John Denton's Knights Insider: Quincy McDuffie Amongst Stars at Scrimmage

March 26, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF's two-hour scrimmage was complete on a surprisingly hot spring day and Quincy McDuffie was anxious to get a refreshing shower and then devour a box lunch of chicken and potatoes. But like a moth being drawn to a flame, McDuffie couldn't tear his focus away from the track meet that was going adjacent to the football locker room.

Owner of one of the fastest 200-meter times in Florida high school history, McDuffie knows a thing or two about flying around a track. And that blinding speed is still very much a part of McDuffie's game on the football field. His 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown early on Saturday was one of the highlights of UCF's first spring scrimmages inside Bright House Networks Stadium.

Considering the way McDuffie ran past defenders and even pulled away from defensive backs with angles on him, he could have very easily have been running track on Saturday. But instead he's trying to make his mark as a receiver and show UCF's coaching staff that he can be a go-to-performer next season.

``To me, it actually felt like I was running slow because I was still a little tight, but it was a successful play because it was a good throw, we got good blocking and it was a touchdown,'' McDuffie said. ``I have some days when I miss my good ol' days with track. I'll never let that go because it will always be a part of me. I'll always have a love for it and it'll be a part of me. It's still a big aspect of who I am.''

UCF worked on individual drills at its practice fields and then went through 115 plays at Bright House Networks Stadium. In addition to getting in some work with three strings on offense and defense, the day served as a showcase for the many high school juniors who were on campus to experience UCF football. UCF coach George O'Leary didn't like some of the sloppiness of the scrimmage, but all in all he thought the day was a productive one for the Knights.

``We had a bunch of kids here and we were showcasing everything,'' O'Leary said. ``It was a nice day, we got 115 plays in so I think it was good to get some things done.''

Latavius Murray, the MVP of the C-USA title game and the Liberty Bowl, had a 70-yard run for a touchdown and standout quarterback Jeff Godfrey was sharp on several downfield throws. UCF's first-string offensive line protected well, and McDuffie, Marquee Williams and A.J. Guyton had some nice catches in traffic. Defensively, star safety Kemal Ishamal was involved in several plays, including a crushing hit on Guyton near the sidelines to break up a pass.

O'Leary is using the spring to evaluate UCF's young linebacking corps and he said he wants to see some dramatic improvement from the group in the coming week. Middle linebacker Josh Linam is the only returning starter, while Ray Shipman, Jonathan Davis, Ray Cottman and Loren Robinson are battling for snaps at linebacker.

``(Cottman) better start hitting people or he won't be anywhere. It's real simple because linebacker is a game of contact speed and right now I'm very disappointed in our linebackers,'' O'Leary said. ``There have been way too many missed tackles and poor angles, but it's all correctable. I'm going to have to see a lot more from them if we're going to be a good defense.''

O'Leary is hoping to see plenty more of the 5-foot-10, 177-pound McDuffie catching passes and running away from defenses next season as a receiver. He used his blinding speed to become a second-team All-American pick last season by CBSSports.com and Rivals.com as a kick returner. He averaged 32.2 yards a return, took two kicks back for touchdowns and had a third at the start of the Liberty Bowl against Georgia called back because of a penalty.

O'Leary doesn't want that blinding speed to be restricted simply to returning kicks. That's why the veteran coach has made a vow that McDuffie will be involved more in the passing game than last season when he caught just 13 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

``He should have been on the field more last year. I know sometimes we try to just utilize him in the kick game, but even of those kids that we had last year he had the best concentration of any of those kids. The biggest thing is getting him lined up and making sure he knows the position that he's playing. But when you run that well and catch like he does, he has to be a go-to guy a lot more than he's been.''

The opportunities are certainly there for McDuffie, what with Brian Watters, Jamar Newsome and Kamar Aiken - last season's top three receivers - graduating. McDuffie knows there will be plenty of opportunities there for him to prove that he can be an every down receiver for the Knights. He showed his progress on Saturday, catching three balls down the field to go with his jaw-dropping speed on the 70-yarder early in the scrimmage.

``It is a big opportunity for me this spring. We had three seniors who left who played a big role on the team so the stakes are pretty high right now for me,'' McDuffie said. ``It's up to me to show that I have the talent to do the same things that those guys did for us last year.

``I'm looking at this as a big opportunity and I'm trying to establish myself now as a dominant receiver who is able to make plays as a kick returner and a receiver,'' he continued. ``I want that big-time role every game this season and help us have big success.''


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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.