March 20, 2007
Orlando, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - UCF football opens its spring practice season on Wednesday at the fields adjacent to the Wayne Densch Sports Center. The opening practice is scheduled for a 9:20 a.m. start time and all 15 sessions are open to the public.
Fourth-year head coach George O'Leary will have four new assistant coaches to work with on his staff and have to replace a first-team all league performer at wide receiver in Mike Walker.
Those are just a few of the topics O'Leary discussed in a pre-Spring question and answer session:
Q: How will the off-season coaching changes impact spring ball as far as evaluations and just an overall adjustment?
O'Leary: There are some major changes on the defensive sides of the ball so far. With players and coaches themselves, experience shows. The hires we have made all have great experience and it is very recognizable when dealing with them and the players. I think the evaluations are always done on the move. I don't worry as much about evaluations as I do about the kids basically fitting into the schemes of the defense. I think most of the evaluations have been done already based on past film evaluations and current work habits.
Q: Who among the young players are you looking forward to seeing the development of in the Spring?
O'Leary: I think there are a couple of key guys even though some did not redshirt and played some last year. Some that we are excited about include Torrell Johnson, Travis Timmons, Bruce Miller and David Williams. There are a lot of kids that really need to get more reps to see how much better we can get them. Offensively, Jevaughn Reams, Jamar Newsome and Brian Watters redshirted last year and I think those three are going to have a good opportunity to see what they can do this Spring.
Q: What is one area that there will be a heavy focus on to improve this Spring?
O'Leary: Collectively, I think we look at our passing game and trying to get some plays down field. I think we need to improve in a lot of those areas. A lot of time will be spent this Spring on improving vertical push and vertical movement in our passing game.
Q: A lot of this team's key contributors come from the rising-junior class. Talk about their role on this team.
O'Leary: I think for the junior class, this is a make-or-break year for a lot of them. I expect to see vast improvement from the first two years because I think if the improvement is not made during their junior year, then you are usually looking for a replacement. But, again I see progress in those areas and hopefully with the two years under thier belts, the maturity and experience will set in and that is key.
Q: There is stability on the offensive line and at running back. Talk about the importance that has on a team's success.
O'Leary: Our offensive line is back. We have some young players that have redshirted and there is going to be more competition playing in the Spring on the offensive line. I think that is good - you need to have that. Running back wise, Kevin Smith will be limited this Spring coming off of his shoulder injury and he is still working, but will not have contact. Philip Smith, Jayson Williams, Curtis Francis and James Jamison will all get some opportunities to show what they can do back there. Shane Smith is also out of contact with a shoulder injury. They will all get a lot of work as far as to see who is number two and who gets to line up at number two this fall.
Q: Discuss the current quarterback situation entering Spring practice.
O'Leary: Right now Kyle Israel is going in at No. 1. The next scholarship guy is Marquel Neaseman and Chris Carr, a walk-on, is No. 3. They all have the opportunity to maintain their job and we will make some decisions after Spring ball. We have to see where the incoming freshmen and the incoming junior college player will fit in through watching their progess. I think it is critical for Kyle to show leadership and fieldmanship that I would expect from a senior. I expect him to run the football team and show his three years of experience as fas as what needs to be done and be a trend setter for that position.
Q: Bright House Networks Stadium is nearly completed. Talk about the impact that and the other facilities will have on this program.
O'Leary: Anybody that has seen this last year and seen the facilities can see that we have just done so much in so little time with the practice fields, the indoor facility and the addition of the stadium. That's the last piece to the puzzle. Now, you can have a venue that will get kids on campus from a recruiting standpoint. That is key for the development of this program.
Q: What are your overall goals for Spring practice?
O'Leary: Some overall goals are to continually stress our second effort, to stress our speed as far as making sure we are getting our playmakers in the right positions to make plays, that we have enough contact, that we improve our tackling, blocking and finishing on those things. I want to leave Spring being a good tackling team and a team that finishes on blocks. I want each position to finish their responsibilities at hand following the play call.