UCF Spring Football Notebook

Spring Schedule in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader

March 21, 2006

ORLANDO - Head coach George O'Leary welcomes nearly 75 percent of last season's letterwinners back in 2006 for the Golden Knights as spring practice begins Wednesday. UCF returns 76 percent of its starters from a year ago when the Golden Knights finished the season 8-5, including a 7-1 mark as Conference USA Eastern Division champions.

O'Leary and his coaching staff return 17 letterwinners on offense and 22 letterwinners on the defensive side of the football.

Spring football practice is open to Golden Knights Club members only. GKC members must show their membership card to watch spring drills. A limited number of GKC members will be permitted to view practice due to fire code regulations inside the Nicholson Fieldhouse.

Change in the Right Direction
UCF tied for fourth among the most improved teams in NCAA history in 2005. The Golden Knights improved seven games from the 2004 campaign. UCF secured the best turnaround in Conference USA history after its 27-21 victory at UAB on Nov. 12.

NCAA All-Time Most Improved Teams

Team (Year) Games
1. Hawaii (1999) 8.5
2. Stanford (1940) 8.0
3. South Carolina (2000) 7.5
4. UCF 7.0
Six other teams tied with 7.0

* To determine games improved, add the difference in victories between the two seasons to the difference in losses, then divide by two.

One-Year Turnaround
UCF was just the sixth team in NCAA history to play in a bowl game after going winless the previous year.

Prior to UCF, South Carolina was the last team to go from a winless campaign to a bowl a year later. In 1999, the Gamecocks went 0-11 before going 8-4 in 2000 under head coach Lou Holtz.

Bowl Game after Winless Season

Team Year Record Prev. Year Bowl Game
UTEP 1965 8-3 0-8-2 Sun
Florida 1980 8-4 0-10-1 Tangerine
Kentucky 1983 6-5-1 0-10-1 Hall of Fame
Hawaii 1999 9-4 0-12 Jeep Oahu
S. Carolina 2000 8-4 0-11 Outback
UCF 2005 8-5 0-11 Sheraton Hawaii

A Remarkable Turnaround
George O'Leary engineered the top turnaround in the nation. After going 0-11 in 2004, UCF was 8-5 in 2005, including a 7-1 regular season mark in C-USA. Even more remarkable, UCF did it with a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores. The Golden Knights had just 10 seniors on scholarship and featured 25 freshmen or sophomores that started in 2005, including seven true freshmen starters. Another amazing fact was that UCF played seven of its 11 games in the regular season on the road.

O'Leary is no stranger to turning around the fortunes of a football program. Inheriting a team which posted a 1-10 record in 1994 at Georgia Tech, O'Leary directed the second-best turnaround in the nation in 1995 as the Yellow Jackets finished the season 6-5.

First in NCAA History
UCF was the first team in NCAA history to record a five-game winning streak a year after going winless. South Carolina (2000), Ball State (2000) and Hawaii (1999) are the only other schools to record a four-game winning streak a year after going winless.

Win Streaks after a Winless Season

Team Year Win Streak Prev. Year
UCF 2005 5, 3 0-11
South Carolina 2000 4, 3 0-11
Ball State 2000 4 0-11
Hawaii 1999 4, 3 0-12
Boston College 1979 3 0-11
UTEP 1974 3 0-11

Road Warriors
UCF was just the fourth team in NCAA history to play seven away games in a season (11-game schedule) and participate in a bowl game.

Southern Miss was the last team to play seven games on the road and reach a bowl game in 2000. The Golden Eagles finished the season 8-4 and ended the year with a win over TCU in the GMAC Bowl.

The Golden Knights had seven games on the road in 2005 during the regular season. UCF hosted the Conference USA Championship game Dec. 3 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Team Year Road Games Record
UCF 2005 7 8-5
Southern Miss 2000 7 8-4
San Jose State 1986 7 10-2
Northern Ill. 1983 7 10-2

O'Leary Named C-USA Coach of the Year
After leading his squad to the Conference USA Eastern Division title and a berth in the inaugural league championship game, UCF head coach George O'Leary was named the C-USA Coach of the Year, as selected by the league's head coaches and media members in each conference city.

The Eastern Division championship highlighted a year that saw UCF become the first team in NCAA history to clinch a spot in a conference championship game after going winless the previous year.

It marked the third time in O'Leary's career he has been named a conference coach of the year. He was twice named ACC Coach of the Year during his tenure at Georgia Tech.

Smith C-USA Freshman of the Year
Kevin Smith was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year by the league's head coaches and media members in 2005. He was the first Golden Knight in school history to be named a conference freshman of the year in football.

He was named to the All-C-USA Second Team offense and was also an All-C-USA Freshman Team selection.

Smith No. 2 Among Rookie Running Backs
Kevin Smith returns in 2006 as one of the top running backs in the nation. The Miami native finished his freshman campaign in 2005 with the second-most rushing yards for a true freshman in the NCAA.

Smith ended the season with 1,178 yards, including a Sheraton Hawaii Bowl-record 202 yards in UCF's 49-48 overtime loss to Nevada.

Smith had the longest run in Hawaii Bowl history with a 78-yard touchdown.

2005 NCAA True Freshmen Rushing Yard Leaders

Player Att Yards Avg TD Long
1. Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern 232 1,390 6.0 16 62
2. Kevin Smith, UCF 249 1,178 4.7 9 78
3. Steve Slaton, West Virginia 205 1,128 5.5 17 52

Running From the Start
Kevin Smith became UCF's all-time leader for rushing yards by a true freshman with 1,178 yards in 2005. Smith also finished third in single-season history in rushing yards at UCF.

UCF True Freshman Single-Season Leaders

Player (Year) Att. Yds. TD
1. Kevin Smith ('05) 249 1,178 9
2. Gerod Davis ('92) 183 1,154 10
3. Elgin Davis ('83) 156 786 9

UCF Single-Season Rushing Leaders

Player (Year) Att. Yds. TD
1. Marquette Smith ('95) 274 1,511 14
2. Willie English ('91) 236 1,338 13
3. Kevin Smith ('05) 249 1,178 9
4. Gerod Davis ('92) 183 1,154 10
5. Marquette Smith ('94) 194 1,058 5

Winning the Close Games
UCF was 7-2 in 2005 in games decided by 10 points or less. The Golden Knights were 3-1 in contests decided by three points or less.

Running Wild in Conference USA
UCF displayed one of the best rushing attacks in C-USA during league games in 2005. In eight league games, the Golden Knights averaged 189 rushing yards per contest.

Here are some additional notes on UCF in its eight C-USA games in 2005.

Statistics UCF Opponent
Rushing yards per game 189.0 152.8
Interceptions thrown 4 16
Time of possession 33:43 26:10
4th down conversions 11/13 4/13
Turnovers 11 25

A Winning Season Away from Home
UCF tied a single-season school record for victories on the road with its fourth win of the season away from home at Rice Nov. 19.

Only one other team in UCF's Division I-A history won four games in one season away from home. The 1998 team, led by senior quarterback Daunte Culpepper, won four games on the road.

A Season to Remember
With UCF's 8-5 record in 2005, the Golden Knights finished with the second-most wins in the school's 10-year Division I-A history.

Only the 1998 team had more victories in a season than the 2005 squad.

Best Records in UCF History (Division I-A)

Year Record
1. 1998 9-2
2. 2005 8-5
3. 2000 7-4
3. 2002 7-5

Largest Crowd in UCF History
The largest crowd in UCF history was on hand for the inaugural Conference USA Football Championship game Dec. 3 vs. Tulsa. A crowd of 51,978 came out to watch the title game at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Earlier in the year, the seventh-largest crowd in school history came to see UCF's 31-29 victory over Houston Nov. 5 on Homecoming.

Top UCF Home Crowds

1. Tulsa (Dec. 3, 2005) 51,978
2. Virginia Tech (Nov. 11, 2000) 50,220
3. Idaho (Sept. 20, 1997) 41,827
4. Purdue (Sept. 4, 1999) 40,112
5. E. Michigan (Nov. 15, 1997) 39,433
6. E. Illinois (Sept. 12, 1998) 35,219
7. Houston (Nov. 5, 2005) 32,635

No Ordinary Joe
Sophomore CB Joe Burnett was quite a playmaker on UCF's defense and special teams as a true freshman in 2005. The Eustis , Fla., native led Conference USA in average yards per punt return (16.5) and was second in interceptions per game (0.38). He ranked sixth nationally in punt returns and 26th in interceptions per game.

Burnett was named All-C-USA First Team both on defense at cornerback and on special teams as the punt returner.

Burnett recorded his first two career interceptions in the Tulane victory. It marked the first time since 1997 that a true freshman tallied an interception for UCF (Damian Demps vs. NE Louisiana on Nov. 1, 1997).

Burnett's two interceptions came in the fourth quarter vs. the Green Wave, including a pick in the end zone to secure the victory.

Burnett also tied for second in UCF single-season history with five interceptions. The five interceptions were the most by a single player in UCF's Division I-A history.

UCF Single-Season INT Leaders

Player (Year) INT
1. Keith Evans (1986) 8
2. Joe Burnett (2005) 5
2. Brian Crutcher (1992) 5

Burnett Sets New Punt Return Record
Joe Burnett broke a 14-year record at UCF for single-season punt return yardage in the Tulsa game. Burnett moved into sole possession of first place in the UCF annals for single-season punt return yardage with 463 yards.

Burnett also ranked first in UCF single-season history in average per punt return (16.5).

Single-Season Punt Return Yardage

Player (Year) No. Yards
1. Joe Burnett ('05) 28 463
2. Mike Dickinson ('91) 31 387
3. Siaha Burley ('98) 21 293

Single-Season Punt Return Average

Player (Year) No. Average
1. Joe Burnett ('05) 28 16.5
2. Siaha Burley ('98) 21 14.0
3. Mike Dickinson ('91) 31 12.5

Single-Season Punt Return Touchdowns

Player (Year) No. TDs
1. Mike Dickinson ('91) 31 3
2. Joe Burnett ('05) 28 2

Take it to the House
Joe Burnett became just the third player in UCF history to record two punt returns for a touchdown in the same year after his 68-yard punt return touchdown vs. Tulsa on Dec. 3. Burnett also recorded a 58-yard punt return for a score in UCF's final game of the regular season at Rice on Nov. 19.

He was the only player in Conference USA in 2005 to return a punt for a touchdown.

Freshman All-American
Joe Burnett was named a first-team Freshman All-American according to the Football Writers Association of America, Rivals.com, CollegeFootballNews.com and a third-team Freshman All-American selection by The Sporting News.

He is the first player in school history to be named a first-team freshman All-American by any media outlet.

Move to the Middle
Junior Steven Baker moved from wide receiver to linebacker in bowl practice last season and the move paid immediate dividends. The Ocala, Fla., native finished with three tackles, including his first career sack vs. Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

This spring, UCF moved Baker to middle linebacker, where he sits atop the depth chart.

The Foundation Begins
George O'Leary and his coaching staff have begun to lay the groundwork for a strong foundation at UCF. The transformation has started in the classroom, where UCF has established several new academic records.

Over the summer, the football team posted a grade point average of 3.012. Eleven players earned a perfect 4.0 GPA over the summer while 66 percent of the team earned Athletic Director's Honor Roll status (3.0 GPA or higher).

The Golden Knights, who do not have a single player on academic probation, improved their overall cumulative team GPA to 2.810. On-Campus Stadium Set for 2007

UCF is scheduled to build an on-campus football stadium, adjacent to the Wayne Densch Sports Center and Nicholson Fieldhouse. The stadium will seat approximately 45,000 fans in a bowl shaped configuration and feature a state-of-the-art scoreboard, video board, luxury boxes, natural grass playing surface and a large club lounge and press box. The stadium is scheduled to be completed by 2007.