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UCF QB Blake Bortles draws praise from Jon Gruden

UCF quarterback Blake Bortles recently spent time with Jon Gruden for the ESPN analyst's "quarterback camp", and he seemingly made a big impression.

"Houston needs the 'Golden Knight,' " Gruden said, making a play on UCF's "Knights" nickname and also on the idea that the Texans need a quarterback savior.

"Can he learn and does he want to learn? Those are the two things I want to find out right away," Gruden said, per "Clearly he has that going for him. Not a lot of quarterbacks are 6-5 and 235 and can run like that. He has the football pedigree; he is very fortunate to have played under George O'Leary at Central Florida. He has a heck of an upside, he really does."

At one point in the video from the camp, Gruden points out that Texans coach Bill O'Brien has a long personal history with O'Leary and Bortles wryly smiles. When asked by Gruden what he thought O'Leary would tell O'Brien, Bortles said, "I think he's telling him what everybody else would: The guy works hard, loves being in here, loves preparing, loves winning football games, is a leader, enjoys being a football player and has a ton of fun doing it."

Gruden also said Bortles reminds him of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger because of his size and relatively anonymous football background. As with Bortles, Roethlisberger played outside the college mainstream, starring at Miami (Ohio).

Bortles is No. 3 on NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks' list of the best quarterbacks, with Brooks saying Bortles is "not as polished as (Teddy) Bridgewater and (Johnny) Manziel, but he offers tremendous upside as a developmental prospect." Bortles also is No. 3 on analyst Mike Mayock's quarterback list.

Still, Bortles definitely is in play to be the No. 1 pick. His prototypical size for a dropback passer fits nicely with what O'Brien wants to do with the Texans' offense. Bortles has experience in a pro-style offense, has worked under center and in the shotgun and was allowed to freely audible. O'Brien saw him up close when Bortles led UCF past O'Brien's Penn State team in 2013. In addition, O'Brien certainly will get an unvarnished scouting report on Bortles because of his relationship with O'Leary.

Houston recently signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he seems more likely to be a place-holder than anything else. Houston also has Case Keenum and T.J. Yates, but if any of those three are anything more than a short-term starter, it would be a surprise. Houston going with a quarterback No. 1 overall wouldn't be that big a surprise. And Bortles might be the best fit for the Texans -- their "Golden Knight," if you will.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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