Nov. 20, 2007
Orlando, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - UCF head coach George O'Leary met with the media on Tuesday in the interview room at Bright House Networks Stadium for his weekly press conference. The fourth-year head coach discussed topics ranging from the upcoming game against UTEP to being in a position to host the Conference USA Championship game.
Kickoff for Senior Day is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium between the Knights and Miners.
Below is a transcription of selected comments from the press conference. All-access subscribers can listen to the press conference by clicking on the link above.
What are you feelings on a win allowing you to host the conference championship game?
"Well as I told the players, all the other games are to help your record. This one is the one that means something. They understand that and this game gets them everything that they wanted (regarding) their season goals. Initially, it gets them into the conference game and an opportunity to go to another good bowl. That has been their goal since they started preseason. They understand it. Every game, we have told them that it was the most important game and it was at that time. This one is the one that gets them the whole enchilada. This is the whole deal that they want to look at going into the conference championship, so it is a very important game. "
What do you think has led to the five-consecutive wins after the low point of the season against USF?
"I think that comes back to character. I think that we have good character on the football team. There was not a lot of finger pointing and there could have been. I thought that they basically understood that you win together and lose together. Nobody was at fault, everybody was included in the program. They understand that the people in that room are directly responsible for wins and losses, nobody else and it is how you approach it chemistry wise. I think that they listen and it helps when you have the same kids around for three and some of them four years. They understand what the deal is and there are no surprises."
What do you think of Kevin Smith's performance so far this season?
"I think he has gotten better each week, each year. I think when he was a freshmen, he was a kid that just tried to get the ball and get to the line of scrimmage as quickly as he could. As a sophomore, I think he started to see lineman and started to read (defenses). Now, I think he is like most good backs that carry the ball. They make the cut in the hole and they read the linebackers, the secondary level guys, because those are the guys that ultimately make the tackles. I think that is where he has improved himself. The one thing that I am very proud of about Kevin is that he has never changed his stance about his success. He has contributed it all to his offensive line. Very rarely do you hear kids talking about stuff like that, but he has not changed since day one with who he gives the credit too. I think that is smart of him because he understands that they have to do something upfront if he is going to be successful. I really think that some kids say it, but it is just lip service. I think he truly means it when he talks about I could not have done it without the offensive line, tight ends, and even the receivers. That is the biggest difference this year, the receivers are blocking down field. I think that is what is getting him the extra yardage. Big difference, I think that is really where we have picked up the game. I think that next level as far as receivers putting bodies on people."
How has the senior class helped with the team's resurgence this year?
"There is only four that start on offense and two that start on defense, but I think collectively they have done a good job as far as chemistry goes and controlling the locker room. I think more practices and games are lost in the locker room before you even go on the field. I know that is true in the pros, big time. I think in college you need some guys who have a steady influence on some of these young players that sometimes drift a little bit as far as where the importance should be or where their priorities should be. I think they have done a good job there and there is a lot of quality, quality kids that are going to be graduating and leaving the program at least leaving the senior class this Saturday when they are introduced as seniors graduating."
Philip Smith had most of the carries in the second half against SMU. How do you think he did, since you wanted to get him some additional playing time?
"I think the biggest problem that Phillip has had is Phillip. With staying healthy and making sure that he is taking care of his business. You are not going to play in my program if you are not doing what you are supposed to do academically and take care of the detail things. That is where, he has to grow up a lot. I am hoping that some of the success that he had Saturday will just keep some confidence in him and keep him understanding that if you do things correctly, then good things will happen."
Kevin Smith said that the advice you give him as far as staying for his senior year or going pro will be a big factor in his decision. What does it mean to be his advisor?
"I have never tried to lead anybody wrong as far as I will do my due diligence and call the right people to see where he is (projected in the draft). If he has an opportunity to go in the first round, then I would advise him to basically look at it real seriously, but to me looking at the first round, very few running backs are taken. The history of the running backs in the first round is not good in the NFL. There have been a lot of busts there. There really have been or they do not make it through the season. The guys who end up playing are usually the fourth and fifth-round guys. I think that I will investigate and get a hold of a couple of GM's because those are the guys who really know, the scouts and stuff. The biggest thing is making sure that his mom and him understand that there is more to it than just the draft. There is a lot more involved with this thing. I will sit down with them after the season and go through all the stuff I have and talk to them about what needs to be talked about and all the information that I can give them. Hopefully, he makes a good decision."
What needs to occur on offense and defense to have success against UTEP?
"Again, I think when you look at them on film - UTEP - I think they have a lot of really good athletes. They are a spread offense that is pretty much like everyone else. (They) open it up. They isolate you one-on-one on the field and their running back (Marcus Thomas) is good. I think he is going to be playing in the East-West (Shrine) Game. There are four or five kids that will be NFL guys off that football team. (Mike Price) has some talent there.
"Defensively, we have to make sure that we make plays. We cannot be on the field as long as we have been. I think that we are stingy in giving up points at times, but there are just not enough three and outs. We have to make plays and create more situations, let your athletes run.
"Offensively, we just have to continue throwing the ball better than we have been. We have to continue putting hats on people and letting guys run like they know how to do."