John Denton's Knights Insider: George O'Leary Recaps Spring

May 3, 2010

By John Denton

Click here to receive the Knights Insider via email

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - George O'Leary has reviewed all the video footage and conducted several meetings with his coaching staff and the unanimous verdict is that spring practice was a smashing success for UCF's football team.

The Knights broke camp with two viable quarterbacks in Rob Calabrese and Jeffrey Godfrey, the offensive line played much more physical and several young, unproven players showed promise to fill in holes at defensive tackle and linebacker. The one negative was the knee injury to starting tailback Brynn Harvey, but even that opened up opportunities for bruising back Brendan Kelly and speedster Jonathan Davis.

``Overall, I thought it was a really good spring for our football team,'' O'Leary said. ``I think our chemistry is really good because of our senior class. I don't think we've had a senior class before where there are this many of them starting. That's the way it is supposed to be and it will help us.''

The Knights are off until Aug. 4 when the team will report back to the team headquarters, and fall camp will begin on Aug. 5. Several players will remain on campus throughout the summer to attend 12 weeks of summer school classes and work out individually at the team complex.

O'Leary said a sample of the new NIKE jerseys arrived on campus recently and the Knights worked most of the spring with NIKE footballs. UCF is switching from adidas to NIKE on July 1, and O'Leary said the design of the new swoosh-adorned uniforms will remain basically the same.

O'Leary said the offseason is a critical time for improvement, especially for youngsters like Godfrey and even veterans like wide receiver Kamar Aiken. Godfrey, who graduated Miami Central early to have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job in the spring, needs more time in the film room and throwing timing routes with receivers. And O'Leary hopes that Aiken utilizes the ball machine to catch dozens of passes a day in hopes of improving his consistency.

O'Leary was delighted to see consistency in the 15 spring workouts from Calabrese, who heads into the offseason at first on the depth chart. Calabrese, a part-time starter each of the past two seasons, showed more poise in the pocket this spring and made progress as far as keeping his eyes downfield rather than instantly scrambling. Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe also worked with the junior-to-be at being more creative when plays break down and delivering passes on time.

O'Leary has tried to get Calabrese to better control his emotions and not put so much pressure on himself.

``Sometimes he's his own worst enemy,'' O'Leary said. ``He puts so much pressure on himself to get things right all of the time. The thing that I'm most proud of is when plays broke down he's scrambled around and made plays when plays have broken down. He still needs to improve on throwing the ball on time. Now, he has more confidence, he knows the field and he's making something happen when plays break down.''

Improving the aggressiveness and the physical play along the offensive and defensive lines was a point of emphasis after the Knights were pushed around by Rutgers in the St. Pete Bowl. Four starters are back along the offensive line - Jah Reid, Nick Pieschel, Cliff McCray and Theo Goins -- and Jordan Rae outplayed Zac Norris to become the starter at center. O'Leary said he spent the bulk of his time during spring drills with the lines, and was pleased with what he saw.

``We went in knowing we had to get a lot more physical, especially with the offensive line,'' O'Leary said. ``We spent a lot of time trying to get guys out of their comfort zones. I think we left (spring practice) a lot more physical. ... I like to tell our guys that they can have a bad day, but they can't have a bad day. You have a bad day and that leads to attitude or effort problems.''

O'Leary said the biggest surprises of the spring were the growth of receivers Quincy McDuffie and Marquee Williams, Kelly at tailback, defensive tackles E.J. Dunston and Victor Gray and reserve punter David Bohner.

As for Godfrey, O'Leary isn't worried about the freshman phenom not making progress this offseason. If anything, Godfrey proved in the spring that he wasn't overwhelmed by the speed of the college game or the thickness of the UCF playbook. He is confident that Godfrey will be ready to play by the Sept. 4 season-opener against South Dakota if needed.

``He's really a quick study. He has really good recall,'' O'Leary said of Godfrey. ``When things happen to him, most of the time it's the first time. He has a natural gait to him to get things accomplished. He has the ability to take a bad play and make a good play out of it with his feet or his arm.''


John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.