It's rare when a play consisting of third-string players is indicative of the direction of a program, but UCF's first practice of summer camp certainly showed that the Knights are alive and well.
As Thursday's session wound down, freshman Nico Flores chucked a pass over 50 yards down the sideline to fellow frosh Quincy McDuffie, who hauled in the bomb over a would-be defender. The beautiful sequence ended with the offense erupting in cheers, and no one was more enthusiastic than Rob Calabrese, who jumped with joy in celebration of his former quarterback's success.
UCF fans weren't treated to many plays like this in the past season, but early on in camp, it looks like UCF's last-ranked offense has grown by leaps and bounds.
Although the Knights practiced in just helmets, the excitement amongst both offensive and defensive players was palpable. There was enthusiasm, playful jeering and an overall enthusiasm from both squads, something that wasn't seen nearly enough last year.
Coach George O'Leary took note of his team's fervor and passion.
"The kids are coming on the field with good effort and enthusiasm with a ‘coach me coach' attitude, and that's all you can ask," said O'Leary.
The coach acknowledged that players won't separate themselves until the pads come on Sunday, but there were plenty of things to get excited over on Thursday, most notably, the passing game.
"I thought all the quarterbacks had their moments," added O'Leary. "Rob (Calabrese) threw the ball with more authority than he did last year. He was more sure of his checks, more sure of his reads."
Calabrese performed well through the practice, connecting on passes all over the field. His backups, namely Joe Weatherford and Brett Hodges, had their moments. Hodges looked nimble and accurate and should bring in a nice level of maturity.
Perhaps the most notable performance of the day came from the wide receivers, who looked extremely sharp. Rocky Ross, Brian Watters and Kamar Aiken are all going to be big contributors for the Knights and they caught everything thrown their way. This level of consistency is something the group didn't have last season, but they certainly showed off their potential on Thursday.
Safeties Derrick Hallman Reggie Weams were fluid and appeared to be in the right spot time and time again. Justin Boddie was also impressive on his side of the field, as he ran with the first team as a corner and didn't let too much get by him.
Players like offensive lineman Nick Pieschel, tight end Adam Nissley and defensive end David Williams weren't able to make huge impacts because the team was only geared with helmets, but all three looked significantly bigger and quicker. Even Calabrese looked trimmer and more defined. UCF's staff has talked about the team's progress in the weight room through the offseason and it definitely showed.
UCF will have practice early tomorrow at 9:10 a.m. as the Knights will look to carry the goodwill they established with Thursday's practice.
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Knights Open Up Camp with a Bang
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