Weatherford Rising

2008 was a nightmare (not Knightmare) season for the UCF offense. Many projected the team would struggle when the nation's leading rusher, Kevin Smith left early for the NFL, but few thought they would finish 119th out of 119 teams in total offense. Each of the three quarterbacks the team used struggled mightily, and now opening day starter Michael Greco has converted to safety.

That leaves a quarterback competition between sophomores Rob Calabrese and Joe Weatherford.

Although Calabrese certainly saw more action as a freshman than Weatherford, both are starting on an even playing field as the Knights have a new offensive coordinator in Charlie Taaffe. Taaffe is knows as a developer of quarterbacks, as one of his pupils, Shaun Hill is the current starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Taaffe's schemes and philosophies are different from what the Knights had a year ago.

"He's a good guy," sophomore quarterback Joe Weatherford said of Taaffe. "He's a little bit more laid back than George (Godsey) was last year. He's getting us through this and we're all improving."

Improvement is the key this season for the Knights offense, and let's face it—when you finish dead last in the nation in offense, there's only one way to go.

Joe Weatherford has seemed to respond to coach Taaffe's new system as Weatherford has followed a poor start of spring ball to look like the most impressive quarterback over the past week. Perhaps a greater emphasis on taking snaps from the shotgun is part of the reason for his recent success.

"I like working out of the shotgun better," Weatherford told Inside Knights. "You have a better feel for everything, you get your angles and stuff. You do have to get under center too; I don't have a problem with it."

Weatherford has the highest upside of any of the Knights quarterbacks, as he can absolutely make all the throws required of a Division I quarterback. Unfortunately, when he's going bad, he's been pretty bad. Still, the stretch of three very good practices in a row should give hope that he can develop into the quarterback that Coach O'Leary wants him to be.

O'Leary gave this assessment of Weatherford following Saturday's scrimmage—

"I tried putting him with the ones to give him a chance to see what's going on there and I think his problems are more pre-read, more mental mistakes, checks and stuff. That's what his problems were last year. That's what he has to work at getting better—pre-snap stuff, the reads, the calls, audibles, which way you take it. I think his throwing is fine and he's throwing the ball where it's supposed to go."

To the naked eye, Weatherford may not appear as effective as he actually is due to his wide receivers not having the best hands. Still, Weatherford has confidence in his men.

"It's part of the game," Weatherford said of the drops. "It's frustrating, but it's my job as a quarterback to keep my poise all the time. I just have to look ahead to the next play."

Each of the quarterbacks have appeared to have some of their growth stunted due to the lack of talent around him.

"We had five receivers out, but there was way too many dropped balls I thought," Coach O'Leary said. "The consistency is dictated by inconsistency and offensive line play. Consistency is the key and I think they'll continue to get better and better."

Joe Weatherford is making it far from a sure thing that incumbent quarterback Rob Calabrese will be the opening day starter, as he is getting more comfortable with the offense and is showing great physical skills. If Joe can continue to improve his mental aspects, he can win the starting job and has the potential to be the best UCF quarterback this millennium.

"It's night and day," Weatherford said when asked about his level of play now compared to a year ago. "Confidence is a huge part about it, I'm just staying more relaxed and I'm just trying to not make any mistakes, and moving the ball is what my job is."

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