Calabrese Making Strides

Rob Calabrese was thrown into the fire last year as a true freshman and he struggled for the Knights last season. Now he has some experience under his belt and is ready to get UCF's offense back on track.

When Rob Calabrese committed to UCF, many didn't think that the two-star quarterback from East Islip H.S. in New York was going to be a factor early on in his collegiate career. After a spring in which neither projected starter Michael Greco or backup Joe Weatherford looked the part, Calabrese was given a chance.

The New York native came into to summer camp with inarguably the best arm amongst all quarterbacks, but Coach George O'Leary was reluctant to put in a true freshman at such a vital position.

"There are only so many sunrises and sunsets, we can only get him ready for so much," said O'Leary in August.

Things changed on the depth chart when Greco was ineffective and injury-plagued through several starts, and Calabrese was finally inserted into the lineup against Boston College, a team that fielded two of the nation's best defensive tackles in B.J. Raji and Ron Brace. Calabrese's first career pass went for an interception against BC and he didn't fare much better through the rest of the season, as he completed just 39 percent of his passes.

Last season was certainly not what Calabrese envisioned for his first year of collegiate football, but early in spring practice, the sophomore is showing drastic signs of improvement.

"I think I'm making good progress, but there have been a couple of plays I've messed up on where I could have hit the receiver a little earlier or just made a better pass," said Calabrese after the team's first full-length scrimmage. "That's going to happen, I just have to correct and settle down a little bit."

Through plenty of repetition on the field and a constant dedication to watching film, Calabrese has begun to adjust to the speed of the game.

Rob Calabrese (Reinhold Matay/AP)
"It's definitely slowing down some," said Calabrese. "With all the meetings, I pick it up real easy."

Calabrese's improvement has provoked some positive discussion amongst teammates, as they can see the huge strides he's made since this past summer.

"Right now, I think Rob is much better than what he was last year," said UCF receiver and former high school quarterback, A.J. Guyton. "He's making better reads and is just taking what the defense gives him basically. That's what we're looking for this year."

In order for the team to rebound from a 4-8 season, a lot of pressure will be placed on Calabrese to manage the game better and become more efficient. Early on this spring, O'Leary has recognized the improvement.

"I think we're doing some good things out there throwing the ball," said O'leary. "I think we're better than we were last year right now. The big thing is that the quarterbacks have calmed down and are playing with a lot more poise."

Poise will be the key word for Calabrese, as he must prove that he is a leader capable of leading the offense through any scenario. It's just two weeks into the spring, but Calabrese looks like he will be that leader for years to come.

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