University of Central Florida Knights
Oviedo High School
Despite a highly impressive sophomore campaign, little was known about the Knights' signal-caller entering the 2013 season. As the campaign progressed, the Blake Bortles bandwagon continued to grow, as area scouts made it a priority to view the quarterback, as he registered one of the finest seasons in school history. He not only became just the second player in school history to produce multiple 3,000-yard annual performances, he also became the school's most "mistake-free" passer, producing an interception-to-pass attempt ratio of .213, thanks to having only 19 of 891 tosses picked off through 37 games at the helm.
Since beating out Jeff Godfrey for the starting quarterback job during 2012 preseason drills, Bortles has connected on 65.66% of his passes (585), throwing for at least 300 yards on five occasions during his final season. He generated 7,598 aerial yards, the fourth-highest total in school history, also ranking fourth with 56 touchdown tosses. Despite a frame that is more suited for being a pocket passer, he has also proven to be quite mobile, rushing for 15 more touchdowns on only 195 carries, picking up 561 yards on the ground. That output would see him compile 8,159 yards, becoming just the fourth Knight to ever amass at least 8,000 yards in total offense.
The Central Florida coaching staff was well aware of Bortles, based on his stellar prep career at local Oviedo High school. In fact, they were the first university to extend him a scholarship offer, which he quickly accepted prior to his senior season with the Lions. He would go on to complete 151-of-233 passes for 2,211 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2009. He finished his career by setting Seminole County records with 5,576 passing yards and 53 touchdowns.
Rated the state of Florida's eighth-best player, according to the Orlando Sentinel Central's Florida Top 100 list, Bortles also received third-team all-state recognition in 2008, and was twice named all-county. Prior to capturing the MVP Award at the Central Florida All-Star Game in 2009, he threw for 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns with nine interceptions while also running for 250 yards in 2008, leading the Lions to the district championship in 2007 and 2009.
Despite late efforts by Purdue, Colorado State, Kentucky, Tulane and Western Kentucky to recruit Bortles, he preferred to remain close to home, enrolling at Central Florida in 2010. He would spend that season guiding the Knights' scout team and then spent 10 games at the reserve quarterback in 2011. That year, he completed an impressive 68.18% of his passes (75-of-110) for 958 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. Showing the mobility of UCF's revered former All-American Daunte Culpepper, he also scored once on 21 rushing attempts, earning a spot on the Conference USA's All-Freshman team.
Bortles would emerge from 2012 preseason camp as the team's starting quarterback. When he received All-Conference USA honors, he would become the first UCF passer to earn postseason league honors since Central Florida joined the major college ranks as a member of the Mid-American Conference in 2002. Named the team's Most Improved Player, he would become the first Knight to ever record at least two touchdown passes in 10 games during the course of a regular season schedule. He began a string of 147 pass attempts without an interception in mid-September and when that streak was snapped, he would not have any of his final 174 throws picked off, establishing another school mark.
Bortles would conclude his sophomore season with 251 completions of 399 tosses (62.91%), 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. With 3,059 aerial yards, he became only the fifth player in UCF annals to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season, as he led Conference USA passers with an average of 7.67 yards gained per completion. He also scored eight times on 87 carries, ranking second in the league with 3,344 yards in total offense. He concluded that campaign by earning MVP honors after leading the Knights to a win over Ball State in the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl.
Bortles further advanced through the school record charts with a stellar junior season in 2013, the Knights' first year in the newly formed American Athletic Conference, as he was successful on 259-of-382 throws for 3,581 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He finished seventh in the nation by gaining an average of 9.37 yards per pass completion and finished ninth with a 168.14 pass efficiency rating. He also scored six times on the ground and collected 3,853 yards in total offense, placing seventh in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks with an average gain of 8.22 yards each time he touched the ball.
With another standout performance in the postseason, Bortles was named the Fiesta Bowl MVP. He helped the Knights upset Baylor in a 52-42 slugfest, recording his fifth 300-yard aerial performance (301) that included three touchdowns, as he also gained 93 yards with a score on eight carries. That game would be his last as a collegian, but he would do it in explosive fashion, completing his final nine pass attempts for the Knights.
Five days later, on Jan. 6, 2014, the quarterback announced that he would forgo his senior season and would join the 2014 NFL Draft class. Tailback Storm Johnson would also join his quarter-back in leaving school to play in the NFL next season. Bortles would compile a 22-5 record as a starter at Central Florida that included two wins over top-10 teams in 2013.
Bortles' leadership on the field enabled the Knights to go 7-1 in games decided by seven points or less, highlighted by a 21-point comeback in a 38-35 win over Louisville. UCF has had at least one Knight selected in the NFL Draft eight straight years. Daunte Culpepper stands as the school's highest pick when he was taken with the 11th overall selection by the Minnesota Vikings in 1999, which also is the only time a Central Florida quarterback was taken in the draft. Culpepper is also the only Knight to hear his name called in the first round as well, but most professional talent evaluators are confident that Bortles would be the next to receive that lofty draft selection.
Bortles, who had arrived at Central Florida as a virtual unknown quarterback with modest expectations, is considered a lock to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the draft. After leading the Knights to the most successful campaign in program history, he stated, "after a lot of deliberations and talking with my parents, I've decided to try and pursue my goal to playing the NFL and capture my lifelong dream," Bortles said. "I just couldn't be more proud to say I played football at UCF and it was the best four years of my life."
Bortles appeared in 37 games for the Knights, starting his final thirty contests, as he completed 585-of-891 passes (65.66%) for 7,598 yards, as his 56 touchdown tosses rank 23rd among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks…His pass completion percentage placed him 14th among active participants, while his pass efficiency rating of 153.76 ranks 13th…Was intercepted 19 times and averaged 205.35 yards in total offense per game…Scored 15 times and added 561 yards via 195 rushing attempts (2.88 ypc), as he registered 8,159 yards in total offense (26th among active players) while participating in 1,086 plays, an average of 7.51 yards per attempt and 220.51 yards per game…Responsible for 71 touchdowns, as he also caught one pass for a 3-yard loss and recorded a pair of solo tackles.