- Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - UCF expected to have youth under center this season following the departure of Blake Bortles to the NFL.

It turns out the Knights coaching staff is more than comfortable going with one of its youngest available options as his successor.

UCF coach George O’Leary ended preseason speculation by naming redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo as the Knights starter on Sunday, closing an extended evaluation period for four quarterbacks vying for the role in advance of the Knights Aug. 30 opener in Ireland against Penn State.

With three weeks left to prepare for his first college snap, offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe said Monday that naming DiNovo as the starter was important because “it’s helped the other players know who the guy is.”

He said DiNovo’s task now is to maintain the consistency that allowed him to separate from the most talented collection of quarterbacks he’s seen at UCF.

“Competition is a healthy thing. At the quarterback position it’s a little more delicate, because you can’t have a quarterback looking over his shoulder every time he makes a mistake,” Taaffe said. “There’s going to be mistakes. Blake even made mistakes last year. They make them on the highest level of football…The thing is to minimize mistakes. The guy that makes the least amount of errors is the guy you have to go with. And that’s kind of where Pete is right now.”

If he goes on to start against Penn State DiNovo would become the first freshman to start a season opener for the Knights since Daunte Culpepper in 1995.

Sophomore Justin Holman appeared to have the early advantage to follow Bortles as the only other quarterback to get playing time last season.

Holman and DiNovo had similar performances statistically in the Knights spring game in April, but O’Leary opted to keep the competition open heading into the summer and preseason.

In the end O’Leary said that DiNovo showed better management of the offense through the first two weeks of practice this preseason. Taaffe said that Holman’s struggles with accuracy also contributed to DiNovo getting the nod.

DiNovo “just seemed to manage the team the best with the type of team we have to have,” O’Leary told reporters. “It’s not a dead issue. But right now he’s the No. 1 quarterback and he’ll take the No. 1 reps.”

Who DiNovo’s backup is remains up in the air. Holman and Boise State transfer Nick Patti - a redshirt sophomore - are currently competing for that too be determined role, O’Leary said. True freshman Tyler Harris rounds out the depth chart.

Junior Joey Grant, who is preparing for his second year as the Knights starter at center, said he remains confident in all four quarterbacks. But he said the offensive line is already rallying behind DiNovo.

“You start to see the same face coming into the huddle and saying the play, that’s really about it from an offensive standpoint,” Grant said. “I know he gave Pete the green light. He’s been doing a tremendous job - both mentally and on the field. He’s been making all the right reads, he’s been able to do stuff to run this offense.

“He’s gotta get the ball in the hands of the people that can make plays. If we call on him to make a play, we have full confidence that he’s going to do it.”


Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/khightower



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