Bortles’ progression plays key role in team’s success
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 21, 2012 15:10
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles is gaining momentum.
Coming off a four-game home stand, Bortles has made strides, playing better statistically now than he did in his first two career starts.
In the four-game home stand, Bortles completed 68.3 percent of his passes, throwing five touchdowns and only one interception.
More importantly, the Knights (4-2) are 3-1 in the past four games and the team, along with its young quarterback, is trending upward.
“I think he is making a lot of plays, taking a bad play and making a good play out of it,” head coach George O’Leary said.
Bortles’ growth is measured by his coaches through decision making. He is throwing the ball away when there is no play and he is tucking the ball and running for yards when no one is open, as evidenced by his 62-yard outburst on six carries against East Carolina, mostly on scrambling.
“He has been starting to handle the pressure that we are seeing better each game,” O’Leary said.
Bortles’ footwork appears to be more confident, and his patience is apparent in his increased production.
When UCF played Southern Miss on Saturday, on fourth and 2, O’Leary and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe put the ball in Bortles’ hands.
Against a five-man rush, Bortles hung in the pocket, scanning the left side of the field. After holding the ball for nearly four seconds, Bortles came back to redshirt sophomore J.J. Worton cutting across the middle to the right side for a 44-yard gain.
One of the most important things Bortles is doing, being a young quarterback, is learning from his mistakes. Early in the season, O’Leary noted that that the redshirt sophomore was having problems staring down his receivers, and it was easy for defenses to key in on who he was going to target.
The 44-yard completion to Worton magnified all of Bortles’ improvements.
Worton was at least Bortles’ third option on the play. Bortles looked deep left, then short left and then came back to Worton over the middle. It’s unclear whether Bortles would have made that play a month ago.
In three consecutive games, Bortles has set a new career high in passing yards. Against East Carolina, not only did Bortles set his career high in passing yards, but also in rushing yards.
“I think he is still young and I think there is still a learning process there,” O’Leary said.
It’s easy to forget that despite his playing time last season, Bortles has only six career starts, all coming this season.
In their four games on this home stand, the Knights are averaging 31.75 points per game. More responsibility has been placed in the hands of the quarterback, and the quarterback has responded.
The next challenge for Bortles is the Memphis Tigers, a team allowing 257 yards per game and that allowed five touchdowns in its last outing.