Spring Football Preview: Is Calabrese Ready?

Spring football begins for UCF in the beginning of March. With less than a month away, there are many intriguing story lines to pay attention to this off-season. InsideKnights.com begins its "What to Look for" Spring football preview by taking a look at perhaps the most pressing position on the team…quarterback.

Rob Calabrese's collegiate career got off to a forgettable start. The freshman quarterback took his first snap in a game against Boston College. With the Knights inside the red zone, Calabrese dropped back in the pocket and stared down his receiver, who ran a curl pattern to the far-right side of the field. The true frosh let his pass rip, only for it to be picked by a cornerback who saw the play developing from the get go.

That play exemplified the true freshman's first season at UCF, as Calabrese was one of three quarterbacks that participated in the nation's worst offense.

The Knights might have ranked dead last in the FBS in total offense, but there were spurts of success sprinkled through the season. Calabrese was impressive at times for the Knights, as he displayed some serious velocity and accuracy on passes when he was cool and collected.

Unfortunately, Calabrese struggled when he was under pressure or after he took a big hit. These traits are not uncommon amongst young quarterbacks and the fact that Calabrese had zero collegiate experience while also being surrounded by an inexperienced and injury-battered offense certainly didn't help.

During the time George O'Leary has been at UCF, the Knights have not seen an overly impressive quarterback. Kyle Israel did a solid job at managing games, but that's the best UCF fans have seen.

That being said, there is some good news, and that news is that Calabrese can only improve. That's not a negative shot at the New York native; he literally can only get better. Calabrese has all the physical tools to succeed and has displayed enough poise for O'Leary to coin his own term; "fieldmanship." The true freshman was frazzled plenty of times last year but considering the lack of consistent help around him, Calabrese was fairly impressive when others helped him out.

Calabrese will have some luxuries this spring that he was not afforded as a true freshman. For one, he will actually get time to develop chemistry with receivers, something he wasn't able to do in his brief time with the team over the summer. Calabrese will also get the same chance to learn the playbook as Joe Weatherford, who was red-shirted as a true freshman and had time to learn Tim Salem's playbook.

With the accomplished Charlie Taaffe at the helm now as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, Calabrese will be given every opportunity to succeed starting this spring. Throw in a healthy Rocky Ross and Corey Rabazinski, and a potentially more talented offensive line, and Calabrese should be in a better position than last year.

Last season might have been harsh on Calabrese, but he has experienced and hopefully now has gotten the serious growing pains out of the way early on. He has displayed good mechanics in limited action and should develop his somewhat sound pocket presence with experience. It remains to be seen how much Calabrese will actually improve, but it will seeing how he performs will certainly warrant keeping a close eye on this spring.

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