calabrese. Godfrey has started the last two games in place of Calabrese. But Calabrese didn't see any playing time against Kansas State, and O'Leary thought that was a mistake.

"Did you see the last game? Of course we need both," O'Leary said. "I think it's natural when we have a young, freshman quarterback that you give him a chance to get a little blow out there and see what's going on to get his head where it's at, if he is making some mistakes. If they are older kids, I think you can use a one quarterback team because they are used to the pressure and the sense of urgency at that position. When you have a young kid, you have to have two ready to play and get them both in the game plan."

What we learned from non-AQs: Week 2

September, 12, 2010
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Boise State never took a snap Saturday but the Broncos ended up losing thanks to Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, the MAC had a pretty crummy day, too.

What did we learn from Week 2?

We have no idea what is going to happen with Boise State. What was supposed to be a signature win turned into a whole lot of blah when Virginia Tech lost to James Madison 21-16 on Saturday. The last thing the Broncos needed was for the Hokies to lose again, let alone lose to a lower division school. Even if Virginia Tech wins out and takes the ACC, questions will still loom about the legitimacy of the Boise State win simply because this is such an awful loss for the Hokies. Does this stain how the coaches and Harris poll voters perceive Boise State? How do the computer rankings react? Then there is this: what does this do for TCU? A bad Virginia Tech loss could end up hurting the Horned Frogs going forward. They play a tougher schedule, no question about it. TCU did finish ahead of Boise State in the final BCS standings last season.

[+] EnlargeMikel Hunter
AP Photo/Bryan OllerMikel Hunter and Air Force had reason to celebrate after a 35-14 win over BYU.
BYU still has a ways to go with its two quarterback system. After playing almost flawlessly against Washington in a home win last week, Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps struggled in a 35-14 loss to Air Force. Nelson had a costly fumble just before halftime that Air Force turned into a 21-14 lead it would not relinquish. Heaps threw for just 15 yards and had an interception as coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to stick with Nelson for the second half. With a road game against Florida State set for this Saturday, we will wait and see what Mendenhall decides to do about his quarterbacks. Of course this could be spun a different way -- do not sleep on Air Force.

The MAC has some explaining to do. Not such a great day for the MAC, which saw Ball State and Akron lose to FCS schools. Mike Brown put Liberty ahead with a 2-yard touchdown run with 4:55 left in the game. Akron blew a 31-17 third-quarter lead, then had an extra point blocked in overtime that made the difference. Northern Illinois and Western Michigan were the only two MAC schools to win non-conference games. Both wins came against FCS schools.

UCF may have found itself a new starting quarterback. Many Knights fans knew it would only be a matter of time until Jeffrey Godfrey took over from Rob Calabrese. Godfrey replaced him in the middle of the third quarter and helped erase a 28-7 deficit with two touchdown runs. UCF had a chance at the end, but Quincy McDuffie fumbled, giving the Knights their fifth turnover of the game and a 28-21 loss. Godfrey, who broke Jacory Harris’ Miami-Dade County passing records, finished 7-of-10 for 107 yards, and led the team with 53 yards rushing. Calabrese, meanwhile, threw two interceptions and completed just 5.9 yards per completion.

Utah is pretty good at home. Even with Jordan Wynn watching from the sideline, the Utes won their 19th straight game at home, 38-10 over UNLV, setting a new Mountain West Conference record in their last year in the league. Terrance Cain, who started the first eight games of last season, went 13-of-20 for 207 yards with no interceptions or fumbles. Wynn sprained the thumb on his throwing hand last week against Pittsburgh, and Utah didn’t want to risk playing him.

UCF confident in Rob Calabrese

August, 12, 2010
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There is an unmatched level of confidence among UCF players this summer. They truly believe this is their year to win the Conference USA crown. They truly believe this is their year to win the first bowl game in school history.

There is reason for optimism, with 15 starters returning to one of the most experienced teams in C-USA. But there is still one major question that will not be answered until well past the season opener Sept. 4 against South Dakota:

[+] EnlargeRob Calabrese
AP Photo/Steve ColemanUCF quarterback Rob Calabrese, above, will be pushed by incoming freshman Jeffrey Godfrey.
Is Rob Calabrese the right man to start at quarterback?

His previous attempts at leading the Knights have not gone so well. Calabrese went into last season as the starter, but was yanked from the first two games because he was ineffective, and then benched in favor of the more experienced Brett Hodges.

Coach George O’Leary admits he made mistakes in the way he handled Calabrese, who also saw playing time as a freshman. O’Leary says he pushed Calabrese to play before he was ready to handle the responsibility.

It was evident Calabrese was not ready last season. He was nervous, had no poise, and made his teammates jumpy. He sat on the sideline and learned from the steadier Hodges. Now a junior, Calabrese won the starting job again after spring practice and has looked good during fall camp.

O’Leary and his teammates say Calabrese appears more confident. Calabrese says he feels much better, too, even though the pressure on him to perform this season will be greater than it ever has because of all the talent on the team.

“There’s always going to be pressure at the quarterback position,” Calabrese said. “I’ve learned not to look at other things or worry about other things. I just have to control what I can control and just go out there and execute every single day.”

Calabrese spent the summer working out with his receivers, for two and sometimes three hours after conditioning drills. He worked on his accuracy, he worked on building chemistry, he worked on being a leader. He made more of an effort to hang out with his teammates off the field, too.

On Saturdays, receiver A.J. Guyton would call Calabrese up and ask him to throw. Calabrese would always show up.

“Last year, he was trying to prove something, trying to do too much at one time instead of letting the game come to him,” Guyton said. “My locker is right next to his and I tell him every day don’t get down on yourself. Everyone makes a bad throw. It doesn’t have to be pretty -- it just has to get there. He’s matured a lot over the summer.”

If Calabrese struggles, you can bet there will be howling from UCF fans to put in freshman Jeffrey Godfrey, who broke Jacory Harris’ county passing yards record last year at Miami Central. Godfrey enrolled in school in January and participated in spring practice. He is more athletic and has a better arm than Calabrese, and may even have more confidence, too. When asked about how he compares to Harris, Godfrey said, “He’s a great quarterback, but I think I’m better as a quarterback than he is even though he has a lot of experience in college. I love him to death. He’s a great friend. I just think I’m better than him.”

He will get his opportunity to show that. O’Leary says Godfrey will play this season.

“He definitely has to get on the field,” O’Leary said. “He’s a talented guy. Rob could be doing great -- he’s still going to play. He’s the kind of kid who puts defenses in different positions as far as how you prepare for them.”

Calabrese says having Godfrey competing with him has made him better. But for all the high expectations and high confidence in Calabrese, nobody knows for sure how well he will do until kickoff next month.

“He’s athletic enough do the right things,” O’Leary said. “I think the confidence level’s grown, but game day is when he has to be productive. That’s the key thing.”
TCU opened practice Thursday with several players suffering from heat cramps. Linebacker Tank Carder has yet to be cleared for full contact after offseason shoulder surgery.

Position battles to watch as Boise State prepares to open practice Friday.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham saw progress after the first day of practice.

Navy is coming off a 10-4 season and the expectations remain the same: Win.

Western Michigan reports to came Sunday, and fans can check it out with live blogging.

UCF opened practice with Rob Calabrese as the starting quarterback. Calabrese intends to surprise people this year after struggling in the past.

Former San Diego State football player Eric Ikonne has filed a malpractice suit against the hospital and doctor who treated him after he collapsed during a workout in 2009.

Nevada receiver L.J. Washington tore the meniscus in his knee and is out at least five to six weeks.

New Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry will issue helmet decals for achievements this season.
I’m a joiner and this morning I saw that the other bloggers were writing about the teams from their conferences that had the best chance of going bowling this year. So, I thought I’d join in.

Obviously, I have more conferences, so I’ll break this down over a few posts throughout the rest of the week. I’ll go in alphabetical order, so let’s start with Conference USA.

C-USA announced last month that it will have six guaranteed bowl spots and an agreement with the new Dallas Football Classic to participate in that game should be the Big Ten or Big 12 be unable to provide a team. The Liberty Bowl takes the conference champion and then teams are dispersed with the help of the league office.

I’m not going to pick the exact bowls but rather the teams I think will be bowling at the end of the year.

COUNT ON IT
  • Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have missed the postseason just once this decade, so there’s no reason to think they’re going to slip now. Yes, there are questions on the offensive line, but this team should be challenging for a conference title by the end of the season.
  • Central Florida: The Knights rebounded from a tough 2008 to nearly play in the conference title game in 2009. This year, the defense looks stout and the offense seems to have found a quarterback in Rob Calabrese that can help expand their game. Running back is a huge question mark with Brynn Harvey out for nonconference play, but several other options seemed to step up during the spring.
  • Houston: The Cougars seemed to hit a wall at the end of last season, but with nearly everyone returning from that team, they’ll be the favorites to win C-USA West in the fall. The question will be whether they learned from last year’s mistakes to put themselves in better bowl position this year.
  • SMU: Dare I say that SMU is back? The Mustangs will be young again, but I think coach June Jones has found something in quarterback Kyle Padron and the Mustangs will once again be in a bowl hunt. I think the ‘Stangs have the best chance to give Houston a run for the West Division.
  • Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane had a down year in 2009, but I think that was an aberration. Coach Todd Graham acknowledged he underestimated the loss of some players heading into last year, but with most of the 2009 squad returning for 2010, he feels confident his team can rebound. Much of Tulsa’s success will depend on the offensive line, which was really shaky a year ago.
MOST LIKELY
  • UTEP: The Miners have the talent to make a bowl game, especially with quarterback Trevor Vittatoe and running back Donald Buckram back, but the consistency is something that needs to come along. The Miners have a new defensive coordinator, which should alleviate the need to get into shootouts with opponents.
  • Marshall: It’s hard to say what a team will look like with a new coach and several of the top offensive weapons gone, but coach Doc Holliday does have some gems on his roster that could get this team to six wins. However, the nonconference schedule is a bear and the Herd has to play at Southern Miss, ECU and SMU.
OUTSIDE SHOT
  • East Carolina: The Pirates lost more starters to graduation than any other team in the country. Combine that with trying to learn a new offensive and defensive system and it seems like a rebuilding year.
  • Rice: Last year was a tough transition for Rice after losing almost all of its offense from 2008. This year should be better with some new quarterback choices, experience and running back Sam McGuffie available to play. The Owls could easily go 2-2 during nonconference play and have SMU and Houston at home, but there’s a tough road stretch during late October and early November that will get them a bowl berth.
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR
  • Memphis: New head coach Larry Porter inherited a lot of potential, but it won’t be easy to put that together in a year. There are a lot of questions for this Memphis team, especially at running back, the position that carried the offense a year ago.
  • UAB: Quarterback Joe Webb was the Blazers’ all-everything player a year ago and now that he’s gone, no one has stepped up to fill that gap. Coach Neil Callaway has been looking for players to help out for the past few years and has had little luck finding someone to emerge. That will continue as the Blazers struggle in 2010.
  • Tulane: I thought the Green Wave would be better in 2009, but that didn’t happen and I don’t have a lot of confidence for 2010. They lose top players Jeremy Williams and Andre Anderson and are still looking for consistent play from both sides of the ball.
After Central Florida’s spring game on Saturday, it was apparent that junior Rob Calabrese was the starting quarterback heading into the summer.

Calabrese completed 11 of 17 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown and had 90 rushing yards, including a 66-yard run for another score. He made decisions on the field that he hadn’t in the past two years as a part-time starter and played like he was in total command of the offense.

“I think they all have opportunities to play, but I think when you list who the starter is, I think it it would be the same way we practiced all year: it would be one, two, three as far as [Rob] Calabrese, [Jeffrey] Godfrey and [L.D.] Crow,” O’Leary said. “I wouldn’t hesitate putting any of them in now in certain situations.

“But I think heading into the spring and the summer and the skellies [seven-on-seven skeleton drills] and the conditioning and the chemistry that’s required, I think the leadership has got to come from the guy with the experience and that’s Rob. Again, I was very, very pleased with those other guys and they’re obviously going to help us this year.”



Godfrey, a freshman, made a valiant push for the starting job, but his lack of his experience is what set the two apart. From the beginning of spring camp it was Calabrese’s job to lose and he never let go of it. He took almost all of the snaps with the first team and showed the poise and maturity O’Leary said at the beginning of camp that he wanted to see out of his starting quarterback.

After the spring game O’Leary also announced that starting running back Brynn Harvey might not be ready to play until after the nonconference season, which is a big blow to the Knights running game.

Harvey suffered a knee injury during spring camp and after meeting with doctors last week, the team determined that Harvey's injury is more severe than previously thought. Harvey was the team’s top rusher last season, though several other running backs, including Brendan Kelly and Jonathan Davis have played well in Harvey’s absence.

“Hopefully [Harvey will be back] sooner, but my experience is you don’t count on that,” O’Leary said of Harvey’s timetable. “But I think both of them [Kelly and Davis] are good enough to get into the game and get the necessary yards for us to be successful.”

Central Florida coach George O’Leary isn’t going to let his quarterbacking competition spill into the offseason.

With eight practices remaining, O’Leary declared that he plans to name a starting quarterback by the end of spring football, and right now that starter appears to be Rob Calabrese.

Calabrese, who started the spring at the top of the depth chart with true freshman Jeffrey Godfrey behind him, has excelled because of his experience. Calabrese has spent two seasons with the Knights and in that time the knock on him wasn’t his skill, it was his mentality. Calabrese often would take mistakes too hard and he’d let them affect the rest of his game. This year, he’s more mature and it’s showing on the field.

Godfrey also has shown some skill and the ability to make plays in the offense. After last week’s scrimmage, O’Leary praised both quarterbacks.

“Rob did some good things, he's working the team and moving the chains. That's what you want to see,'' O'Leary told media. 'With Godfrey, he's a very poised guy. He's not overly (anxious), but he's not (reserved) like (former UCF quarterback Brett) Hodges, either. He's very poised. He knows his mistake right after he makes it. And you just don't see him making a lot of the same mistakes again.”

But it’s those mistakes that have kept Godfrey from overtaking Calabrese. He’s tried to learn all of the Knights offense in a short amount of time and the learning curve is steep. Calabrese has the luxury of knowing his receivers and being more comfortable in the offense.

"I think Jeff has hit the wall a little bit as far as all the installation, which I expect," O'Leary told the Orlando Sentinel. "He's a high school senior, but obviously he's a very, very talented individual."

Also...

The nine players O'Leary suspended because of academics returned Wednesday. Among the nine players suspended were senior wide receiver Brian Watters, junior wide receivers Kamar Aiken and A.J. Guyton, freshman wide receiver Nico Flores, freshman running back Jonathan Davis and freshman defensive back A.J. Bouye. The players missed two practices.
Central Florida coach George O’Leary met with the media Wednesday to preview the Knights spring camp, which opens Friday.

While O’Leary noted that he’d like to shore up the offensive line, which struggled last season, he also said finding a new starting quarterback would be a top priority.

O’Leary essentially said that the competition would be a two-man race between junior Rob Calabrese and true freshman Jeffrey Godfrey, the all-time leading passer in Dade County high school history who enrolled at UCF early. O’Leary also said that he’d like to come out of spring practice with a clear starter.

Calabrese, who was a part-time starter in three games last season and played in seven, will open spring practice as the No. 1 guy.

“If someone is going to have a real opportunity in spring practice, those first two guys are the ones you are going to really look at,” O’Leary said. “We want to give them as many reps as possible.”

Stanford transfer L.D. Crow, Fordham transfer Brian Taaffe, son of offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe, and Andy Slowik also will compete for the quarterback job this spring.

Nico Flores, a redshirt freshman who was supposed to be in the mix at quarterback this spring, will move to wide receiver. Flores actually spent most of the fall as a wide receiver on the scout team and requested the switch to get on the field earlier.

“We can only play one quarterback at a time and there’s only one football, but Nico is an exceptionally talented player and we want to try and get him on the field,” Charlie Taaffe said. “And there are a couple of different packages that we can use where he’ll be inserted at quarterback. We’ll try some things because that’s what the spring is for.”

With Flores’ versatility, the Knights will introduce a wildcat package for the first time. The new look will take some pressure off the quarterbacks and running backs, which struggled at times to generate consistent offense.

But all of the offensive success will hinge on the play if the line.

"On the offensive line there are a number of players back,” O’Leary said. "We just need to solidify the group as far as chemistry and toughness on the line of scrimmage."
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Central Florida Knights
Spring practice starts: March 19
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • The Knights will need to develop offensive line talent after allowing 2.54 sacks per game and failing to block for a rushing offense that ranked 82nd in the country. The Knights return all but two offensive linemen and have one coming in the spring.
  • The quarterback battle will heat up with early enrollee Jeffrey Godfrey, who already has impressed coach George O’Leary. Godfrey will compete against Rob Calabrese for the starting role.
  • The Knights will have to find replacements for three key members of the defensive line -- DE Jarvis Geathers, RT Torrell Troup, LT Travis Timmons. The defense was the main reason the Knights finished 8-5 and won their final five games.
East Carolina Pirates
Spring practice starts: March 22
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • With a new coach, a new system, and a crop of new starters, East Carolina will have its work cut out for it this spring. New head coach Ruffin McNeill needs to replace 15 players with starting experience, which won’t be easy with just a month to work.
  • The most underrated positions the Pirates have to fill are punter and kicker. All-American Matt Dodge is gone as is kicker Ben Hartman, who set the school record for career scoring. Finding replacements for those two is a top priority.
  • New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will be implement Texas Tech’s offensive system with just two scholarship quarterbacks and a team that relied on its running game. Riley is confident he can install all of his spread offense this fall, but there’s no telling how quickly the Pirates will pick it up.
Houston Cougars
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • The one thing that really kept Houston from an undefeated season was its defense. Brian Stewart, who was named the defensive coordinator in January, inherits a young team with a lot of talent, but he has some work to do to catch the defense up to the offense by September.
  • Quarterback Case Keenum returns for his senior season, but his center, Carl Barnett, does not. Barnett started 39 games, so Keenum will have to establish a good rapport with his new center this spring. Blake Sargent, who was the backup last year, appears to be the front-runner.
  • Even though the Cougars did not lose many starters on offense, coach Kevin Sumlin will look for more athletic players to rotate into the mix. Last season, 19 players had at least one catch and 12 had double-digit catches.

(Read full post)

Central Florida’s great season came to an unfortunate end after they weren’t able to top Rutgers in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Saturday. The Knights finish the season with eight wins for only the fourth time since becoming a member of the FBS.

How the game was won: Rutgers was able to limit Central Florida’s running game and convert quarterback Brett Hodges' two turnovers into touchdowns. After playing even with the Scarlet Knights early, Central Florida couldn’t get closer than four points and Rutgers was able to secure the game in the second half.

Turning point: Rutgers linebacker Damaso Munoz intercepted Brett Hodges on the first drive of the game, setting up Rutgers' first score, and set the tone for the rest of the game. Hodges threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

Stat of the game: Central Florida’s 32 rushing yards is the second-lowest total of the season. The Knights had just 15 rushing yards against Southern Miss on Sept. 12. Running back Brynn Harvey, who came into the game off three consecutive 100-yard rushing games, had just 30 yards on 13 carries.

Unsung hero of the game: UCF quarterback Rob Calabrese came in late in the fourth quarter for injured starter Brett Hodges and led the Knights on a 10-play, 75-yard drive to cut the lead to 38-24 with 2:23 remaining.

What it means: While this is not the way Central Florida wanted to end its season, it has to be encouraged by the late play of Calabrese and running back Jonathan Davis, who are the future of the team. Both came in during the fourth quarter and helped the Knights score their final touchdown. There are a lot of young players on this team and the experience will serve them in 2010.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

" Boise State and BYU exposed major flaws in the current BCS system.

" The Mid-American Conference is reeling after a 3-10 start to the 2009 season.

" East Carolina will be a good barometer for West Virginia for this season.

" SMU is 1-0, but there are major concerns about SMU’s play that need to be addressed before a tough game against UAB.

" Despite Rob Calabrese struggling in the season opener for UCF, coach George O’Leary insists that there isn’t a quarterback controversy.

" New Buffalo quarterback Zach Maynard passed his first test after leading Buffalo to a 23-17 win over UTEP.

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