John Denton's Knights Insider: Reviewing the 2011 Season with George O'Leary

Nov. 30, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Coaches always proclaim that losing hurts worse than winning feels good, so in that vain UCF's George O'Leary knows that this offseason will likely be filled with plenty of pain.

Not only was UCF's 5-7 season a major disappointment to the team, the fanbase and O'Leary, but the frustration is magnified by the fact that the Knights agonizingly lost six games by a combined 31 points this season. The Knights twice lost on the final play of games and their six losses by eight or fewer points tied for the most by any school in the country.

``In my experience throughout all of my years of coaching anytime you lose you die a little bit,'' O'Leary said. ``Coaches who put enough time into the business and with the kids and on the practice field, it has to hurt. And if it doesn't hurt you should be looking for another job. But this season broke down to a matter of six games, and in most of them it just came down to that last possession of either putting the ball in the end zone or getting a stop. We just didn't get it done.''

O'Leary jumped into action to do something to rectify the failures of the 2011 season, making immediate changes with his coaching staff. O'Leary dismissed defensive coordinator John Skladany, linebackers coach Al Seamonson and player personnel director Albert Boone.

The process for replacing those positions has already begun in earnest. O'Leary said he is close to naming a new player personnel director and he has decided on four coaches to interview for the defensive coordinator position. Next, will come naming coaches to direct the linebackers and secondary.

Sean Beckton is currently on staff as the defensive backs coach, but could move over to the offensive side of the ball to work with the receivers to replace the departed David Kelly. Beckton was a record-setting receiver at UCF from 1987-90.

O'Leary said the changes made were executed for the good of the team and he is confident that the Knights will have some talented coaches in place by early January.

``As a head coach you have to make some decisions that aren't popular and are tough decisions, but you have to look at the overall team and the direction that we need to go to be successful. The decisions made are based on evaluations that I made with what went on this season,'' O'Leary said. ``It's amazing how many people are calling who want to work and there are some really good candidates. I'll sit down after the process and make a decision on that (defensive coordinator) position. And from there I'll go through and decide what we need in terms of linebacker and secondary coaches.''

O'Leary said that he expects that UCF will have a new Athletics Director in place by mid-January to replace Keith Tribble. O'Leary said that he has no interest in the AD job, and stressed that he has more determination than ever to get the UCF football program back to its winning ways. After all, it was just a season ago that the Knights were 11-3 and winners of both Conference USA and the Liberty Bowl.

O'Leary, who has coached various levels of football for 43 seasons, said he still has the fire and passion to coach and hasn't given much thought to how much longer that he wants to continue to coach at UCF. But one thing he is certain of is that when he retires from coaching it will be the last time he's on the sidelines wearing a headset.

``I'm getting up there in age. I've had so many of my friends retire and then a year later they are back working again. I ask them, `Why?' They tell me they couldn't stay still and missed it. So when I do retire I want to make sure that I stay retired and I'm not going back to coaching again,'' O'Leary said. ``I thoroughly enjoy what I'm doing. Do I enjoy the losing and this past season? No, but that's what coaching is about. The kids know and I know that we have to get a lot of work done and get better.

``But when I say, `that's it,' that will be it and there won't be any return a year later from me,'' O'Leary continued. ``I just want to make sure and not just taking some kind of hiatus. I'll continue until I feel that I've had enough. I still love the camaraderie and the competition. But if there comes a time when I feel like it's needed for me to step down, it won't take me long to make that decision.''

Check back to UCFAthletics.com on Thursday and Friday for O'Leary's two-part question-and-answer session regarding the 2011 season, the future of quarterbacks Jeff Godfrey and Blake Bortles and the changes he wants to see for next season.

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