UCF Preseason Review

With the Knights' season ready to kickoff in a matter of hours, fans, players, and coaches alike are anxiously looking forward to get on the field against South Carolina State. Through the preseason, InsideKnights.com has offered extensive coverage on UCF personnel, but before the 2008 campaign gets underway, you should hear it from the horse's mouth.

Coach George O'Leary talks about the preseason and what to expect from his players this coming week and season.

"Just to recap the preseason, we ended up being a fairly solid football team coming out of it," said O'Leary at Tuesday's press conference.

The Knights embark on their 2008 season with a target on their back and no longer carrying the title of underdog. Last season, UCF won 10 games, the C-USA title, and beat N.C State in Raleigh, the team's first victory over a BCS team this millennium. Throw in a painfully close loss to national power Texas and a one-score defeat to a talented Mississippi State team, and it becomes clear that UCF deservedly has high expectations this season.

For the Knights, much of the focus this preseason was on offense. With Kevin Smith leaving early for the NFL, three starters on the offensive line moving on, and a fairly intense quarterback competition, UCF had a lot of questions to answer in early August.

"From an offensive standpoint, I saw steady progress as the preseason went on each and every week. Going against a pretty solid defense, I thought we improved steadily each day," added O'Leary.

Perhaps the most anticipated position battle this spring and summer was at quarterback, where junior Michael Greco fended off redshirt freshman Joe Weatherford for the starting job.

"I named Mike Greco the starting quarterback, mainly because of consistency in decisions and fieldmanship. Joe Weatherford wasn't far behind, I'd like basically to keep the freshmen out of the mix if we can this year, but I'm going to play whoever we need to play to win football games, "said O'Leary.

As the quarterback battle was heating up, the race to help soften the blow of losing Smith was on as four freshmen running backs really impressed O'Leary and the rest of the staff—

"All four will get opportunities to see the ball, I don't know this weekend, but I would think before the season is over. They all bring something different to the table as far as what they can do, as far as vision and inside-outside running."

O'Leary was also impressed with the offensive line's depth and the steady improvement amongst the players at the position. At receiver, there was some concern with drops early on in camp, but O'Leary is confident with the experience he has returning.

"You have four or five guys back that were there last year, and the way we utilize our receivers I think they'll be fine."

Defensively, O'Leary's main concern over the summer was keeping competition, as 18 of 22 starters on UCF's two-deep defense returns and most positions were already fairly solidified. O'Leary said the defense's experience will ultimately help the offense as it grows, especially in the opening game against a potentially dangerous S.C State team. O'Leary though has been telling his team all week to not overlook the Bulldogs, and after a long offseason in which the Knights grew as a team, O'Leary and his young men are ready for action.

"I know our football team is excited, I think they're like every team this time of year, they basically want to hit somebody else."


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