Jan. 17, 2012
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Football is never far from fans minds in Florida - not even in the dead of a 70-degree winter. So with football still fresh on the brain for most in Florida, and more specifically UCF, we're going to take a peek ahead to spring drills and next season with the Knights' football team.
Over the course of the next few weeks until spring drills begin, we will be highlighting a returning UCF player and what fans can expect next season.
UCF head coach George O'Leary is hard at work on adding some new talent to the roster through recruiting. But the veteran coach is also excited about the core of returning talent to next year's squad and feels the Knights have the pieces in place to potentially author another special season.
Here is a closer look at one of the key players returning for next season for the Knights:
NAME: Blake Bortles
HEIGHT, WEIGHT, CLASS: 6-4, 223, redshirt sophomore
2011 STATS: The native of nearby Oviedo showed signs of star potential last season while sharing snaps with then starter Jeff Godfrey. Bortles showed steady improvement as the season went along. Playing in parts of 10 games, he completed 75 of 110 passes (68.2 percent) for 958 yards and six touchdowns. His efficiency rating of 153.9 was in line with that of Godfrey in 2010 when he finished second in the nation among all freshman quarterbacks with an efficiency rating of 154.3.
BEST MOMENT: Bortles came on in relief in the Southern Miss game and proceeded to lead the Knights up and down the field repeatedly. He hit on 24 of 34 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. His 13-yard pass to Ronnie Weaver put the Knights ahead briefly in the fourth quarter. Then, on the game's final play of regulation, Bortles threw a strike to fellow redshirt freshman wide out J.J. Worton for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Bortles' two-point pass for the win was batted down, but still his performance made it clear he had star potential.
WHAT LIES AHEAD: With Godfrey having left the team and planning to transfer to a community college, Bortles looks to be the quarterback of the future for the Knights. Head coach George O'Leary likes that Bortles was prepared when called upon - such as the BYU and UAB games - and that he moves the offense efficiently. He threw just three interceptions in 110 pass attempts, so he is careful with the ball and very accurate. And he showed a willingness to attack down the field with the deep pass - something the Knights' offense badly needed last season. The combination of Bortles to young receivers Josh Reese, Rannell Hall and Worton could give the Knights a dynamic passing game for several years to come.
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.