UCF coach not worried about naming starting QB
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The only thing that UCF’s players want lingering from the best season in school history is the hunger it took to produce it.
The Knights reported for preseason camp Thursday after going 12-1 with a Fiesta Bowl win last season. With a month to prepare for the Aug. 30 season opener in Ireland against Penn State, they also understand there is little time to dwell on the past.
“Coach told us last night when we got in our meeting that last season is over with,” Knights senior linebacker Terrance Plummer said. “If we want to be able to enjoy that type of success again, then we have to work hard like we did last year. That all started in camp, it all starts the first day and it carries on.
“So I hope guys don’t have that mindset (thinking about last season) — I know I don’t.”
The Knights return nine starters on defense and six on offense, but were still picked to finish second in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll behind Cincinnati. They were also left a few slots out of the Top 25 in the preseason USA Today coaches’ poll released on Thursday.
It’s not a glaring omission, considering the departures UCF did have were at key positions.
The biggest hole to fill will be at quarterback and running back, following the departure of Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson to the NFL.
At running back that task doesn’t appear to be too daunting with the confidence coaching staff already has shown in sophomore Will Stanback, who was second-team all-conference as a freshman.
But at quarterback Bortles left behind a group of potential-filled, but inexperienced candidates to succeed him.
Knights coach George O’Leary originally planned to name his successor by the end of the spring season, but in the end decided to keep the competition open. He reiterated on Thursday he remains in no rush.
“I’ll let you know when I’m going to name one, it’s not a big secret,” O’Leary said. “I’ll let you know when I feel comfortable about somebody. Everybody’s trying to get a jump on it. My wife’s going to be the first one to know. And she’s out of the state, so good luck.”
Sophomore Justin Holman is the only player on the Knights roster to get any game snaps last season, having appeared in three games. But the competition is wide-open.
Others vying to be Bortles replacement are redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, freshman Tyler Harris, and local high school-product Nick Patti, a redshirt sophomore back in Florida after transferring from Boise State.
Senior offensive lineman Torrian Wilson said though it was just Day 1, he was encouraged by what he saw out of all four candidates.
“All of them are fighting. All of them are competing,” Wilson said. “It’s great competition so far for the first day. They all want to play. So they all have that fight in them so far.
He said he’s not picking any favorites.
“Each quarterback brings something different to the table,” Wilson said. “So whichever quarterback steps into the huddle the first game, I’m going to be confident that he knows what to do and he’ll help us win.”
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