With the 2002 season not far behind and the 2003 campaign still seven months away, many schools around the country are digging out from the latest snowstorm and their football coaches are taking a break from the rigors of recruiting. In Orlando the UCF coaches are getting ready to go back on the field. "There are so many different philosophies on when to have spring practice," offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Robert McFarland said. "We have 15 days with the players no matter when we use them. By going early the players have the opportunity to get in the weightroom and concentrate on the bulking phase of their lifting for a couple extra months.
"Plus," McFarland added. "It allows them to not have the dual pressure of competing for a position on the field while trying to handle their academic requirements at the most critical time which is usually just after mid semester and into the final exams.
Because National Signing Day was less than a week ago, UCF coaches have been pressed for time to get ready for spring drills. "As a coaching staff we've pushed it this past week to evaluate the stuff you usually evaluate in three weeks or a month down to 10 days," McFarland said. "We'll be ready for spring, though."
With eight starters back on defense, there will not be as many questions to answer on that side of the ball as there were last year. On offense is where a lot of retooling will take place. UCF lost seven starters on offense, including three on the offensive line, from a squad that posted a 7-5 mark and finished 11th in the country in total offense.
Finding a replacement in the starting lineup for center Mike Mabry, guard Taylor Robertson, and tackle Brian Huff will be priority number one for McFarland. "That's going to be the main focus on the offensive line this spring" McFarland said. "When you lose more than half your unit, it's a tough thing to rebuild. We have a lot of young guys we redshirted this past year we are looking forward to stepping up and competing for some of those jobs."
Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, Dan Veenstra, Seth Ulsh and Larry Peoples redshirted as freshmen in 2002. They will compete with veteran returnees Travis Muse, Adam Butcher, and Alex Mendez for the right to join tackle Kyle Watkins and guard David Ashkinaz in the starting lineup.
"There is going to be some good competition going on to fill those three spots and hopefully we will have some answers coming out of spring," McFarland said.
Practices are open to the media and general public. Below is a listing of practice dates and time.
UCF SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Day Time Gear
Feb. 16 (Sun.) 2:35-5:00p.m. Helmets/Shorts
Feb. 17 (Mon.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Helmets/Shorts
Feb. 19 (Wed.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear
Feb. 22 (Sat.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear
Feb. 23 (Sun.) 2:35-5:00p.m. Full Gear (No Tackle)
Feb. 26 (Wed.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear
Feb. 28 (Fri.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear (No Tackle)
Mar. 1 (Sat.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear (Scrimmage)
Mar. 2 (Sun.) 2:35-5:00p.m. Full Gear (No Tackle)
Mar. 5 (Wed.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear
Mar. 7 (Fri.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear (No Tackle)
Mar. 8 (Sat.) 8:20-11:00a.m. Full Gear (Scrimmage)
Mar. 9 (Sun.) 2:35-5:00p.m. Full Gear
Mar. 12 (Wed.) 8:20-11:00am. Helmets/Shorts
Mar. 14 (Fri.) 7:00p.m. Full Gear (Scrimmage) at Citrus Bowl