All Nico Ranieri wants is a fresh start and an opportunity to compete for playing time at an FBS football program.
The former Dr. Phillips quarterback will get that chance at UCF, where he will enroll as a preferred walk-on Jan. 10. He will be a redshirt junior.
Ranieri (6-2, 200), who played at Colorado State for two seasons before spending this past year at Georgia Military College, was told by UCF coach George O’Leary and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe this past week that he’ll likely be the team’s No.2 quarterback behind rising sophomore starter Blake Bortles when spring practice begins.
“They told me I’d come in as the second-team guy,” Ranieri told the Sentinel. “[O’Leary] told me I’d be getting second-team reps, I’d be getting plenty of opportunities to compete and prove to coaches that I can play at this level.”
The Knights desperately needed a quarterback following the transfer of starter Jeff Godfrey and the de-commitment of Jupiter Christian’s Kedric Bostic, who swapped UCF for Princeton earlier this month. Bortles is the only scholarship quarterback currently on UCF’s roster.
“The fact that it’s two quarterbacks right now, that I know of, going into the spring, I just saw it as an opportunity I really couldn’t pass up,” said Ranieri, who decided to transfer to UCF following last week’s visit with O’Leary.
Ranieri was named the Central Florida Player of the Year in 2008, throwing for 2,496 yards and 26 touchdowns for the 10-2 Panthers. He was courted by the Knights late in the recruiting process, receiving an offer from O’Leary and his staff during an official visit to UCF in January.
But it was too little, too late for the Knights. Ranieri had already narrowed his choices down to Colorado State and Iowa State.
He eventually settled on Colorado State, but Ranieri’s two years in Fort Collins were far from ideal. He was redshirted as a freshman and then felt he didn’t get a chance to earn playing time when starter Pete Thomas struggled in 2010.
“Things happened differently from what I was told,” Ranieri said. “Long story short, Colorado State went 6-18 and I never saw the field and was never given an opportunity.”
Once Ranieri felt that there was no benefit to staying at Colorado State, he decided to transfer to Georgia Military, where he realized he still had ambitions of playing at the FBS level again. He also wanted to stay close to home.
“It was either go D-IAA or D-II across the country, because I had opportunities to play DI-AA, but they were all across the county,” said Ranieri, who had offers from Shaw University (N.C.), North Carolina A&T and interest from Rhode Island and FAU. “With my two final years left, I really want to play Division I football. UCF, being right here at home, I didn’t think I could beat that offer anyways. I figure, if you’re happy, you’re more than likely to play your best game. With two years left, I need to bring my A-game and with my family watching, I know I’ll be able to do that.”
Ranieri said that he’ll be given a scholarship from UCF if he performs well during spring practice.
“All somebody can really do for me, all they can promise me, like Coach Taaffe told me, is an opportunity,” Ranieri said. “What I do with that or how I make the most of it is on me. The fact that they’re giving me an opportunity in such a circumstance, it seems like a very promising opportunity.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun