Preparations for Virginia Tech

While many of the players are enjoying their summer break at home, defensive coordinator Bill D'Ottavio is cramming for his teams' first test against Virginia Tech on August 31st. The textbook starts off with a chapter on the new recruits and how to fit them into the system, then proceeds by assessing UCF's current situation and concludes with preparation for the first game.

The recruiting process begins very early since there is so much talent in the state of Florida and it is tough to focus on top recruits because they are pursued from universities all over the country. Zones are used for the coaches to scout high school talent. "I have the Southwest Coast of Florida. I work from Venice down to the coast," D'Ottavio said. "Initially you go and cover your area, and identify who are the top guys right here and then from there it is wheedled down to specifics." The process then turns into a numbers game because the team might only need a certain number of players at each position. The recruiting coordinator Scott Fountain, head coach Mike Kruczek and the position coaches convene to narrow their focus. It comes down to what is best for the program and whom you can fit on your roster D'Ottavio explained. "It's about identifying the top guys in the area that are recruitable with the academic background and will succeed here at UCF."

D'Ottavio is looking at the new recruits to help his team in the fall. He believes it is going to be a competitive situation but feels the new players have a chance to make the team in back-up roles for the secondary. "There is a learning curve that takes place in the competitive balance," D'Ottavio explained. Once they get on the field and make the adjustment to college football, he feels will be the time for those players to contribute to the ball club.

Local recruits are already making the adaptation to the next level. "They came out to spring practice and observed things and I'm sure there will be more around summer," D'Ottavio said. "They do come around and they're very excited to be a part of this program. We're excited to have them. I wish we could start tomorrow with them but we have to wait until August."

Until then every player has a workout regiment he must follow to prepare for the fall. The program assigned to the students starts later than those who have chosen to work out at home. "It's up to them to invest their time and really come into camp in shape and ready to go because you like to spend your time and focus on Virginia Tech and not trying to get people in shape," D'Ottavio said. With many of the defensive positions up-for-grabs, playing time will also be decided from players who have or have not created a good work ethic.

Linebacker is one position that will be determined from off-season workouts. UCF is coming into the 2003 season with a deep roster considering last year's academic probations and injuries. "If everybody has a good summer and everything works itself out the way it should, I think we finally have enough depth at that position do the things we want to do," D'Ottavio proclaims. Two junior college recruits will also be joining the team in the fall, which should make the competition harder for starting roles. "It's going to be an interesting battle when we get to camp. We feel good about the core people that we had there and I thought in spring we got some good reps with some young guys," D'Ottavio said.

While the players are concerned with the physical attributes, D'Ottavio is determined to march into Blacksburg with the mental component under control. "We've already kind of started preparing for them because you have to get a lot of that stuff done now," D'Ottavio said. He recapped a number of forces that stand in UCF's way. With 10 wins last season, the Hokies are still returning talented players at quarterback, tailback and wide receiver. UCF will also contend with a hostile crowd and a national television audience. "That stuff really doesn't factor into it. It adds to the excitement for the fans and certainly adds to our excitement on the prospect that it will be fun and great exposure for our football team. As far as the game itself, we got to focus on Virginia Tech what we have to do to win," D'Ottavio said. "I don't need any extra incentive to prepare for them or get excited to play. It's going to be the opening game; it's a great challenge for us and our kids, so that's how we look at it."

Now as the examination approaches, it is apparent to the teacher that the students must bring experience, leadership, and an ability to learn from mistakes. " A lot of time, you have leaders within a certain group. You might have one at the D-line, one at the linebackers and secondary. There will be somebody out there to rally the guys, but most of the time it is making those kids aware, ‘okay, a mistake was made, now lets regroup and play the next play'." D'Ottavio said. He tries to keep the players' minds fresh by simulation of game situations. Adversity is also a main priority for D'Ottavio and he feels it is the difference between winning and losing. "Adversity is in every football game and you don't know when it's going to come but it's going to be there. So, when it does come how are you going to react to it?" D'Ottavio said. "It's an attitude and mind set."

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