Things have not started well for the UCF Knights, a program that just two years ago had players like Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson leading the program to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor. This season has started slowly out of the gates with a mildly surprising 0-2 start with losses to FIU (shocker) and Stanford (not at all unexpected). Now the Knights have lost their starting quarterback for the next two weeks. Or three. Or four.
On Monday UCF head coach George O’Learey announced quarterback Justin Holman will be out of action for the next two to four weeks after injuring his throwing hand early in Saturday’s game at Stanford. If that timeline holds true, that would make the best case scenario for Holman’s return to have him back on the field in time for American Athletic Conference play on October 3 at Tulane. The worst-case scenario would seem to have him back for the October 17 game at Temple, if not the previous week at home against super mega historical rival UConn. UCF’s next two games are at home against Furman this week and on the road at South Carolina next week.
“It [wasn’t as] … serious as they thought when they first told me about it in San Francisco, but it’s still enough where he has to let some sutures heal and all that type thing,” O’Leary said, per The Orlando Sentinel. “But he’ll be back as soon as he can be back… He’ll work the rehab as much as he can work it to get back as soon as he can.”
With Holman out of action, UCF will put the offense in the hands of freshman Bo Schneider. Schneider stepped in and completed seven of 19 pass attempts for 46 yards and an interception against Stanford. He and freshman Tyler Harris could end up splitting reps until Holman returns. Whoever the quarterback is though will be taking snaps from a brand new center. Starting center Joey Grant has left the team after suffering his third shoulder surgery. Junior Jason Rae will be the new center on the offensive line, leaving UCF a bit more shallow at the position early on in the season.
Who will replace Blake Bortles as UCF’s starting quarterback?
The Knights’ coaching staff still doesn’t have an answer to that question, but one should be coming very soon.
UCF head coach George O’Leary told reporters he wants to name his starter Sunday in order to build chemistry in the huddle. The coach has plenty of options from which to choose.
Sophomore Justin Holman is considered the favorite after entering fall camp atop the depth chart. Holman was the team’s primary backup last season and played in three games. Pete DiNovo was in the same recruiting class as Holman, but he redshirted last season and now gets his chance to compete for the starting spot. Freshman Tyler Harris is a four-star recruit with plenty of natural ability. Finally, Boise State transfer Nick Patti arrived on campus this summer after being a promising three-star recruit as part of Boise State’s 2012 recruiting class.
“Once coach makes a decision, it’ll be somewhat of relief for everyone just so we don’t have to answer that question people are always asking,” senior wide receiver J.J. Worton told the Orlando Sentinel‘s Shannon Owens-Green.
With O’Leary’s decision only a day away, the picture has started to clarify for the rest of the team.
“I think it’s starting to show itself and reveal itself,” said Charlie Taaffe, UCF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “But having said that, none of these guys have really played any significant gamer. … So now we have to see how they perform in a game. Some guys are great practice players, but can’t transfer it to the game field and vice versa. Some guys show up on game days. We’re still learning. You got four guys that we know very little about and that’s the way it is.”
Whichever quarterback is eventually named the starter won’t be eased into the position. The Knights open their season Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
It is that time of the year again when head coaches with vacancies at quarterback refuse to show their cards on making a final call on who will lead the offense on the field. This often happens at schools looking to replace established quarterbacks from the previous season, whether it be because the coach honestly is not sure which way to go with it or because he does not want to give the season opening opponent a hint of whom to prepare for in week one. Where UCF head coach George O’Leary falls on this subject is probably anyone’s guess, but he is not making any decisions on a starting quarterback to replace Blake Bortles anytime soon.
”I’ll let you know when I’m going to name one, it’s not a big secret,” O’Leary said, according to the Associated Press. ”I’ll let you know when I feel comfortable about somebody.
With Bortles now in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, the competition is now wide open in Orlando. Sophomore Justin Holman is the lone option with any previous playing experience, but redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, freshman Tyler Harris and redshirt sophomore and Boise State transfer Nick Patti are all going to be given a chance to win the job.
Reporters covering the Knights, defending American Athletic Conference champions, are not the only ones hounding O’Leary for an answer as camp opened up Thursday. “Everybody’s trying to get a jump on it,” O’Leary said. “My wife’s going to be the first one to know. And she’s out of the state, so good luck.”
It may be best to allow the competition play out with so much unknown about the new options, but there is a benefit to narrowing the decision down as quickly as possible. Knowing who will lead the offense during the season will give everybody on the offense a chance to develop an identity and comfort level with the quarterback. With a somewhat challenging schedule facing the Knights, getting as much taken care of early on could be a benefit in the long run.
UCF will open up the 2014 season in Ireland against Penn State in week one. The Knights topped the Nittany Lions in State College last fall, kickstarting their run to the Fiesta Bowl.