John Denton's Knights Insider: Q&A with George O'Leary

Dec. 21, 2011

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By John Denton

Through last week, you and your staff were on the road recruiting on the heels of the school's BIG EAST Conference press conference (Dec. 8). What was it like on the recruiting trails for the first time, having this major announcement taking place?

"Recruiting has been very positive. Parents have been asking us about the BIG EAST and instead of telling them it was going to happen (at some point), that we were on the lips of many, we now told them their sons would have the opportunity to suit up as members of a BIG EAST program during their time at UCF. For many, it was important that we were now going to be part of an (automatically qualifying) BCS Conference."

Did you feel that with the BIG EAST announcement, the recent and upcoming recruiting period is the most important recruiting this program has overseen during your tenure?

"I don't want to say that it is the most important recruiting we'll be doing, every year we go after the best players for UCF. We look at our needs each year, what we need for upcoming seasons, and that is what we recruit. That won't change. I think you see just as much joy in the parents of the players we are recruiting, because they are just as excited about their sons enrolling at UCF - sometimes more than the son. It is an important period in recruiting for us. We are receiving more interest. High school programs are elevating their perception(s) of UCF now that we will be in a BCS conference. Our coaches will look to use that advantage as it relates to the players we are targeting for need."

Shortly after the semester concluded, Jeff Godfrey decided to transfer from UCF. What went into your decision to grant him his release? [O'Leary granted Godfrey a release from his UCF scholarship and he is free to transfer to any school not in Conference USA, the BIG EAST or one that is a future opponent of the Knights.]

"I first met with Jeff and his parents two days after (UCF's season-ending 31-14 defeat of UTEP). Jeff personally asked me for his release so that he could attend to family issues in South Florida. He told me he would be enrolling in school at Miami-Dade College for the time being. In addition, he was not going to be able to be a part of the football program in the spring semester due to a violation of university policy."

Throughout the season you always indicated that Jeff Godfrey was the starting quarterback, that this was `Jeff's team.'

"Jeff was treated as our first-string quarterback all 12 games and he also took 70 percent of the (first-string) snaps every day in practice. Basically, we made a decision - and Jeff knew it - that on the third or fourth series of every game that I wanted (Blake) Bortles playing to get him experience. He went in and was productive, but that didn't change Jeff's first-quarterback status."

How do you feel personally about Jeff's departure?

I like Jeff Godfrey. The season did not go the way any of us would have wanted, but he still has a bright future as far as football is concerned. We have some competition at the quarterback position, and that is what this game is all about. It will and should be the same anywhere."

Will recruiting be more difficult in South Florida with Jeff's departure?

"Neither I nor my coaches have experienced any backlash in recruiting players to UCF from South Florida, or any other region, for that matter. We're going to recruit the state of Florida and Miami the same way that we always have. We're involved with several players from South Florida. Most importantly, with our facilities, location, the university, the BIG EAST and the addition of coaches Ted Roof (defensive coordinator), Jim Fleming (linebackers) and Derrick Ansley (defensive backs); there is a renewed excitement with the UCF football program. This year, Torrian Wilson, Rannell Hall, Josh Reese and J.J. Worton - all South Florida kids - played a lot for us at the end of the season because they were making plays."

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