John Denton's Knights Insider Insights

Nov. 19, 2011

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By John Denton

GREENVILLE, N.C. - From Daunte Culpepper to Jeff Godfrey, from the Division I-AA days to UCF now being a major player in college football, Marc Daniels - the voice of the Knights - has been on the call for it all.

UCF's football game at East Carolina on Saturday was Daniels' 200th at the microphone as the radio voice of the Knights. Daniels is in his 17th season with UCF's football team, starting in 1995 at the same time as Culpepper, UCF's legendary quarterback.

``(Culpepper) is the best athlete I've ever seen play at UCF just for the way that he's played the game,'' Daniels said. ``I actually think Ryan Schneider was the best quarterback I've seen at UCF. But for what Daunte meant to the program was so big. He got us in a position where people started recognizing the UCF name. There were a lot of great players and a lot of close calls through the years.''

Daniels actually stumbled upon Saturday's milestone 200th game. With Florida State announcer Gene Deckerhoff about to celebrate his 400th game announcing for the Seminoles, Daniels was asked on his daily radio show (The Beat of Sports on 1080 AM) how many games he had called for UCF. His count revealed 199 games and set the stage for his 200th football broadcast Saturday night.

Daniels said he still marvels at all of the growth that UCF has made through the years. He sees an even brighter future for a program that could be on the verge of joining the Big East Conference. And like Deckerhoff at FSU, Daniels hopes that he's still around years from now to celebrate his 400th game at UCF.

``I'm fortunate and grateful for the opportunity. I hope they keep me for another 200 games,'' Daniels said. ``I've had a blast doing UCF and seeing the growth from I-AA, independent, to the MAC, C-USA and then now maybe in line for the Big East, it's great to see the growth. I feel fortunate to see growth like that because guys don't see that much. I just hope there are 200 more for me.''

  • ON THE ROAD AGAIN: A solid road team in the past, UCF's struggles away from Bright House Networks Stadium this season has been well documented. The Knights were 5-1 away from home last season, including the Liberty Bowl win against Georgia on a neutral field. However, they entered Saturday's game winless on the road with losses coming at FIU, BYU, SMU, UAB and Southern Miss.

The Knights have played in front of all kinds of crowds this season. The crowds at Southern Miss, FIU and BYU were boisterous, while there were plenty of empty seats in games against SMU and UAB.

UCF coach George O'Leary, a 42-year veteran on the prep, collegiate and professional levels of football, said he prefers playing before loud, boisterous crowds. He had his Knights practice with simulated noise this past week in anticipation of the noisy crowd at East Carolina's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. O'Leary said the louder and nastier the crowd, the better in his eyes.

``Every place that we play - I don't know what it is, but everybody hates us. That's not a problem and I like that,'' O'Leary said with a chuckle. ``You see the real fans screaming and yelling. East Carolina has always had a good football fanbase and they have a good football program. They pack the place and they get loud. And I think that's a great football environment and I enjoy stuff like that. It doesn't affect the kids. I'd much rather be at a place like that than one where they have a hundred people in the stands. That's why (East Carolina) likes coming to our place - because they know there will be people in the seats and they enjoy coming here because of the football environment.''

  • EXCITEABLE FRESHMAN: UCF senior right tackle Nick Pieschel said it's been interesting to see redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Bortles grow up as the season progressed.

Bortles started the season as a backup to Godfrey, but he's earned more playing time of late by routinely coming through in big situations for the Knights in a reserve role.

Pieschel said that Bortles has been able to grow as a quarterback because he's better learned how to manage his emotions when leading the team. He said Bortles' style in the huddle is a little more boisterous than Godfrey's low-key demeanor, but he still exudes confidence throughout the team.

``Blake is a good quarterback. He got very fired up at the beginning of the season and I guess that's kind of expected from a young guy, but as plays move on he settles down,'' Pieschel said. ``He brings a lot of fire to the offense, which is a really good attribute for us. Blake is very confident in himself, which is good because it's sometimes hard to find in younger players. With that confidence he just builds on it every game. As long as he takes it play by play and keeps working at every practice, I think he's going to turn out to be a very good quarterback.''

  • ETC: Saturday's game was UCF's third in a row against teams that run no-huddle offenses. UCF senior end Darius Nall said the pace of play can be especially fatiguing for a defense, but the Knights prepare for it by facing the fastbreak look in practice during the week. Said Nall: ``It's tough on a defense, but we practice against the fast-paced style so it gets easier during games.'' ... UCF fans should be forgiven if they didn't recognize East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill on the sidelines Saturday night. McNeill, once 388 pounds, dropped 120 pounds in the offseason following gastric bypass surgery. Suffering from pain to walk and about to have hip replacement surgery back last April, McNeill took a drastic step toward getting control of his weight with the gastric bypass surgery last January. ... UCF entered Saturday's game having played 25 freshmen players this season. That's tied for the sixth most in the country. Only Clemson (29), Indiana (29), Auburn (26), Florida State (26) and Texas (26) have played more freshmen this season. ... UCF has received the opening kickoff in 10 of 11 games so far this season. The Knights won the toss on Saturday and elected to receive the ball.

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