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September 10, 2009

Taaffe has confidence in Calabrese

UCF starting quarterback Rob Calabrese watched from the sidelines as Brett Hodges led the offense in the second half last weekend against Samford, but that doesn't mean a change is in the works. Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe has complete confidence that Calabrese can get the job done, though the plan remains to play both at Southern Miss.

Taaffe spoke to UCFSports.com and The Orlando Sentinel's Iliana Limón following Wednesday's practice about several offensive topics, primarily the play of the two quarterbacks.

Click here for the audio of this interview with Coach Taaffe

Last week both quarterbacks got in there. Brett Hodges played more than Rob Calabrese ended up playing. Coach said yesterday that's the plan. Is it the same game plan going into Southern Miss? Start Calabrese and at some point put in Hodges?

"We intended to play, in fact I told both Rob and Brett together the week prior to the first game that Brett would play probably in the first half at some point. I think people read into that obviously. We're trying a couple of things. One, Rob's still in developmental stages and the only way you're going to get better is by playing. Okay. Brett came in here. He's older, more mature. He's played a lot of football, so he brings more of a calming presence and poise into the mix.

"I just felt at that time in the game, it was time to insert Brett to see what could happen. And obviously he did a nice job and calmed things down and got us in the end zone.

"So beyond that, it's going to say the same. We're going to continue to play Rob, like I said, the only way you're going to develop. If I didn't see the potential he has on the practice field, then you might consider another direction. But Rob can do it, he can play. He just has to take that next step, which is to transfer it to the game field and to the stadium. So he's still young and early in his career, and the only way he's going to get better is playing. So we'll do that, we'll play Brett and see how it goes.

"I think Rob in some ways was a victim on Saturday night. The first series, he threw a beautiful pass to Brian Watters and we had the third-down conversion made and we dropped the ball. He makes a great read, throws a great ball to Rocky (Ross) going into the score inside the 5-yard line and we turn it over.

"You know those things happened. Obviously there were a couple of plays where the decision-making wasn't as sharp, so that's why we made the change. Brett went in there and did what we hoped he would do. But we still want to continue to develop Rob, so he's going to play and we'll play Brett again and see how it goes.

What's the biggest hurdle right now for a young guy like Rob and getting confidence out there? Coach O'Leary said he thought he puts too much on his shoulders out there. Is he thinking too much sometimes out there?

"Rob's a guy, his personality - one, he's very competitive. I've said before, he kind of plays quarterback almost with a linebacker mentality. He's pretty hard on himself. He's probably his own worst critic. Nobody's ever going to be perfect. He needs to learn that and understand that. As a quarterback, you've got to have a very short memory, good or bad. Good play, you've got to put behind you. Bad play, you've got to put behind you. You can't let a bad play turn into a bad series. I think he's still struggling with that a little bit and then just being comfortable in a game situation.

"So hopefully he can work through that very soon. I told him that's the last hurdle you have to overcome to become a really good quarterback. When that happens, he'll be fine. So we're going to keep letting him play and see if he can work through that. At the same time, our first responsibility is to win the game and put the guys in there that give us our best chance to win. If Rob appears to be struggling a little bit, we'll put in Brett. We're going to play Brett anyway. They knew that going in and that's the way we'll continue to do it."

Evaluate Brett's first game as a Knight. Was it what you expected with a little more poise? Coach O'Leary referenced in particular the two-point conversion play where he didn't panic and found the open guy late.

"He played with a lot of poise the entire game. I would have expected that from him. What I was a little concerned with him on the practice field, sometimes he's slow going through his read progressions, which tells me not totally sharp on the playbook yet. He's only done this and this terminology for the preseason period, so he's still learning the terminology. But he did bring a nice calming presence to the offense. His decision-making was very good and made a lot clutch throws, particularly that two-point play which was huge in the game at that point."

Coach O'Leary said you kept things close to the vest a little bit against Samford. Is that a fair assessment?

"You know, again, it's a first game too. And you've got a lot of young guys playing, playing their first or early in their careers. I just wanted to make sure we'd get lined up and not beat ourselves with execution. You know, if you put a lot of the shifts and motion and all that, if you have guys not lining up right and making mistakes, then you start the self-defeating thing. I didn't want to put our offense in that position in this first game. We'll continue to add and do things a little differently as the season goes along. Obviously we're going into a big conference game this week, so we've got to have guns blasting and making sure we're doing everything we can to win the football game."

What did you think about the overall offensive performance against Samford?

"Average. I thought we would run the ball better. We were high and not finishing things in the first half. I thought we got better in the second half and start generating yardage. I thought at the end of the game there, when everybody in the stadium knew we were going to run the ball to run the clock and eat time up on the clock, we had to run the ball there and I thought our guys responded well. We had success running the ball there.

"The passing game, we were not as crisp and we still had four drops, which is too many, and you can't do those things in the football game. So we've still got a lot of work to do. In some ways, I don't have anything to compare it to previously, but I think there is improvement and stuff to build on. We did hit some clutch passes to get first downs or get us down inside the red zone down there close inside the five a couple of times.

"I thought we responded when adversity hit. After Brett threw the pick six there, and threw it right to his read, you know we didn't fold. We came back offensively and generated some good offense and got in the end zone. I think we had a 12-play drive, which was really good. So I kind of measure those things right now in baby steps and hopefully we'll keep improving as keys go on."

What happened on that interception?

"It was a double slant and he was supposed to read the defender over the inside slot and he broke outside and he threw it to the outside guy instead of the inside guy. So he threw a perfect pass and unfortunately it was to the wrong guy."

"He didn't panic. That was the big thing. His maturity showed up because when something like that happens, you can go one of two ways. He kind of held it together and then went in there and really led us to some really productive offense."

Any impressions of Southern Miss and what you've seen on tape of their defense?

"Very athletic. They run extremely well. They play very hard. This is my first time ever playing at Southern Miss. I can see, you know from the tape and everything, it's probably going to be a real loud place and a lot of excitement. They're good. Like I said, they run, they're athletic. So we're going to hopefully have to do some things to counter some of those athletes, but a very good football team. Good defense. When you've got that kind of speed, it makes it a challenge for the offense."




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