Tarpon Springs East Lake quarterback Pete DiNovo’s rollercoaster recruitment hit its peak Tuesday morning, when he committed to UCF over USF.
“I’m so excited right now that I can’t even express how I feel,” DiNovo said. “I fell in love with the facilities up there and [offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Charlie Taaffe] coach Taaffe and I have a great relationship. [Head coach George O’Leary] Coach O’Leary is a very strict coach and that’s exactly the kind of coach I want to play for. I feel like he’s going to push me to my potential.”
Tuesday was the peak to an up-and-down recruiting process for DiNovo this spring.
He was widely regarded as Florida’s best quarterback without a scholarship offer for months until Houston came through with an offer in late May. But the Cougars landed a verbal pledge from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas’ John O’Kornon June 22, essentially eliminating DiNovo’s lone offer.
“There were a lot of ups and downs, and it was really hard on me at some points and hard for my family because we had to answer questions from people like, 'Why don’t you have offers? Why aren’t people looking at you?’” DiNovo said. “We didn’t really have an answer for them because I felt like I was doing all things I could do to be a good quarterback.”
DiNovo (6-3, 205), regarded as a gritty leader and precise passer, is ranked No. 49 on the Sentinel’s 2013 MidWest Super60 list.
He threw for 2,337 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions while leading East Lake to the third round of the Class 8A playoffs, where the Eagles fell 28-21 to eventual state champions Tampa Plant.
After a discouraging June, things turned around for DiNovo in a hurry.
DiNovo was lights out during the IMG 7-on-7 National Championships, guiding Team Tampa to a national title versus stiff competition.
As the two-day tournament wore on, DiNovo became even sharper and was eventually named offensive MVP.
Word quickly got out about his stellar performance and within 24 hours, UCF and USF offered him a scholarship.
“UCF, I was basically waiting on a phone call,” DiNovo said. “I watched film for coach Taaffe a few weeks back at the camp, and he told me that they were going to offer, but the whole thing was a numbers game, because they were short on scholarships this year. USF, I wasn’t really expecting it. ... So that was kind of a ringer to the whole thing.”
The Knights, possibly facing scholarship reductions due to an impending NCAA ruling, opted to not recruit by need and offered DiNovo because he was high on their prospect board.
DiNovo is UCF’s second quarterback commit in the 2013 recruiting class, joining Justin Holman of Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson High.
After weighing his options, DiNovo thought UCF was the better fit for him.
“I just sat down with some of the people that were close to me and we all decided together,” DiNovo said. “It just felt like, aside from football, UCF is a beautiful place and Orlando is a beautiful place. They have one of the best sports management programs in the entire county and that’s what I want to do. And like I said with the coaching staff, I feel like they’re going to make me the best player I can be. Coach Taaffe knows so much about the game and I feel I can learn so much from him.”
With his decision made, DiNovo fully expects more Team Tampa prospects to join him at UCF in the near future, although he didn’t name names.
Tampa Bay Tech receiver Richard Benjamin will pick between UCF, USF and Vanderbilt in the near future. He is rumored to be leaning toward UCF and Vandy already has three wide receiver commitments.
The Knights are also heavily recruiting Seffner Armwood receiver Alvin Bailey, who likes UCF but is also in the middle of visiting a slew of prestigious schools such as Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan, Georgia, Florida State and others.
“Basically, I guess the best way to say this, we’re going to be seeing some more [players] become a big part of UCF Nation real soon, and I’m really confident in some of the guys from the Tampa Bay area that are going to be on board,” DiNovo said. “Definitely multiple guys.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times