Offensive Changes Necessary for Knights

Anyone who has seen the Knights play knows full well that the team has been struggling on offense. Those struggles are confirmed by their national rankings of 119th in total offense (out of 119 teams), 111th in scoring offense, 112th in passing offense, and 97th in rushing. Let's talk about what changes need to be made.

Conventional wisdom says that when there is major inexperience at the quarterback, running back, and offensive line positions, any offense would struggle. Still, the first half success of the Knights this season shows that they have potential, but something is missing.

Coach O'Leary eluded to that fact in Tuesday's press conference when he said, "It is young players trying to make plays and they are not always executing the way you would like them to."

The Knights head coach didn't absolve the coaching staff from the team's offensive ineptitude, and that seemed to be a theme of the press conference.

"I know it's frustrating as far as the position coach is concerned and the coordinator over there, but it is what it is. I think the players have done a great job with their attitudes."

The quarterback position certainly needs better, smarter play, and they had that for about a half in each of the Knights last two losses at Tulsa and last Sunday at home against ECU.

"I don't think either quarterback (Rob Calabrese and Michael Greco) has shown the consistency at the position," O'Leary said. "It is young players trying to make plays and they are not always executing the way you would like them to."

In the somewhat rare occasions when the quarterbacks have delivered good, catchable passes, they simply haven't been caught enough. The UCF wide receivers had several key drops Sunday night that could've put the game away.

"There is no question we drop entirely too many balls, especially when I see games where guys catch it off their shoe laces or one handed," O'Leary confirmed. "Is it a lack of experience? I think it is more of trying to make a play and losing concentration on the end of the catch. It is something that we have talked about a lot as a staff and how we can improve these guys. There were four balls that were dropped that made a difference in that game as far as extending a drive or getting a first down. They weren't tough catches. I am not bad mouthing anybody. All I am saying is that I expect division one receivers to make those catches. We throw the ball as much as anyone does in practice and give them enough time to work that stuff out. We just don't seem very fluid when catching the ball."

Throughout all the struggles, the Knights may have found themselves a solid running back in true freshman Brynn Harvey, who has looked quick, strong, and patient in his limited opportunities. Coach O'Leary spoke about Harvey's progress and spoke about the coaching staff's use of the stable of backs.

"The only thing that I am concerned with the running backs, and I talked to Tim (Salem) about it, is not making use of them all, O'Leary said and then went on to talk about the offensive coordinator's use of his personnel. "I don't think Brynn is at the stage where he should be out there getting all the downs. We are at the stage where we need to keep fresh legs out there. Sometimes Tim gets wrapped up so much into play calling. I have instructed him that I want different guys in by series this game. We have to get those different guys in there because they have already played this year."

The Knights certainly need things to change in their final four games if they are going to finish with a .500 record. 6-6 would have likely been a disappointment in the eyes of most UCF fans entering this season following last year's C-USA title, but most would see that as a very positive sign entering 2009. The Knights head coach eluded to the fact that changes may be on the way.

"I have told Tim (Salem) to let it loose," O'Leary said. "We did that early in the game. We need to fight the fight and be more competitive on offense. I see us on the right people, but finish the play. I think competition is what we need to do more of. When you drop a ball, I am sure you are competing, but you didn't finish. The finish is the catch."

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