Aug. 30, 2010
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - With its largest senior class in years and returning starters at almost every position, UCF has had a preseason camp largely devoid of drama when it comes to position battles.
The exception, of course, is at the most important spot on the field - quarterback - and UCF's plan of attack at that position for Saturday's season opener against South Dakota won't be fully formulated until Thursday.
UCF head coach George O'Leary said he'll come up with a plan for how he will rotate quarterbacks Rob Calabrese and Jeff Godfrey after he meets with offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe on Thursday. The Knights will go into the 6 p.m. opener at Bright House Networks Stadium with a specific plan as to exactly when Godfrey will relieve Calabrese, the favored starter, in the game.
``I'll sit down with Charlie on Thursday and we'll say this series he's in,'' O'Leary said referring to the freshman phenom quarterback playing behind Calabrese. ``We'll determine what series that will be regardless of however Rob is playing at the time.''
Just as he did last week, O'Leary reiterated his propensity of starting the quarterback with the most experience, meaning that Calabrese will get the nod against the Coyotes. Calabrese, a junior, was a part-time starter each of the past two seasons and won the head-to-head battle with Godfrey with solid spring and fall camps. He's worked hard to improve his decision-making and touch on passes, but accuracy has been an issue at times. Still, O'Leary said that Calabrese did enough to earn the starting nod.
``There's been nothing to unseat Rob and I always tend to go with the experience at quarterback,'' O'Leary said. ``But Jeff's a good football player.''
Having 46 lettermen and 17 starters on offense, defense and special teams returning allowed the Knights to have arguably their best preseason in O'Leary's seven seasons on campus. With so much experience in tow, the Knights were able to focus more on fundamentals and repetitions instead of having to worry so much about installation. And for the most part, those returners are healthy and ready following an injury-free camp.
``We've basically come through the preseason the same way that we started without many injuries,'' O'Leary said. ``We had a good preseason, kids know where to go, there's field direction and we have a lot of experience.''
One spot where the Knights don't have a lot of experience is at tailback because of the knee injury to junior Brynn Harvey. Jonathan Davis, who ran for 71 yards against Texas last season in his only college start, will open at tailback after a stellar fall camp. He came out of the spring second on the depth chart, but became a more disciplined runner and blocker this fall to vault ahead of Brendan Kelly.
Davis, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound sophomore, closed the season strong last year and ran for 310 yards and four scores in 2009. He made major gains in the weight room over the summer, and O'Leary was pleasantly surprised with his ability to take care of the small details this preseason.
``If you look at pass protection, running and catching the ball, Jonathan is probably our most talented running back other than Brynn,'' O'Leary said. ``He really grew up and got better at the things that he needed to improve upon.''
As for the quarterback position, both Calabrese and Godfrey have a great grasp of Taaffe's system. Calabrese spent all summer on campus, working in the film room and on the field with the wide receivers. Godfrey graduated from Miami Central early so that he could go through spring drills with the Knights and he later became a favorite of the wide receivers because of his willingness to throw the deep ball.
Both will play extensively come Saturday, and time and performance ultimately will tell how the rotation executed.
``Rob Calabrese is still the (starting) quarterback, but Jeff closed the distance,'' O'Leary said. ``We're scheduled to get them both into the game.''
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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.