The Knights will have a target on their backs as the defending C-USA champions, and the team is the favorite to win it all again this year. That said, there are various questions the team needs to answer in order to repeat.
The team was in just helmets, so it was hard to gauge some positions such as offensive and defensive line. It should be noted that this early on during practice, the offense will always be a little slower, so a little sloppy play on that side of the ball is expected.
Quarterback shakeup- Coach George O'Leary will keep the QB competition open for about least a week, but Michael Greco took a majority of the snaps with the first team.
Greco looked decent during practice, moving well in the pocket and throwing on the run. Greco did struggle with accuracy at times though, leaving some passes too high and others too short. He did make good decisions though and should be okay once he shakes off the off-season rust.
Joe Weatherford, Greco's top competition, was solid, but he too left some passes short. Still, Weatherford displayed a good grasp of the offense.
A big surprise was Rob Calabrese, a true freshman from New York. He showed off a quick release combined with a tight spiral. Some passes were a little erratic, but that is to be expected for a guy who was just slinging it around against high schoolers a few months ago. Right now he appears to be the third-string quarterback, ahead of Nate Tice.
Freshmen frenzy- Along with Calabrese, there were some great performances on opening day from some freshmen. Most fans have hyped up the arrival of UCF's four stud running backs, and the group didn't disappoint.
Latavius Murray, Brynn Harvey and Brandon Davis all displayed the skills that fans have looked forward to. Davis is a compact runner with good quickness who should vie for some playing time. Harvey also received a nice amount of reps, including some with the first team. Murray might have been the most impressive of the trio. At 6'3", 215 lbs, Murray doesn't look like a typical back, but he has excellent burst and speed along with a powerful running style. He also did a nice job catching balls out of the backfield. All three looked very good and should help soften the loss of Kevin Smith. Ronnie Weaver, a redshirt freshman, is currently the number one back on the team and he did a good job rushing through the tackles.
Vance King, the team's fourth running back commit, was moved to wide receiver and he has tons of potential. King ran terrific routes for never having played the position, and he get loose on a fly pattern for a touchdown, displaying great straight line speed as well. It's early, but King looks like he will make an impact for the Knights this season.
Brendan Kelly was recruited as a LB/FB for UCF, but he looks to have found a home at running back. Kelly lined up as a FB in the I-formation at times, but also was a single back in some shotgun formations. At 235 lbs, Kelly rumbled down the line of scrimmage for some nice gains, with good power and quickness.
Changes on the line- The Knights have a great offensive and defensive line coming back, but there were some changes of note.
On offense, it appears that the starting lineup is intact, but West Virginia (and Kansas St.) transfer John Hafferty looks to be adding some solid depth at center. He logged some impressive minutes at Kansas St. and could compete for some playing time.
Wes Tunuufi Sauavo played on offense before, but looks to be a full-time defensive tackle now. He should add solid depth and seems to be a natural at the position.
Behind the seniors- UCF has the most experienced and talented secondary in the C-USA, but with all four seniors graduating after this season, coaches will be paying close attention to younger defensive backs. Emery Allen, a junior cornerback, and sophomore Darin Baldwin, both had stellar springs and made a fantastic play at practice together. Allen broke up a pass with a text-book hand on hip and swat move. As the ball fell to the ground, Baldwin snatched the ball up for an excellent interception.
With the quest to repeat fully underway, there were a lot of positives for UCF during the team's first practice. There are still questions to be answered, but with more practices like these, UCF should have things sorted out fairly soon.
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
Knights First Practice Recap 8/4
Knights Daily Top Stories
UCLA Offensive Line DevelopmentsMay 23 -- There are developments with UCLA's offensive line, like a possible grad transfer, another potential addition to the 2017 roster, and UCLA leading for a JC prospect...
Bruin Report Online8:20 AM
Rising Florida DT lands WKU offerPonte Vedra, Fla., defensive tackle Johnny Bogle is nearing 20 scholarship offers
WKU Insider7:08 AM
Zimmer: Proving time for newcomersMike Zimmer isn’t going to anoint any newcomer a starter in May or June, but he has a few he thinks will be hungry to show their stuff at Minnesota Vikings practices.
Viking Update6:49 AM
3-star TE Barker Nabs 1st ACC Offer From PittFlorida prospect Daniel Barker, who has close to a dozen offers, received another Power Five school offer.
Scout Penn PrepsYesterday at 6:44 PM