A recent film session took a different turn for newly named UCF starting quarterback Pete DiNovo.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe and graduate assistant Rob Calabrese sat the redshirt freshman down and showed him a different kind of game film — film that wouldn't ordinarily be used when training a young QB to take over a big role. It wasn't film of DiNovo or any of his teammates, current plays or plans — it was of his predecessor. They showed DiNovo video from No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles' first scrimmage at UCF back when the Fiesta Bowl MVP was a redshirt freshman.
"His first play, we ran a play to the right. The fullback was Billy Giovanetti and he was blocking on the linebacker, and [Latavius Murray] was the running back," Taaffe recalled. "Blake opened it up and gave it to the fullback. Billy was the most surprised guy on the field."
The first-round draft pick's gaffe served as one of the first of many lessons DiNovo will likely learn as a starting quarterback: Learn from your mistakes.
Facing an experienced defense every day in practice, which was one of the 25 best-scoring units in 2013, would be a challenge for any quarterback. The ability to cut his teeth against such a strong unit day in and day out could prove valuable when he takes the field for his first start against Penn State Aug. 30.
"You've got to understand, he's a freshman and is going to make mistakes," Taaffe said. "But we need a guy to manage and run the offense and minimize the errors, and that is going to give us a chance to be successful. He's been the most consistent doing that over a long period of time."
As a first-year starter , DiNovo will need to gain a voice on the team. A quarterback's presence in the huddle is not only necessary for communicating plays, but also for calming nerves and rallying the group toward a collective goal. That's one of the things teammates raved about when talking about Bortles' coolness in the huddle, and what they say allowed him to lead UCF to close victories.
DiNovo now must continue to develop his voice.
"Pete takes control of the huddle," said Torrian Wilson, the man poised to protect DiNovo's blind side. "If someone is talking, he'll tell them to 'shut up' or 'be quiet.' That's what we want as a leader and as a quarterback."
Away from the field, the 20-year-old quarterback is a jokester — at least that's what Wilson says.
"Pete is a kidder," Wilson said. "All he does is kid around. He lightens up the mood. When everyone is feeling down or tired, Pete is just going to kid around and play around and try to put a smile on everybody's face."
But, ultimately, it was the consistency and work ethic that secured his starting job. He entered the spring trailing sophomore Justin Holman on the depth chart. Entering the summer, he still trailed Holman.
The work in the off-season is displayed simply by watching the ball come out of his hand, as the East Lake alumnus has an noticeable zip on the ball that wasn't there in April.
J.J. Worton noticed it.
"Just from over summer you can tell he's in the weight room working hard," Worton said. "Now coming out here and throwing that far-side comeback, you can tell that he's been working on following through with his step and trusting himself."
The last time DiNovo took the field as a starter was during the 2012 regional final against Doctor Phillips High School. Then at East Lake, DiNovo amassed 318 yards and three touchdowns in a loss.
Penn State will provide a new challenge for the inexperienced quarterback, but his offensive coordinator is in his corner.
"I trust him," Taaffe said. "And he's a winner."
Hometown: Tarpon Springs
High School: East Lake
Class: Redshirt freshman