John Denton's Knights Insider: Looking Back at a Historic Football Season

Jan. 7, 2011

="" alt="Knight Head" border="0" class="imported"> Read John Denton's Knights Insider | ="" alt="Twitter Logo" border="0" class="imported">Follow us on Twitter | ="" alt="Facebook Logo" border="0" class="imported">Get social with the Knights on Facebook

By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Things are a little crowded inside the office of UCF football coach George O'Leary these days what with nearly a half-dozen trophies sitting on top of the tables.

But that won't be the case long as the coach plans to commission a trophy case to likely be built in the recruiting room at Bright House Networks Stadium. That way, O'Leary said, everyone can see and be proud of all that the Knights accomplished in the historic 2010 season.

The trophies are the spoils of a season in which the Knights won both the Conference USA championship and the Liberty Bowl. UCF also swept up many of the C-USA awards, capturing the league's Defensive Player of the Year award (Bruce Miller), the Freshman of the Year (Jeff Godfrey) and the Coach of the Year (O'Leary).

The Liberty Bowl trophy, the prize for beating Georgia 10-6 a week ago in Memphis, has finally been repaired and the replica bell trophy will again gong upon being shaken. It got quite a workout last Friday night when UCF withstood a furious final drive by Georgia to win its first-ever bowl game in school history. A week later, O'Leary is still feeling the buzz of UCF's finest season ever.

``You can see that the fan base is thoroughly excited about what took place and now the key is that our administration needs to build on it,'' O'Leary said. ``In the game, it wasn't always pretty, but we hung in there and fought the fight. We showed great effort in all three phases and the kids played extremely hard.''

O'Leary's belief is that UCF will move up in the Top 25 year-end rankings and will make a reappearance there when next season kicks off. He hopes that by winning 11 games, winning championships and finally winning a bowl game that it will help UCF have another successful recruiting class and spur the fan base to grow. The 2010 recruiting class was arguably the Knights' best ever with Godfrey plus redshirted freshmen Torrian Wilson, Joshua Reese and J.J. Worton, and O'Leary hopes that this season's success will carry over into the offseason for the Knights.

UCF loses 19 seniors, and will likely have 16 scholarships to offer for next season. The Knights will add seven players to the team next week when school starts back. The Knights most recently got a National Letter of Intent from defensive end Cameron Henderson who will join two other top junior college recruits in Toby Jackson and Ray Cottman.

``There are a lot more kids calling wanting to visit, but there are only so many scholarships,'' O'Leary said. ``We were in a lot of big-time (recruits') home already, but the key is still having kids come on a visit and getting a pit in their stomach that this is a feel-good place where they can succeed academically and athletically.''

UCF's hopes for continued success next season will certainly center around the return of Godfrey, the phenom quarterback who steadied the UCF offense and had one of the finest freshman seasons for a quarterback in recent years in the NCAA. And as good as he was all season, O'Leary was impressed with how Godfrey played through an ankle injury suffered in the second quarter of the Liberty Bowl and how he converted three third-down plays on the game-winning drive.

``He's a tough kid who showed a lot of fight and bite in that game and I'm very pleased with what he accomplished this season,'' O'Leary said. ``Obviously when he lost his foot speed he wasn't the same player, but I thought he made good decisions with the ball.''

Godfrey wasn't the only Knight injured in or before the Liberty Bowl. Senior linebacker Derrick Hallman (sprained knee), junior tailback Ronnie Weaver (stinger) and sophomore defensive back A.J. Bouye (shoulder separation) were hurt, but Bouye's was the only one deemed serious. The talented sophomore was slated to undergo surgery on Friday and won't be available for spring practice.

Another injured player, Rob Calabrese, is expected to be healthy by the start of spring practice on March 18. Calabrese tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee midway through the season against Marshall. With Godfrey firmly entrenched at quarterback, O'Leary said that Calabrese will likely make a position switch for spring practice.

O'Leary also said that L.D. Crow will not return to the team and that highly touted redshirt freshman Blake Bortles will open spring at the back-up quarterback behind Godfrey.

The running back position will also be a spot of interest next season what with the emergence of sophomore Latavius Murray, the MVP of the C-USA title game and the Liberty Bowl, and the expected return of Brynn Harvey. Harvey, who returned to practice during the Liberty Bowl, was an all-conference pick prior to this season, but never played this season because of a knee injury. Murray took over the starting tailback duties late in the season and had big games against Tulane (146 rush yards, one TD), SMU (94 rush yards, two TDs) and Georgia (104 rush yards, one TD).

``Latavius really took the ball and took charge out there. He had a really good game (against Georgia), made some really good cuts and got some tough yards,'' O'Leary said. ``I was pleased with his development. He wants to be a running back and there's no question about that.'' O'Leary said that UCF will have a tough time trying to replace a senior class that won two C-USA titles, reached three bowls and finally captured a bowl victory in their final game.

``I was the happiest for them after the game because I knew how much that win meant to them,'' O'Leary said. ``Some of them it was their third bowl and they hadn't won a bowl game. They had accomplished everything except getting that bowl win, and they got that accomplishment. When you watch the game, you could see that they were ecstatic with the way they were running all over the place.''

O'Leary also got a chuckle out of how several fans got down onto the field following the victory. O'Leary, who was drenched with a Gatorade bath after the game, even did a double take when he saw some unknown fan carrying the Liberty Bowl trophy high overhead.

``I can't say enough about our fan base because they did a tremendous job as far as following the team this season,'' O'Leary said. ``I think the big thing that we've got to do now is getting the administration and others on the same page now in terms of ticket sales and making sure that we have a full stadium each game next season.''

O'Leary said that maybe the biggest impact of the bowl win is that it served as an announcement to the rest of the college football world that UCF is now a force to be reckoned with. With a signature win against a traditional power such as Georgia in hand, the Knights showed that they are capable of challenging any team in the country and the future is brighter than ever.

``I think the game did great things not just for UCF, but also UCF's (stature) through the country,'' he said. ``As far as the direction that we're heading, I think it showed we're on the right path.''


Click here to receive the Knights Insider via email

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