Losing its top-three receivers from last year’s championship season, one of UCF’s top priorities in the preseason was to help sophomore quarterback Jeff Godfrey feel comfortable with his new options in the passing attack. And so far in 2011, he is taking full advantage of his surroundings.
As Conference USA’s 2010 Freshman of the Year, Godfrey went 159-for-238 and 2,159 yards, ranking first among all FBS freshmen with a 66.8 completion percentage and second with a 154.31 efficiency rating. That completion percentage also was third in UCF single-season history.
Jump ahead to his sophomore season, and once again Godfrey’s incompletions are at a minimum. Entering Saturday, he sits at 11th in the nation with a 68.5 completion percentage by going 139-for-203, totaling 1,677 yards. In 2011, Godfrey is averaging 32 passing yards more per game than in 2010.
And a major reason for that improvement is Godfrey’s wide receivers.
Last season, only six Knights finished the entire year with at least 10 receptions. In 2011, eight players already have 10 catches or more through nine games. It marks the first time since the 2003 campaign in which eight Knights collected at least 10 receptions through the first nine games of a season.
Junior Quincy McDuffie combined for just 21 receptions and 270 yards from 2009-10, yet in 2011 he leads the way with 28 catches and 352 yards. Following closely behind are a pair of redshirt freshmen as J.J. Worton sits at 25 for 338 yards (team-high two touchdowns) and Josh Reese claims 22 receptions for 335 yards. Senior A.J. Guyton also has 22 catches with 317 receiving yards.
Another delightful surprise has been senior tight end Adam Nissley. With only 17 receptions and 230 yards during his first three seasons, the Cumming, Ga., native has 20 catches for 232 yards in 2011.
Godfrey’s favorite receiver this year has been McDuffie as the duo has hooked up 26 times. However when the Knights need a go-to wideout, it has been Worton, who has 18 receptions which have resulted in a first down. Worton also has eight catches on third or fourth down which helped give the Knights a first down.
Fellow freshmen Reese shines in the second half for Godfrey and redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Bortles. Reese has 17 of his 22 receptions in the final 30 minutes of play, while he is tied with McDuffie for the team lead with 15 catches of 10 yards or more.
Out of the backfield, Brynn Harvey and Latavius Murray have combined for 25 receptions for 276 yards. But one Knight that should quickly start jumping up the receptions chart is true freshman wide receiver Rannell Hall. “Speedy” has made a name for himself by averaging 31.0 yards per kickoff return, and recorded his first two receptions of his career vs. Tulsa Nov. 3.
What to watch for during the final three regular-season games will be how high Worton and Reese climb on UCF’s freshmen wide receivers chart. Worton is tied for fifth among all freshmen in school history in receptions (record is 40 by Sean Beckton), while Reese is tied for 10th. They both also are in the top-10 in freshmen receiving yards (Worton is eighth and Reese is 10th, as the record is 584 by Kamar Aiken).
UCF (4-5, 2-3) and its receiving corps will be returning to the practice fields Monday to prepare for an important showdown with No. 25 Southern Miss in Hattiesburg Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. ET.