John Denton's Knights Insider: Thunderstorms Can't Stop Knights

Aug. 7, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Squalls of rain were pelting the UCF campus and lightning horns were blaring, but the UCF football team never missed a beat of practice on Saturday afternoon.

And they have the Nicholson Field House, the only 100-yard indoor facility in the state of Florida, to thank for the uninterrupted workout.

While drills in Coral Gables, Gainesville, Tallahassee and Tampa were likely bothered by thunderstorms and soggy conditions on Saturday, UCF got in its first camp practice in pads without lightning or wet ball concerns.

UCF's dazzling facility, which was named in honor of Knights supports Sonja and Tony Nicholson and has been opened since June of 2005, afforded the Knights the chance to get in a 2½ hour session. Quarterbacks threw without rain or wind concerns and linemen had solid footing under them throughout.

UCF head coach George O'Leary had his doubts about going inside early on Saturday because the sunny skies. But he knew the team made the right decision when he looked outside during the drills and saw the downpour conditions.

``I was annoyed and said, `It better rain!' When I came out the sun was out, but (the rain) came down pretty good. It was a good choice to come inside,'' O'Leary said. ``I kept looking outside and seeing the sun and I always like to get us outside if we can. But I didn't want to disrupt practice. But it's great to come in here and we didn't miss a step.''

While some of the UCF players might have preferred a day off from the practice drills, they were able to practice unimpeded in dry conditions. UCF junior defensive end Darius Nall said the indoor facility impressed him when he was being recruited by and he enjoyed having a facility at his disposal that no other college or pro team in the state can access.

``The indoor facility helps a lot because it was really raining and we were able to go inside and still work,'' said Nall, picked by many to be a breakout player this season for the UCF defensive line. ``We're just lucky to have something like that so that we could still get a good practice in.''

And a good practice it was, especially for playmakers like tailback Jonathan Davis, wide out Quincy McDuffie and mobile quarterbacks Rob Calabrese and Jeffrey Godfrey. Each had highlight worthy plays on Saturday, bringing a smile to O'Leary's face because of his insistence that UCF needs more ``chunk'' plays this season.

``I think we have a lot more speed this year looking at the field and what's going on,'' O'Leary said. ``There's a lot more space plays coming in where we're getting the ball to players in space who can make hay with it.''

Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable, the architect of a UCF defense that ranked near the top of Conference USA in almost every category last season, got a special joy out of seeing players in pads again. And he had to like the nifty interception and touchdown return by linebacker Jordan Becker late in practice.

With a veteran group with eight returning starters, Huxtable has been able to focus more on development instead of installation in this camp. He is pleased with the focus, energy and retention so far. And he certainly liked hearing the sounds of players hitting on Saturday.

``I loved it out there today. It was a long summer off away from football, so this was good,'' he said. ``We had two days there in shorts and today was finally good to put some pads on, run around and lay some wood.''


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