J.J. Worton showed his versatility at South Dade High, being a Swiss Army knife of a player. Jeff Godfrey’s showing his versatility now, learning how to be a wide receiver after starting college as the quarterback he was through a stellar high school career at Miami Central.
The two UCF wide receivers, part of a group with heavy South Florida connections, could be central figures in this Saturday’s FIU road game. In each of FIU’s first two games, locals and wide receivers left burnout marks on FIU.
Akron’s Imani Davis, from Belen, averaged a fat 21.4 yards per return Saturday, and the Zips wideouts frolicked through the FIU secondary for 25 catches, 281 yards and three touchdowns. In the opener, Duke’s Conner Vernon (Gulliver) rolled up 180 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches, the bulk of 17 catches for 291 yards from the Blue Devils wideouts.
Now, here comes UCF with redshirt sophomore Worton; junior Godfrey; senior Quincy McDuffie (Orlando Edgewater); sophomore Rannell Hall (Carol City); redshirt sophomore Josh Reese (Central); and freshman Breshad Perriman from Lithonia (Ga.) Arabia Mountain, but son of Brett Perriman, former NFL wide receiver out of the University of Miami and Northwestern High.
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“All their receivers are very talented and can move well,” FIU senior safety Johnathan Cyprien said. “They just have athletes all around.”
It’s a group Godfrey joined this season after spending the spring back in Miami, reportedly after being suspended from non-academic activities by the school. He asked to transfer from UCF after the follow up to his Conference USA Freshman of the Year 2010 season fizzled. Though Godfrey completed 69.0 percent of his 232 passes for 1,898 yards, he threw only five touchdowns with five interceptions.
By the end of the season, current quarterback Brett Bortles received significant playing time.
Despite public accusations of racism against coach George O’Leary from Godfrey’s father and rapper Luther Campbell, Godfrey’s search for a landing spot wound up ending back in Orlando.
May had yet to dawn before O’Leary announced Godfrey would return.
“I just wanted to finish what I started,” Godfrey said. “I talked it over with my mother and father. There wasn’t any place that fit me like here.”
Godfrey, who has four catches for 30 yards so far, said the switch to wide receiver was “a little difficult,” but wide receivers coach Sean Beckton likes Godfrey’s potential.
“He has tremendous athletic ability,” Beckton said. “We’re trying to refine his route running. He’s stepped up to the challenges. He’s going to get better. He’s taken a good attitude toward being a great receiver, and he could be one of the great receivers we’ve had at Central Florida.”
Godfrey said of Worton, on last year’s Conference-USA All-Freshman team: “I played against him in high school, second round of the playoffs. He made some great catches there.”
Worton played safety, kicker, wide receiver and pretty much anything else he was asked to do at South Dade.
“In high school, I tried to play as many positions as I could because I wanted to be that kind of guy,” said Worton, who made The Miami Herald’s 2009 All-Dade First Team as an all-purpose player.
Spotting a campus with new facilities and five senior receivers leaving, Worton chose UCF. As a redshirt freshman, he jumped at the chance to return punts (8.8 yards per return) and wound up leading UCF in receiving yards (531) and second in receptions (41).
“I might not be the fastest, but I can see holes in the defense to get where I need to, so I look faster,” he said.
This spring, Worton was suspended for a time from the program for an incident in which he was charged with felony battery and felony resisting an officer with violence. Worton pleaded not guilty in May. A trial date is set for Oct. 8.
Worton didn’t catch a pass but averaged 24.3 yards per punt return in the season-opening rout of Akron.
Then, he caught seven passes for 96 yards in Saturday’s loss to Ohio State.
“He’s an unbelievable competitor,” Beckton said. “That’s what separates him from the other receivers on the team. He makes tough catches in traffic. He tends to take plays off in games. We’ve been working on that in practice.”