Coach O'Leary (UCF Athletics)
With more than 200 fans standing on the sideline, UCF participated in a scrimmage throughout most of Saturday’s practice. The hundreds of fans were able to get a good glimpse of the talent UCF posses and what they have to look forward to in the upcoming season.
Coach George O’Leary was thrilled with the defense, but said that the offense was basically still a work in progress.
“I thought it was a good scrimmage for the defense, but our offense I was very disappointed in. There was a lot of missed blocks, missed assignments, and we have a lot of work to get done on offense, there’s no question about that,” said O’Leary after Saturday’s scrimmage.
As is usually the case with football, it takes the offense longer to gel than the defense, and with less than two weeks under the team’s belt, the unit is still expecting to go through some growing pains. O’Leary said earlier in the week that the passing game wasn’t where it needed to be, but was making strides. That was also the case on Saturday.
Quarterbacks Michael Greco, Joe Weatherford and Rob Calabrese all had bright spots on the evening. Greco did throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by safety Reggie Weams, but overall he looked impressive, showing poise and confidence under the center. On one play, the pocket broke down and Greco demonstrated his fantastic speed, bursting ahead for a first down on foot. O’Leary felt his quarterbacks did a decent job on the afternoon and while they are still working some things out, they are getting better at making the right reads.
“Today with just the timing and the touch on the ball, I think we’re throwing to the right guys, we’re just throwing it late or throwing a 10-yard pass 100 mile an hour. I think the touch on the ball has to improve.”
O’Leary went on to say that he will make a decision on the starting quarterback spot Sunday morning prior to practice.
The quarterbacks didn’t receive a lot of help at times, as drops continue to be an issue. On one play, a receiver will make a fantastic catch, most notably J.T. McArthur’s diving catch on the sideline for a large pickup, and on another they’d drop an easy pass.
“Of course [the drops] are concerning me,” added O’Leary, who has previously stated that he will mix things up at the position if the drops continue. “I think we’re closer in some areas to naming a position.”
The offensive line was adequate against the pass, but struggled to get defenders off the line against the run, and the running backs’ production slipped because of it. Ronnie Weaver ran very hard and plowed ahead for some very hard earned runs up the middle. Of the freshmen backs, Brandon Davis looked the best, running with determination combined with nice acceleration, although his line regularly made more room for him to work with.
As expected, the defense was phenomenal. Neither the first, second, third or fourth team offense scored, and the firs-string defense barely gave up anything on the evening, something that certainly impressed O’Leary.
“I thought from a standpoint of execution, defensively they basically got it done today and the offense didn’t.
All of the defense was stellar, as the line had excellent push through the scrimmage (with Antonio Wallace sacking Greco being the highlight there), the linebackers were stout against the run and in coverage, and the defensive backs shut a lot down. Johnell Neal had several nice breakups and also came up strong in run support. The most memorable hit of the night occurred when Sha’reff Rashad came down from the safety spot, to hammer a cutting Latavius Murray at the line of scrimmage, as he delivered a nice pop that welcomed Murray to the collegiate level.
UCF’s nickel back and backup corner Emery Allen was also happy with how the team’s defense performed on Saturday.
“The defense performed very well today. Everybody executed very well and we have to come out and do that every practice before the season in order to dominate.”
With the season opener less than two weeks away, things are starting to clear up for the Knights. The defense seems primed and ready to go, and the offense is steadily improving. O’Leary admits to there needing to be more growth on offense, but there are good signs there. With O’Leary getting closer to naming starters, expect for the Knights to begin working more and more on execution as the season rapidly approaches.
Brendan Sonnone is a senior writer for InsideKnights.com, covering the UCF Knights for Scout.com. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
For more, go to: InsideKnights.com