John Denton's Knights Insider

Aug. 26, 2009

By John Denton

The final chapter of Michael Greco's story will be one, he hopes, of fight instead of failure, determination ultimately trumping defeat.

When Greco's stint as UCF's starting quarterback last season failed, he could have left the team following graduation. But instead, he fought his way back onto the team by switching positions and transforming himself from a quarterback to a player who now torments quarterbacks.

These days, Greco is roaming the secondary as a strong safety. Instead of looking to complete passes, he's trying to break them up. Instead of looking to avoid the blitz, he is hoping coaches include him in a blitz package or two.

Giving up quarterback, the only position he had ever played, was a tough one for Greco, but it was a decision that he is now totally at peace with. Greco knows that had he forfeited his final year of eligibility he would have regretted it years from now and he wouldn't have had this chance to re-write his story.

``My mentality is just to never quit and I had one more year of eligibility and you never know what could happen, so I just came out here to help the team try and win a conference championship,'' Greco said following a workout this week. ``I love it out there. I'm having a great time. I'm just working hard and trying to get better.''

At 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds of strapping muscle, Greco is arguably one of UCF's best all-around athletes. He can run and jump and has the height to compete against taller wide receivers. He added more muscle over the offseason as he prepared to become the hitter instead of the hitee.

And the changes didn't stop at his body. His mental side also needed a makeover.

``I had to change my whole mentality,'' he admitted. ``In the spring I felt like I was still in the quarterback mentality. But through the summer and this (preseason) camp, I've been in a defensive mentality. You have to be wired kind of differently to play defense.''

Injuries and inconsistency plagued Greco last season at quarterback. In eight games, he completed 52 of 107 passes for 571 yards. He had five touchdowns, but also threw four interceptions. Inexperience at running back and too many injuries to count at wide receiver certainly didn't help Greco's chances to succeed at quarterback.

UCF coach George O'Leary, who informed Greco in December that the Knights wouldn't be using him at quarterback any longer, wondered if the senior could make the switch from the offensive side of the ball to the defense. His advice: ``I told him if it doesn't work out you can graduate. If it does, welcome to the team.''

Greco feels his time on the offensive side of the ball will be beneficial at safety because he knows what quarterbacks are thinking when they see certain defenses. His quarterback experience helps him think like a signal-caller, a trait that could help him be near the ball on pass attempts in the middle of the field.

``It gives me a huge advantage by formation recognition and knowing what the quarterback is thinking whether it's seven in the box or the middle is open,'' said Greco, who is second on the depth chart at safety behind Reggie Weams, but will be included on nickel packages. ``I have a little bit of an advantage on that. In the spring I was just working on my technique, but now I'm more comfortable with my technique and I can start reading the quarterback more.''

He can also start mixing it up more with the opposition. Greco got into with wide receiver A.J. Guyton after a recent practice when the two got tangled up on a pass route. The two squared off against one another and had to be separated from fighting. In truth, it was just some friendly competition going on between Greco and Guyton, who formerly worked together as QB and wide receiver, but now spar daily as defender and receiver.

``We were just having a little fun out there. I have to be more aggressive now,'' he said. ``A.J. is my good friend. We sit right next to one another in the locker room and we have a little competition out there. We've been competing all summer.''

Clearly, there is still plenty of fight and competitiveness in Greco.

John Denton's Knights Insider runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on UCFAthletics.com. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.