Replacing a great quarterback is never an easy thing to do, both for the program and for whoever steps into the starting lineup after them. The Central Florida Knights are looking to move on from the very successful Blake Bortles era and have landed on redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo to lead them. While DiNovo is still extremely green and inexperienced, the pieces are in place for the young signal caller to quickly develop into an effective leader for UCF.
DiNovo has already endeared himself to his teammates with his work ethic this offseason. Last spring, the freshman trailed sophomore Justin Holman on the depth chart and didn’t overtake him until fall camp was well underway. He closed the gap on Holman by showing consistency in his play from snap to snap while improving some of the areas where he was lacking a bit. In the spring, DiNovo lacked the confidence to throw the ball with a lot of zip. That hasn’t been an issue of late as DiNovo has carried himself with a new-found poise and strength that has helped him take control of the huddle and speed up his development.
The growing pains for DiNovo will also be helped by the supporting cast around him. UCF returns their top three pass catchers from 2013, including the explosive Breshad Perriman (20.79 yards per catch) and reliable Rannell Hall who had a team-high 57 receptions, 886 yards, and five touchdowns. The running game also looks to be a strength this season despite losing Storm Johnson to the NFL Draft thanks to the continued development of sophomore William Stanback.
But it’s not just the offensive support that will help DiNovo grow into a good quarterback this season. The Knights’ defense was one of the best in the nation last season, ranking No. 17 in points allowed. Many of their key contributors on that side of the ball are back and are testing DiNovo each and every day in practice. While it isn’t at the same intensity or pressure as it will be in live-game situations, working against a strong unit like Central Florida’s is going to help DiNovo’s game tremendously this fall.
So while he doesn’t have the experience that UCF has enjoyed under center the last few years, Pete DiNovo has shown the ability to grow into a team leader at quarterback. He has some very big shoes to fill, but DiNovo has the work ethic to take the reins for the Knights in 2014. Can he lead them back to the top of the AAC this season?