By: Kevin Ruane
With Blake Bortles off the roster and preparing for the NFL Draft, the Fiesta Bowl champions must address a gaping void at quarterback. Although it will be difficult to replace the AAC Offensive Player of the Year, the Knights have a plethora of quarterbacks fighting to take the season’s first snap against Penn State in Dublin, Ireland.
Coach George O’Leary has made it known that Bortles’ spot is up for grabs, and he’ll name a quarterback after the spring season. The three candidates are freshman Tyler Harris, redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, and sophomore Justin Holman. Boise State transfer Nick Patti, who will be a redshirt sophomore, could also be in the hunt if the NCAA allows it. Patti will not be a UCF student until summer. This means Patti will not be able to play this year unless a hardship waiver is granted by the NCAA.
The only candidate that has seen the field for UCF is Justin Holman. In three games, the 6-foot-4 sophomore threw for 75 yards completing 9-of-14 passes with a touchdown and an interception. Holman is from Snellville, Georgia and came out of Stephenson High School as a three star recruit. Holman is a dual-threat quarterback with a skill set similar to Jeff Godfrey. Even though he is the only quarterback with game experience, O’Leary has stated there is no frontrunner.
The next candidate is Pete DiNovo, the redshirt freshman from Tarpon Springs, Florida. DiNovo stands at 6-foot-1 and is a pro-style quarterback. Like Holman, DiNovo recieved a three star recruit rating. In high school, DiNovo set two Pinellas County records throwing 6,733 yards and 59 touchdowns in his career at East Lake High School. Since DiNovo was redshirted last season, he was on the Scout Team and was awarded Scout Team Player of the Year.
Most recently added to the mix was Tyler Harris. Harris is a pro-style quarterback and – like Bortles – has a large 6-foot-4 frame. Harris, who originally committed to SMU, is also a three star recruit, but ESPN rated him as the number 12 pocket passer in the Class of 2014. Harris is known for his strong arm throwing for 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns, both school records.
Hopefully, Nick Patti will be able to compete for the quarterback job. Even if he doesn’t get the job, he only makes the competition more intense. Patti was redshirted his first year at Boise State and completed 8-of-11 passes for 63 yards this past season. The Orlando native set several records at football powerhouse Dr. Phillips. In his high school career, Patti threw 5,701 yards, 66 touchdowns, and made 374 completions, all school records.
All of these statistics mean nothing to George O’Leary. Whoever comes out to compete and performs this spring will win the starting quarterback job. Regardless of who wins the job, the starting quarterback will still have a lot to learn and has huge shoes to fill left by Blake Bortles.