Players Not Plays

Through six games, the UCF offense is one of the worst not only in Conference USA, but in all of college football.

The Knights offense ranks 118th overall in yards per game, 110th in passing, 117th in passing efficiency, 106th in scoring (17.7 ppg.), 117th in first downs per game, and 113th in third down conversions at just 28.9%. These putrid stats did come against three teams that are ranked in the top 20 in the nation in defense (USF, BC, Miami).

Due to the lack of offensive output, Knights fans are up in arms and some are even calling for the dismissal of the coaching staff. Lets be honest, when a team is this bad on offense, it isn't the plays that are called it's the players trying to execute them. UCF is simply too young at key positions, thanks to players leaving early and injuries, but despite their youth, they've done a solid job of competing with more talented opponents, which is a testament to the coaching staff.

"We continually work on offense and we've got some youth at some key positions which shows," said the Knights head coach. "We just have to continue to play solid defense and good special teams and hope the offense catches up."

On an offense in which possibly only one player could play on Sundays, left tackle Patrick Brown, the Knights have suffered some key injuries. Quarterback Michael Greco was named the opening day starter, but he hurt his bursa sac in his knee during the Boston College game, and is still bothered by it. Senior wide receiver Rocky Ross was the team's best route runner and most reliable player at the position, and he went down with a clavicle injury during the UTEP game which will cost him the rest of his season. Tight end Cory Rabazinski will now miss the rest of the season due to an injury he suffered in Miami.

That's three key injuries to three veterans that have already cost the team at least one victory. The game last Saturday in Miami was certainly winnable, assuming the Knights offense could get anything going.

"Mike Greco, I asked him what he was and he was about 60% he told me," Coach O'Leary said following the Miami game. "So that's why he wasn't out there earlier. Look at when we had him in there, he just couldn't plant on the foot so we took him right back out again and put Rob back in."

Greco's condition remains week to week as there's no guarantee that his knee will be okay without rest.

"It's the same knee that keeps blowing up, every time he gets hit it keeps blowing up," O'Leary explained. "It's not anything structurally, it's just the Bursa Sac that keeps swelling and you can't bend the leg when that happens. That's been like that, it healed up and then he took a bang last game and when I asked him what he was he told me about 60%."

Without Greco, the Knights are forced to play talented, yet very raw true freshman quarterback Rob Calabrese who has a strong arm, but doesn't appear quite ready for play at this level.

"I think the big thing is, I think a lot of what Rob did today was just typical freshman stuff," Coach O'Leary said following last week's game. "We had some open receivers and he either underthrew them or overthrew them. That's part of growing up as a young freshman and the maturity that we have to go through sometimes."

Although most fans expect greatness right off the bat, the reality is that a freshman quarterback is going to have some growing pains. Calabrese has the arm to make all the throws, he just needs to find accuracy and success in some real games.

"For true freshman, sometimes the expectation level is unrealistic," O'Leary said.

Everyone knows that UCF had to replace All-American running back Kevin Smith who is now averaging 4.6 yards per carry with the Detroit Lions. The original plan was to replace him with Philip Smith, who looked solid last season, but he was thrown off the team early in the summer. That left the Knights with a handful of freshmen to handle the duties in the backfield, and the results have been just 3.4 yards per carry and seven fumbles lost.

Without experienced talent at the quarterback position and running backs that consistently miss the holes, it's difficult for coaches and coordinators to add "wrinkles" in the offense or any kind of trickery.

The finest offensive minds in the history of football could be coaching the Knights offense and they wouldn't have success until the offensive line blocks a little better, the running backs run through the holes that the line creates, and the young quarterbacks start hitting open receivers.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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