UCF Spring Practice Update: 04/08/08

In UCF's first practice after an intense scrimmage over the weekend, the Knights came out in half-shell and didn't let down, as the squad brought passion and resilience to their workout heading into a week that will lead into UCF's first Black and Gold game at Bright House Networks Stadium.

Offense:

A week ago, UCF's offense was anemic and had a difficult time moving the ball throughout practice, which is expected in the early weeks, but it appears as if the offense is starting to get into a rhythm.

As always, we will hit on the quarterback situation, which appears to be becoming more clearly defined. Junior quarterback Michael Greco said last week that the team will open things up a little more without Kevin Smith and will be based more on finesse than power, and that certainly seems to be the case. This spread offense fits Greco very well, who is a known playmaker. On several occasions, Greco took off out of the pocket and burst up field for what would be major gains in game situations.

With the team trying to spread out opponents, Greco makes the most sense as a starter and he is getting more and more reps as the spring progresses. Today, Greco showed good velocity on several deep-out patterns and also was poised in the pocket, calling audibles and taking control of the offense.

Greco still needs to be a little more consistent, but he is improving regularly, which is always a good sign. Backup Joe Weatherford had his ups and downs during practice, as did fellow redshirt freshmen Nate Tice and Andy Slowik.

For the first time this spring, the Knights started to establish the running game. Phillip Smith is still on crutches and the Knights are getting the job done by committee for now. Ronnie Weaver, James Jamison and Jayson Williams all displayed a great deal of quickness and agility. Jamison had several plays where he juked defenders to where they slipped, and Weaver consistently picked up several yards at a time.

At receiver, no one had a spectacular practice, but the regular names Rocky Ross, Kamar Aiken and Sidney Haynes continued their solid springs and all made plays.


Defense:

This still appears the dominant unit, as the Knights are now displaying the amazing depth they have on this side of the ball. The starters have been spectacular through the spring, and now backups are starting to make plays as well.

On the line, 6'3", 320 lb. lineman Torrell Troup has been clogging holes routinely and has led the front four. Sophomore ends David Williams and Bruce Miller will be starters for the first time of their careers and both look to be up to the task. Miller had a great season last year, and Williams also gained some experience. They are both stellar against the run but are solid pass-rushers too. Today, the front-four established a consistent pass-rush without blitzing and that should open things up for a stellar secondary and line backing corps. Senior end Antonio Wallace is improving against the run and could be pushing for serious playing time, and 2008 signee/Juco transfer Jarvis Geathers is making an impact as a situational pass-rusher.

Linebacker Corey Hogue is continuing his fantastic spring practice and has established himself as a leader for the defense. Hogue is first in line in drills and always brings intensity, even when the team isn't hitting. Fellow backer Chance Henderson is doing a decent job in half-shell, although he thrives in full contact situations. Josh Linam, who was grayshirted last year, hasn't been as explosive as expected this spring and it appears that he needs to pick up his intensity.

The secondary is blossoming and might be one of the best in the nation. Not only are starting corners Joe Burnett and Johnell Neal consistently making plays in practice, but so are their backups as well. Today, sophomore defensive back Darin Baldwin broke up several passes and showed a lot of passion. The Knights have four seniors in the secondary and will need players like Baldwin to step up and give the coaching staff confidence through the season and into 2009.


In additional notes, UCF is expecting a solid crowd of 5,000-6,000 people for the Black and Gold game this Saturday.

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