Nov. 26, 2011
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - With UCF quarterbacks Jeff Godfrey and Blake Bortles closing the 2011 season in impressive fashion Friday night both will head into the offseason in a battle for playing time next season.
And head coach George O'Leary likes it that way.
Bortles, a redshirt freshman, passed for 158 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in UCF's 31-14 rout of UTEP Friday night at Bright House Networks Stadium. Godfrey, a sophomore, hit on five of six throws and directed a touchdown drive in the first quarter.
O'Leary said he has no qualms about heading into the offseason and later onto spring practice with two players deserving snaps at quarterback. He feels that the competition at the position will drive the two players through the offseason.
``It's not usual to have two guys who have to play. We try to make a big deal about it, but it's not,'' O'Leary said. ``Every college Division I has a first string and a second-string guy, but the other guy had better be ready to play because they are a (twisted) ankle away. I don't get overly concerned if someone's feelings are hurt one way or the other. You have to deal with that at this level and you have to compete. I wish we had the same competition at every position.''
For the season, Godfrey started all 12 games, completed 69 percent of his passes and threw for 1,898 yards and five touchdowns. Bortles played in 10 games, completed 68.2 percent of his throws and threw for 958 yards and six TDs.
LONG-SHOT LONG-SNAPPER: One of UCF's most overlooked players, long-snapper Charley Hughlett, concluded his UCF career with his work Friday on the field goal and punting teams. But Hughlett hopes to still be snapping footballs for years to come.
Hughlett has dreams of being a long-snapper in the NFL, and he's done plenty of research about the position. He certainly has the credentials to be under consideration, earning All-C-USA Freshman honors four seasons ago and second-team All-C-USA honors last year. This season, Hughlett did not have a poor snap all season.
``I'm definitely going to try to continue my career. Dental school has always been an option for me academically, but it's a back-up plan (because of snapping),'' said Hughlett, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound Tampa native. ``I think (the NFL) is a possibility for myself. I'm definitely going to try as hard as possible to do that and we'll see where it goes. ... There's not a lot of turnover with long-snappers in the NFL with a lot of guys who have been there 13 or 14 years. But there are usually about two or three long-snappers who make it as rookies. Hopefully I can be one of those two or three.''
SENIOR SURPRISES: Friday's game was the final one at UCF for fifth-year seniors Darius Nall and Ronnie Weaver. Few expected either of them to make it this far considering what they had to overcome during their careers.
Nall, an All-C-USA Freshman team pick in 2007, missed the entire 2008 season after doctors discovered a baseball-sized tumor attached to his lung. He needed surgery, radiation and therapy to return to football. Friday was his 49th career game and he finished with 16 career sacks after dropping UTEP quarterback Carson Meger in the second quarter.
``Fighting through what I did made me better as a person. It has taught me how I have to always work hard for whatever I get,'' Nall said. ``I know now that you never know when your last chance is going to come. I've never used (the illness) as an excuse. I wanted to leave UCF with a good mark.''
When Weaver left Vero Beach High School, there were no scholarship offers awaiting him so he ventured to UCF as a preferred walk-on. Five years later, Weaver leaves as one of the team's most respected players and a team captain along with linebacker Josh Linam. Weaver said he's spent much of the past week reflecting on his climb as a player and his impact on the program.
``It's a blessing. I can never be thankful enough for the blessings that God has given me, awarding me with a scholarship,'' Weaver said. ``It didn't have to be me - that's the approach that I always too and made sure not to take anything for granted. I'm so lucky to have been a part of this team for five years and I'm definitely going to miss it.''
ETC: For what is believed to be the first time in school history, UCF wore all gold uniforms. The Knights dressed in gold pants and gold jerseys after wearing white pants with their black or gold jerseys all season for home games. ... UCF won the toss Friday night and had the football first. Remarkably, it's the 11th time in 12 games this season that UCF had the ball first in a game. ... UTEP entered Friday's game having never won a game in the Eastern Time Zone in its history. The Miners were 0-16-1 with the tie being a 13-13 decision at West Virginia in 1949. ... Ray Shipman, a former University of Florida basketball player turned UCF linebacker, had his finest game of the season. Playing in place of the injured Jonathan Davis, the 6-foot-5 Shipman had seven tackles and two pass breakups. ... Standout cornerback Josh Robinson had three more pass breakups, giving him 36 for his career. His 15 this season tied for the most in UCF history in a single season. And his 36 career breakups are the second most in school history. ... Strong safety Kemal Ishmael finished the season as UCF's leading tackler with 81 total stops. Clayton Geathers was second with 67 tackles, while senior middle linebacker Josh Linam recorded 66 stops, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions. ... Junior defensive end Troy Davis closed the season with his finest game, getting two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.