Feb. 6, 2008
Orlando, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - UCF head coach George O'Leary met with members of the media on Wednesday to discuss the 17 signees the Knights inked to National Letters of Intent on National Signing Day. With three members of the 2008 class already on campus, the 17 new members give O'Leary and his coaching staff a total of 20 student-athletes in his fifth class at UCF.
Here are selected comments from his press conference. A complete audio link is available at www.ucfathletics.com.
Head Coach George O'Leary's opening statement:
"We ended up signing what we were looking at. We brought in 17 athletes that will help in all areas on the football from seven different states. In recruiting, we pretty much zeroed in on the ones we thought could help us. The coaches did an outstanding job of making sure we got the talent. We're very pleased with the recruiting class that is coming in. I think we looked at athleticism, speed, range and just specific needs on the football team. I am pleased with it. We had the whole recruiting class in by 9:30 a.m. There weren't any dogfights as far what was going on. I thought the coaches did a great job of making sure we had solid commitments from very sound, good character kids. It worked out well. The only one that we were waiting to hearing on at 1 p.m. was Brandon Harris, and he went in another direction. With that, I was very pleased with the recruiting class. Specifically, we had to bring running backs in, along with offensive linemen and defensive linemen. Pretty much, we tried to help each and every position out. I thought we did that."
On how much Bright House Networks Stadium helped with the team's recruiting this year:
"I think that the exposure that the stadium got from the media has helped us, not just in Florida, but all over the country. I think that UCF is no longer `where is it?' They know exactly where it is. I think the people that did come on campus had an opportunity to see all that, and they haven't had a venue like this on campus before. It was great exposure, not just the alumni, but also through TV. The announcers did a great job of really exploring that and helping us as far as the games that we did have on TV."
On how an on-campus stadium helped with recruiting visits on gameday:
"We had an opportunity to get them on campus. Beforehand, we never had an opportunity to get them on campus , we took them to the Citrus Bowl. Really, logistically, we couldn't get them back and forth in time. I think the big thing is that we got them on campus and had a lot of good weekends with recruits on campus with their folks here. They saw some very exciting and great games. The fan base and the student body did a great job of showing the enthusiasm of gameday activities through tailgating. It was just a great gameday situation for us at UCF. It's what I thought it would be, and it turned out to be that."
On whether UCF has begun to expand its recruiting base nationally:
"I think we're going to go where the players are. As I look at players, I'm not going to worry about how many I take from the state of Florida or the state of Georgia, or anywhere else. I'm going to go where we have an interest. Recruiting has changed because you have so little time with the athletes now - especially as a head coach you have one day - camps are very important as far as getting them on your campus. I think that's the big thing now as far as the state of Florida is concerned - the exposure through the games and getting them on campus. Now they have a reason to visit. We can then show the school itself, because the campus sells itself. Now, the athletic facilities are just outstanding as far as the efficiency of the facilities - where they live, where they eat, where they practice and where they go to school. I don't think anybody has a better situation."
On how the quality of the athletes he recruits has changed over the past couple of years:
"When we first got here, I was just looking for bodies - athletic bodies and then trying to put them in where they belonged. And then, after that third year, you start looking at specific positions and, through graduation, where you're going to need help. I thought Ed Marynowitz and Brent Key, who head up recruiting, did a great job of isolating those players that could help us. It's not just wholesale recruiting and stockpiling. I've always been a big believer in the idea that there's an ideal number at every position. I am always going to try to reach that ideal number because of graduation and transition with guys moving on. I'm sure the running backs we're bringing in - we're bringing in four - I'm not sure they'll all be running backs, but I think they are a talented group that can help us in other areas. Every other specific position is pretty much where they're going to play."
On whether the departure of Kevin Smith changed his approach to recruiting this season:
"No, not really because we were going to bring in running backs. I think you take a running back in high school and he is probably one of the better athletes on the high school team. He usually can play other positions if he has some size to him. It's my experience that he's used to the ball in his hands and is a competitor. We went after four and, again, some of them are just athletes that can help us in other positions. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. I'm not going to move anybody until I'm sure who the two are that I want to settle with to help out the ones we already have."
On going through the recruiting process while having some changes on the coaching staff:
"I've always believed and told players that you choose a school because of a school and not because of the coach. That doesn't always happen that way, but I think that kids who are smart and understand it, and have parents who understand it, choose a school for the education and the playing exposure they can give them. Coaches come and go. You can't go somewhere just for a coach. That happens quite often - they get very attached to a recruiting coach or a position coach or, in some cases, a head coach. I always ask them `If you couldn't play football, where would you want to be?' because you could be one play away from that happening. You hate to say that, but I've always told them to go where you feel most comfortable with the school situation, where you can have a real college experience."
On quarterback signee Rob Calabrese (East Islip - Islip Terrace, N.Y.):
"Rob has a strong arm. You go after a quarterback because of arm strength and if they can line up on a hash and throw the 3-cut and the 5-cut to the other side of the field. Those are the guys you want. I think he comes from a wing football program, has good size to him, and has devoid ability as far as moving is concerned. I think the days of just the dropback is over. Too many people rush too well, blitz too well and you can protect all you want, but I think the Patriots found out, you've got to be able to move back there and I think the big thing is that he can move. He comes from a program where he's had to do it. He has moved and thrown the ball. He is an extremely strong-arm guy and makes good decisions. That's what I look for in a quarterback and that's what he has."
On a change in the recruiting mindset:
"We sit down as a staff and we rate the high school program. I think that's too often overlooked. If they don't have an off-season weight program and they don't work at the game, if they're just three-month players, it takes a little bit longer for them to get on the field. I think you go to programs that work year-round, are in the weight room year-round and where kids are competing in other sports. I think it's important that you look at the high school program they are coming from because if those things aren't there, you're going to have to spend time trying to indoctrinate it into them when they get to college. I think kids are playing earlier because the game has changed. I think it's more of a two-hand touch game in space with all the spread offense. You've got to get people out there who are as good as the guy catching it, so a lot of younger players are getting better. I've always said, the further away from the ball you are, the better chance you have to play early because your athletic ability takes over. I think tackle-to-tackle, it's more strength and experience, but it takes a little bit longer for those kids to play."
On the idea of spring enrollees:
"I've always brought in kids early if they're ready. The problem with bringing kids in early, from my experience, is that most of them, from a maturity standpoint, aren't ready. Some are just 17, they haven't even turned 18 yet. If they're ready maturity wise, I think there's a benefit to bringing them in. I've always brought kids in early. My experience is, you have to sit down a couple of them and really babysit them because they're not ready from a mental standpoint to handle some of the situations that come up from a time management standpoint or those things. I always tell the kids to enjoy their senior year. It only happens once. If there's a reason for bringing him in, from the standpoint that he's that kind of kid where you need him to get on the field right away, then maybe you bring him in. Just to bring a lot of kids in because you can, I don' t see the benefit in that because a lot of those kids aren't ready yet."
On running back signee Brandon Davis (Peachtree Ridge - Sewanee, Ga.):
"He plays big. He's 5-foot-9, probably about 195 lbs. He's a thick kid that runs hard, gets North and South. When you're a player of the year up in Georgia, you've done some great things. His team has gone to the state playoffs for two years and he has been the leading rusher. He's just a great kid with great hands. He does everything well. The first guy to send in his letter this morning was Brandon Davis. I keep tally on when those letters come in. It's interesting to see who the first 10 that come in are. I like responsibility and accountability as far as the kids are concerned."
On where the recruiting class ranks during his tenure at UCF:
"I think this is the best athletic class that we have signed for all the positions. I think from an athleticism standpoint and a speed standpoint, I'm very pleased with this class. I think with the last class, we had some really outstanding players in it at certain positions, but I think, overall, this class is the best class that we have signed since I've been here. I am looking at not what I have seen on paper, but what I have seen on film about this class."
On the other running back signees:
"Latavius Murray (Onandaga Central - Nedrow, N.Y.) is a kid that is from right outside Syracuse (N.Y.) - 6-foot-3, 215 lbs. - a running back. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year up there. The reason we're involved with him is because his dad is down in Titusville. He's an outstanding athlete. He is going to help us. He has range. He's a kid that can play a lot of positions. He played linebacker and has done a lot of good things.
"I think Brynn Harvey (Largo - Largo, Fla.) is a kid that I really liked to begin with. Basically, he did a great job with his grades, which is the one thing that we were questioning. He really did a nice job. He's had the same amount of yards as Kevin Smith had last year for two different years, so it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being a heck of a running back here because I think he can protect, he can run, he gets North and South and he has good size to him. He's 5-foot-11, 215 lbs., and that's as a senior in high school.
"Vance King (Stockbridge - Stockbridge, Ga.) is another one that can play a lot of positions. He is a good running back who was highly recruited from Georgia. He is very similar. They are all very similar as far as running is concerned. Vance has the opportunity to play different positions, but I'm going to give him every opportunity to play running back at UCF."
On the team's additions to the offensive and defensive lines:
"For the offensive line, we brought in four linemen, which puts us at 15, which is the ideal I look at for scholarship linemen. Then, we brought in three defensive linemen. I think they're the toughest to recruit - the interior guys that are big, can run and don't like people - they're hard to find, but they're out there. Sometimes, you can play them a little bit early because it could be a North-South position. They don't have to work a lot on reads and stuff like that. I think we've helped ourselves. We're going into this spring with 83 players - 63 scholarship players and 20 walk-ons, which is a good number for the spring. That's the most we've had out for the spring since I've been here. We have some depth at the positions, we didn't graduate a lot and that will be the look this spring, along with the quarterback position."
On whether or not any of the new recruits have the ability to play the center position:
"Steven Robinson from Lincoln (Tallahassee, Fla.) has the ability to do that because he's a strong guy and has a good first step. That's Mike Lavoie's job this year and Mike is probably the strongest kid in the weight room last year. I'm looking forward to him taking that job over, but I'm going to find a back-up center, because I think it's going to be needed. You'd like to see it either come out of the freshmen or the red-shirt freshmen."
On where signee Marquee Williams (Vanguard - Ocala, Fla.) will play:
"If you ask Marquee, he'd like to be a receiver. That's something I need to discuss with the coaching staff. When he visited, we talked to him about being a receiver."
On linebacker signee Loren Robinson (Lyman - Longwood, Fla.):
"Loren was a kid that we had a lot of experience with. He's a guy that has to play in space, in my opinion, and get some growth on him. He is a good athlete, a basketball player also. Right now, most of the teams we are facing in our conference are one-back and spread. We need more outside guys that are more strong safety/outside linebacker types. That's what I saw him as - a guy that can move on his feet, has good balance and can play in space."
On linebacker signee David Williams (Cardinal Gibbons - Fort Lauderdale, Fla.):
"David came from Cardinal Gibbons. He is a player that committed to us early during the season. He came up for a game. We're happy to have him. He's a wrestler who just won the district last week at 189, so he has dropped weight because of that weight class, but he's going to be a 210-215 pound space guy who can help us out. He's just a solid kid that runs well and will fill some of our needs. We have some backers back - about eight of them - but the ideal number for backers is around 11 or 12 guys. He fills the needs and is a kid that will get a look, but will have a lot of competition at positions."
On the defensive tackle signees:
"Chris Martin (Choctawhatchee - Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) got the MVP in that North-South Conference game. He's a flat back guy, an interior guy. He's 6-foot-4 and change, probably 290 something. I think his future's ahead of him, but he has a good first step. I think he's going to be a kid who has the good size you're looking for. He has a burst that separates the offense and defensive lines. Theo Goins (Hightower - Fort Bend, Texas) is a guy that I think we were fortunate to get. He's just going to be a big, big kid inside - about 6-foot-4, 285 lbs. right now. He's a kid that is a real flat-back player and controls the line of scrimmage. Both of them are very similar and again, depth-wise, we roll eight guys up front, so they will get an opportunity to see what they can do when they get here."