Knights return to practice with resolve to appeal bowl ban, new leader
Published: Friday, August 3, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 3, 2012 12:08
The Knights are back on the gridiron after a drama-filled offseason.
In his first true press conference after the NCAA banned UCF from postseason play, head coach George O'Leary openly expressed his thoughts on the bowl ban.
"The sanctions are what they are, the one sanction that we felt needed to be addressed was again obviously the bowl season ban," O'Leary said. "I think football doesn't fall under the categories of most of the reasons of the postseason ban."
UCF received sanctions for major recruiting violations, and was informed Nov. 10 of the specific allegations.
"I don't think kids should be punished for what happened because they had nothing to do with it," O'Leary said. "I'm always going to fight for our football team and fight for the player that deserves any rewards that a good season will give them."
Former Athletic Director Keith Tribble and assistant football coach David Kelly resigned due to the allegations. Men's basketball coach Donnie Jones was suspended for three conference games without pay. The men's basketball program received a similar postseason ban and they are not likely to appeal.
On the field
Blake Bortles has been given every opportunity to become the unquestioned starting quarterback of the Knights, and by all accounts he has taken full advantage.
"Blake was born to play quarterback. He has the size, the arm and he has progressed a lot," redshirt senior tailback Brynn Harvey said.
The talented redshirt sophomore quarterback had a solid spring season but struggled with consistency in practice.
"This offseason I tried to work on mental stuff, watching film with Rob [Calabrese] and some of the other guys just trying to decide where the right reads are and just try to develop mentally," Bortles said.
Last season, Bortles played in all but two games, passing for six touchdowns and three interceptions on a completion percentage of 68.2.
With what some say is the toughest Knights schedule in recent memory, Bortles is confident in his team's ability to overcome the adversity.
"Our goal is always as a team to win a conference championship. To get more specific our goal is to win every game we play," Bortles said.
Throughout the spring season UCF was looking for a backup to push Bortles. After Jeff Godfrey left the program, the Knights turned to former quarterback-turned-receiver Calabrese to mentor the sophomore. Now Calabrese is back at wide receiver and Tyler Gabbert is in the fold at quarterback pushing Bortles. Gabbert, who is also a redshirt sophomore, previously played at Missouri.
O'Leary hinted that there is a Wild-Knight package in place for both Calabrese and Godfrey. The Wild-Knight package is an adaptation of the Wildcat offense that utilizes a mobile quarterback for both passing and rushing.
O'Leary doesn't see any freshmen cracking into rotation just yet, but said they will have plenty of chances to be seen.
Redshirt junior Victor Gray has transitioned from defensive tackle to defensive end, though he will likely see time at both positions this season.