Feb. 4, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. -
After adding 17 new faces to his program on Wednesday morning, UCF head football coach George O'Leary met with the local media to discuss the devlopments of signing day and the strong crop of new Knights. Here is a sampling of what was said.
On signing so many local players:
"I think it was a good year for central Florida. I'm going to go where the athletes are. I thought central Florida had some talent that we were looking for. I thought that we secured some talent. I thought the coaches did a great job of bringing in the talent. It so happened that this year there were some players in the Central Florida area that we were very interested in that can come in and help the program."
On linebacker Jonathan Davis:
"He's a really good football player. When you talk about `contact players,' that's what I look at. So many people are concerned about 40 (yard dash) speed. I think you have to be able to run at this level. But, I think there's a lot of kids that can run but they can't hit you. Even in the pros, you've got a lot of guys who can run a 4.5 but they hit you in five-flat. You can't win with those guys. I think contact speed is critical and I think that Jonathan Davis is a contact player. He can do a lot of things. He played running back. He returned. He was a linebacker. He played in the secondary. He's going to get his opportunity, just like all of the freshmen are, to see what he can do. But he was player of the year in Georgia for a reason. He's a very good football player."
On the size of the new defensive linemen:
"On defensive line it is easier to play early than on offensive line because it's learning reactions instead of technique. I'm not overly going after great size, but range and speed. I'd rather see them put on natural weight rather than have them come in at 340 and have to suck them down to 310."
On having seven early enrollees:
"I think it's big. I've been doing that since 1998 or `99 when I was at (Georgia Tech). It's nothing new. I think you have to be real careful. I think some kids are 17 years old and not ready, maturity wise. They're dealing with 22 and 23 year old players and that's a big jump. So, I'm very careful about it. I make sure that they really want to come in and that they're academically ready to handle the college load. There's time management skills that have to take place and a lot of those kids just aren't ready yet. I'll be surprised in the next few weeks if some of them don't come in and ask me to go back to their junior prom."
On UCF's appeal:
"I think we got a lot of kids who looked at UCF as the place to be. When you come on this campus, it's an impressive place. When you talk to parents who take trips to other schools - from a facility standpoint, where they live, the school itself, the academics and the success of the academics that we've had here - it catches their eyes pretty quick. That's where Victor (Gray) was. His mom was very in-tune to the academics that's taking place here and the success. You put 54-percent of your team on the honor roll, there's something going on that's right. I think that's what a lot of people see when they're coming in, plus the facilities sell themselves."
On early enrollee Josh Robinson:
"He's what we recruited. I think he's an exceptional athlete who has fit right in chemistry-wise. He seems to fit right in. The biggest thing I worry about with those young kids when they first get in is time management and making sure that they're keeping up with everything academically like study hall and all of the things they may not be used to. He's definitely a kid that I'm going to be anxious to see in the spring and see exactly where he can help us out. He reminds me a lot of a guy who just graduated, Joe Burnett. I know that's a big comparison but they're very similar when I watch the movement."
On last year's graduation-depleted secondary affecting recruiting at that position:
"Like anyone else, they look at depth charts and they see five guys graduating and five guys back. We travel with nine (defensive backs) so, right away they're on the plane. I think it played a big role if they did their homework. I think the success and what's taken place (at that position helped). If you're a DB, you like to have all of your defensive linemen back. That's where the success comes from with errant passes, incompletions and interceptions all comes from the (pass) rushing and the defense being where it needs to be. I think that all had something to do with it and seeing the success that we've had there."
On the importance of academics in his program:
"I think in this day and age, you need to bring kids in that have a passion for football and a passion for winning but understand that football is a means to an end which is to get your degree. That's what I saw. Parents know that every kid that I have had here that has gone on to the NFL has graduated, except for Kevin (Smith) who left early. If you go through the program, you're going to graduate. That's what's important to me and I make no qualms about telling the parents that they'll be getting their degree. God bless them if they can play on Sundays, but not too many can so they need to get their degree. That's the only promise I make. Not playing time. I talk to them about getting their degree and seeing what kind of football player they can be. There's no promises made athletically, but my job academically is to get them to graduate, win football games and make sure they have plenty of options after college."
On an early signing period:
"I'm pretty upset we didn't have an early signing period. When 73-percent of your head coaches vote for an early signing period, it's sending a message. For some reason, it didn't get by the commissioners. I don't know what reasons were out there. When 1,100 kids had orally committed before the (AFCA) Convention (in early January), that's a lot of players. It made sense to me, especially with the budget crisis that every school is experiencing. We're spending the same amount of money recruiting kids that are committed to you because it's not binding. When we had an early signing period, it made a kid make a commitment and then you know you've got him and he's basically in your program. These days, you get kids verbally committed earlier with a handshake but some of them think they're just making a reservation for a hotel. That's not the deal. There are way too many committing right now not to have an early signing period. There's plenty of time to visit them on campus, to check out their academics, but more so, to make sure that if they really say that they're coming to get them. Because now, when you say you're going to a certain school, all you're doing is telling everybody else who you have to attack. When they commit to so-and-so, now you know who you're going after and the kid still visits elsewhere. I just think that we're wasting a lot of money on kids that are supposed to be committed. I thought that the early signing period went away to quick. I hope we get back into it because I think that's what is needed."