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UCF's Blake Bortles is state of Florida's top college quarterback

While UF's Jeff Driskel and UM's Stephen Morris are strong competitors, Bortles has posted stronger numbers

Matt Murschel

College Insider

12:46 PM EDT, August 4, 2013

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Blake Bortles made his way over to meet with reporters after UCF's first preseason camp practice, carrying himself with far more confidence than he did when he first became a Knight in 2010.

Bortles, a redshirt junior, is set to begin his second season as the team's starting quarterback after putting together one of the best season's in school history. He's seen and done enough in that short period of time to earn the respect of both his teammates and coaches.

Yet most in the state may not realize Bortles is the best quarterback in Florida heading into this upcoming season.

His counterparts across the Sunshine State may disagree, but no quarterback is playing at quite at the same level as Bortles right now.

Last season, he led UCF to 10 wins and a spot in a postseason bowl for only the fifth time in the program's history. Along the way, the Oviedo High product became the first UCF quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards since Ryan Schneider in 2002.

He finished with a higher quarterback rating — 144.48 — than Florida's Jeff Driskel (132.2) and Miami's Stephen Morris (138.1).

When the Knights kick off the season against Akron Aug. 29, he will enter the game riding a streak of 174 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.

Detractors may be quick to point out that Bortles put up big numbers against weak opponents, but UCF played six teams with winning records last season. The list includes Ohio State, which went undefeated.

"He's a 6-5, 235-pound athlete who can throw it," UCF coach George O'Leary said of Bortles following his team's first fall practice last week in Orlando. ". . . He doesn't panic and he has the one ingredient that you really can't coach and that's he can take a bad play and make a good play out of it."

"That's what you look for in a quarterback."

O'Leary has no doubt Bortles deserves national recognition for his play.

"It's not just this state; there are a lot of states that he's probably a top quarterback," he said.

O'Leary may be right.

Bortles recently found himself on the watch lists for the Manning and Davey O'Brien awards, which honor the country's top signal callers, alongside Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, AJ McCarron and Morris.

He was also listed as a candidate for the Maxwell Award, which goes to the top collegiate player in the country. Driskel and Morris joined him on the list.

Despite modest preseason praise, Bortles isn't sold on being called the best in the state.

"I don't care what other people say," he said. "I play to the best of my ability and try and help this team win football games."

Bortles has long been measured against Driskel.

Both quarterbacks grew up playing high-school football in Oviedo, with Bortles playing for Oviedo High and Driskel playing for Hagerty High. Both have gone on to lead their respective college programs to success on the football field.

"I think it's unique to have two kids who are both the same size who do a lot of the same things," O'Leary said. "I think Oviedo needs to be proud of both individuals.

"I think they both have a chance to be outstanding college quarterbacks and possibly a bright future playing on Sundays."

Who does O'Leary really think is the best quarterback from Oviedo?

"I'm just happy that I have Blake Bortles," O'Leary said with a smile. "I'll just leave it that way."

mmurschel@tribune.com

USF adhering to NFL bag policy

Fans looking to attend USF football games this season at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium should be aware the school plans to adhere to the NFL's new bag policy. Under the new rule, fans will be allowed to carry in no more than one approved clear bag (not to exceed 12 inches x 6 inches x 12 inches) and up to one small clutch-style bag (not to exceed 4.5 inches x 6.5 inches). Visit GoUSFBulls.com for more details.

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There will be 24 new additions to the College Football Hall of Fame. The National Football Foundation announced that the 2013 Enshrinement Ceremony will be Aug. 28 at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in Atlanta. This is the first time Atlanta will host the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The hall is moving from South Bend, Ind., to a new 94,256-square-foot home in the heart of Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. Tickets, which are priced at $200, can be purchased at CFBHall.com/enshrinement or by calling 404-586-1906.

Pac-12 to debut 'The Drive'

The Pac-12 Network announced it will begin a 14-part documentary series that will give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the Arizona State and California football programs as they maneuver through the 2013 season. The program, entitled The Drive, sounds like a collegiate version of HBO's Hard Knocks, with camera crews following the teams through practices, game days, road trips and life off the football field. The first episode will debut on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. with a one-hour special followed by 13 half-hour episodes each week.

Sentinel's preseason CFB poll

We've reached the top 25 in our College Football Countdown as we continue to rank all 125 FBS teams in the country, with a new one debuting each day. Go to Orlandosentinel.com/collegegridiron to find out where your team is ranked.

On the Web

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