The wait is over — the UCF Knights have announced a successor to current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.
On Sunday, Knights head coach George O’Leary named Pete DiNovo as the No. 1 quarterback on UCF’s depth chart, noting that he had still not decided on who would be DiNovo’s backup. That competition has been narrowed down to Justin Holman and Dr. Phillips alumnus Nick Patti, a transfer to the Knights from Boise State in the offseason.
DiNovo is a redshirt freshman from Tarpon Springs, meaning that the replacement for the greatest quarterback in the program’s history has yet to take a snap in a real college football game.
Still, O’Leary said that DiNovo separated himself from the pack in the four-way competition (true freshman Tyler Harris also competed for the job) through consistency and managing the team in the huddle.
"From a management standpoint, from the sideline to the field, consistency is what I was looking for,” O’Leary said in a release. “I thought Pete elevated himself this last week.”
DiNovo was the quarterback for the scout team last year for the Knights, during a season that saw the program finish 12-1 and ranked 10th in the nation.
Though Patti is still in the running for the backup job, Holman figures to be a heavy-favorite as he was likely the second choice behind DiNovo for the starting job. Holman saw game action last season for the Knights, mostly doing mop-up work in blowouts, and has been familiar with offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe’s offense for longer.
Patti, a redshirt sophomore who transferred during the offseason and was only allowed to play immediately for UCF through a special exemption by the NCAA, has not had much time to master the Knights’ playbook, putting him at a significant disadvantage in the competition.
Sunday’s practice also saw O’Leary continue to refute a report from Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman that broke on Saturday night suggesting that O’Leary was considering stepping down and retiring from his position atop UCF’s program — as soon as following the Knights’ opener against Penn State in Ireland.
Feldman’s report referenced “multiple sources” and suggested that O’Leary would step down, perhaps as soon as the team’s return from Ireland, and hand off the reins to Brent Key.
Key is UCF’s associated head coach of offense and recruiting coordinator and is considered an up-and-coming candidate for a head coaching job (Key was offered, and turned down, a job from Alabama-Birmingham in the offseason, again according to Feldman’s report). That Key might potentially be a “coach-in-waiting” of sorts, similar to what Florida State had with Jimbo Fisher under then-coach Bobby Bowden, is not necessarily a new rumor within circles close to the program, although the time frame for the potential “hand-off” suggested by the report is.
O’Leary told the Orlando Sentinel and CBS Sports on Saturday night that there was no substance to the reports and then reiterated that point to reporters who attended UCF’s practice on Sunday. According to CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler’s follow-up report, O’Leary — who is 68 years old — says that he doesn’t want to be coaching too much longer, but that he also has every intention of finishing this season.