Last summer, it took until mid-August for the Knights to determine who their starting quarterback would be for the 2008 season. The man who won the job was the athletic southpaw, Michael Greco. However, Greco didn’t necessarily impress the coaching staff and before long, the team was being guided by true freshman Rob Calabrese.
Despite being adamant that the team would not rotate quarterbacks, O’Leary was not able to afford that luxury as inconsistent play forced the coach to go with three starters throughout the season. While there will still be competition this summer for who earns the opening day nod, O’Leary has made it abundantly clear that the job is now Calabrese’s to lose.
“I think it’s Rob Calabrese’s job coming in as the number one quarterback,” said O’Leary.
The New York native struggled after coming in mid-way through the season, finishing the year with a sub 40 percent completion percentage and was sacked 22 times. Calabrese did however manage to toss seven touchdowns to just five interceptions.
Being thrown into the fire wasn’t easy for Calabrese or the team, but taking his lumps should pay dividends in 2009. In the spring, Calabrese was efficient, completing over 60 percent of his passes and he displayed the athleticism to run Charlie Taaffe’s offense.
“I thought the most improved player in the spring offensively was Rob Calabrese, the quarterback,” said O’Leary. “I think the light came on. Playing as a true freshman is very difficult, but I thought I saw a lot of carryover from the fall as far as retention.”
While the job is Calabrese’s to lose and he has a good jump start over everyone else, nothing will be guaranteed. Joe Weatherford, a redshirt sophomore, has been a tantalizing tease, being absolutely dynamic at times while inaccurate at others. Towards the end of spring, Weatherford might have had something click, as he chucked the ball all over the field with excellent accuracy and velocity.
Calabrese will also have to fend off transfer Brett Hodges, a good game manager from Wake Forest.
“When I spoke to Brett (Hodges) I told him I was looking for some stability at the quarterback position and for him coming in as a fifth-year guy, that he’d have every opportunity to see what he could do for us and I haven’t changed that posture,” said O’Leary.
Nico Flores, a true freshman with a ton of potential, will also be here during the summer to offer even more competition.
Things will certainly heat up this summer. Calabrese has the job for now and if he continues to progress like he did during the spring, he will be the starter when the season begins as well. He will have to be consistent though, because there is enough talent nipping at his heels. At the very worst, the Knights will have a much healthier competition at quarterback this summer than they did last year, when the job was won by default.