Football Q&A with George O'Leary

July 7, 2006

What's the biggest challenge facing UCF this season?
"The biggest challenge is to keep competition at all positions. Anytime you return a lot of starters, the competition has to be even greater than the year before. The key is for more players to step it up. The more guys who can win jobs that didn't start last year, the better we are going to be."

Are the players now accustomed to success? What must you guard against from being the team picked near the bottom of the standings to being one of the preseason favorites in C-USA?
"It is what the coach allows. We have a long way to go and our players know it. If you look at the film from the last two games in 2005, we have a lot of improvement to make in several areas. The players understand you either getter better or get worse - you don't remain the same."

How much improvement did the team make during the offseason?
"The big improvement is in the strength and speed of the players. We improved in those areas along with our sense of urgency and intensity. The players have continued to do the right things off the field in the offseason to help win games during the season."

What surprised you most about last season?
"Really, there were not that many surprises. I said in August I thought we could win enough games to become bowl-eligible and we did accomplish that goal. The key to last season was the team's chemistry coming together. Last season's driving force was the team's work ethic and attitude. We played together as a team and certain individuals stepped up and had better years than what we might have thought."

What are the most important objectives for the team to accomplish in preseason camp?
"The key to any preseason camp is to become fundamentally sound. We need to install all of our schemes - both on offense, defense and in special teams. It is also important not to do too much in preseason camp. Sometimes you like to add extra schemes and plays in camp with the additional time, but I think we need to concentrate on what we do well as a team and continue to sharpen those areas."

Several starters missed spring practice due to injury. Is everyone healthy heading into 2006?
"We had seven or eight players miss spring practice or parts of the spring due to injury. With most of the injured players, we had a chance to see them play last season. The injuries gave some of our younger players an opportunity to show the coaching staff what they are capable of. The only player who might not return is senior tailback Dontavius Wilcox. His knee is still being evaluated."

Do you feel the program is improving in terms of depth?
"You are only as good as you are two-deep - you always have reserves who are an ankle injury away from playing. Our depth has improved, but it is still not where it needs to be. When you get to the point in your program where the drop off from the first team to the second team is minimal, that is when you have a solid football team. Not many teams in the country have that."

UCF returns all five starters on the offensive line? Will the offensive line be the strength of the offense?
"The offensive line is the group that takes the longest to develop consistency. Anytime you have the entire group back, that is one position that experience is very important. The offensive line is a group that makes everyone look better. If your running backs are putting up big numbers and your wide receivers have impressive statistics, it is due in part to a good offensive line. They might not always get the credit, but they are vital to any football team."

How much has recruiting benefited from the start of construction on the new on-campus football stadium?
"There is no question the perception of UCF has changed with the start of construction on the new stadium. We have great facilities here and now with the stadium, recruits see what our coaches and fan base see - the future here at UCF looks very promising."

How important was it for the program to make its first bowl appearance in 2005?
"It was critical. Anytime you get to a bowl game it is a great reward for the players and the fans. It gave the players a taste of what happens when you do win and puts a little more hunger to get back to a bowl each and every year. When you have not been to a bowl game and you see what it is all about, players want to get back as quickly as possible."

What will it take to make this season a successful season in your eyes?
"I don't get involved in wins and losses. As long as we go out and play for four quarters and play with extreme aggressiveness and second effort, we have a chance to be more successful than not."

Do you see any newcomers that will compete for a spot on the depth chart in preseason camp?
"Unlike last year where I thought the freshmen had to come in right away and help us, I don't think we enter this season looking to rely on so many newcomers. There are always freshmen who are a surprise in preseason camp and will get an opportunity. The ones who do play don't act like freshmen - they are more mature. It is not the physically tough freshmen who play, it is the mentally tough. There are so many time constraints on the players and time management is so critical."

Steven Moffett enters his third year as the starter under center for your team. How important is it to have an experienced player at quarterback?
"That position in our scheme is critical. He is the "coach" on the field and gets your team out of a bad play and into a good play. His fieldmanship has really picked up in terms of his knowledge of the offense and he has become a good leader."

With the loss of both place-kickers from last season, how important was spring practice for Michael Torres and Nick Beucher?
"We lost two good kickers in Matt Prater and John Brown. In Michael Torres and Nick Beucher, we have two competent kickers with good leg strength. We will see them under more pressure in the preseason with players coming at them, but they both have the No. 1 ingredient to be a good kicker - leg strength."