To gain more insight into Maryland's (2-0) next opponent, UCF (1-1), we go behind enemy lines with beat writer Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel. Our question-and-answer session with Green is below:
Terrapin Times: How have UCF fans taken to the Scott Frost hire and what do they think of him trying to make the Knights an "Oregon of the East?"
Shannon Green: Since Frost was announced as the program’s new head coach on Dec. 1, fans have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic about this hiring. There are a multitude of reasons why starting with the fact that UCF went 0-12 in 2015 and fans were eager to see a major change. The promise of a more high-speed, high energy offense that exploits the skills of Florida speed was very attractive to fans who want to see more scoring. As the saying goes, offense sells tickets and defense wins game.
Frost, I think, just offered fans something new from his predecessor George O’Leary. He’s young, he’s a former player, he has an elite pedigree having worked and played for some of the most intelligent football minds in Chip Kelly, Mike Tomlin and Tom Osborne to name a few. Outside of what his potential was on the field, he made major changes off the field too having brought new uniforms through his Nike connections at Oregon. For the first time, in a long time, players have their last names on the back of their uniforms again. Little things like that went a long way.
TT: Is there a feeling that Frost can take UCF back to the success of the George O'Leary days?
SG: I get the sense that fans are looking forward rather than back. O’Leary took the program to incredible height climaxing in 2013 at the Fiesta Bowl, but fans want more. They want to see the school move into a Power Five conference (ahem, Big 12), they expect championship football and they want the story of their school to not prop up as some cliché “small” program that had one good year here or there, but as a respected program with a rich history of producing NFL caliber athletes like Brandon Marshall, Blake Bortles and Asante Samuel that is capable of doing this consistently.
TT: How have the players adapted to Frost as a coach, and also his up-tempo offense? Is the offense to his liking yet, or is he still in the process of finding the right personnel to fit his style?
SG: From day one, players loved Frost and his staff, where the average age of the staff sits around 39-years-old. Frost preached about bringing the fun back to football again because a lot of that was lost in the troubles of last season. That being said, adapting to a new offense has taken some time as evidenced by the first two games and Frost hasn’t gotten all the personnel to run his offense exactly the way he wants. He recruited a strong freshmen class, which ranked No. 2 in the AAC behind Houston, and several of these players have seen significant playing time already including Trysten Hill (DL), Jawon Hamilton (RB), Adrian Killins (RB) and Jordan Johnson (OL).
TT: It looks like Frost has turned around the recruiting at UCF. What kind of recruiter is he and is UCF becoming a threat for some of the top kids in Florida?
SG: I touched on this in the previous question noting his recruiting class finished No. 2 in the conference behind Tom Herman’s class at Houston. That’s a pretty impressive feat given that he had little time to move to Florida, hire a staff and recruit players from December to February. Players say he’s personable, straight-forward and has a cool, calm laid-back demeanor. UCF is certainly on the minds of several top athletes in Florida and really has always been. Several local high school coaches actually said they felt UCF wasn’t aggressive enough in recruiting Central Florida kids before he came. The first three kids in his recruiting class all came within a 20 miles radius of UCF. Outside of Frost, a huge part of that reason is because he retained one of the staff’s most veteran and respected assistants in Sean Beckton, who coaches the tight ends and previously coached wide receivers.
TT: This is the second Big Ten game for UCF in a row. How is Maryland perceived after taking on a power like Michigan last week?
SG: Frost is somewhat familiar with D.J. Durkin as they both crossed paths in 2009 when both Durkin coached at Stanford and Frost coached at Oregon as assistants. He knows Durkin will bring a physical, defensive presence – like most Big Ten teams. After traveling to Michigan last weekend, UCF felt that test will better prepare its players to get ready for Maryland. I think players are expecting this contest to be somewhat similar to the Michigan game and they’re focused on using the same grit to help them contend with Durkin’s team.
TT: Who are UCF's X-factors and game changers and what makes them effective?
SG: RB Adrian Killins. He has incredible speed and won the 100-meter dash champion at the Florida high school state meet earlier this year. If he catches an angle on you, it’s almost impossible to catch him. WR Tre’Quan Smith, who is the reigning AAC Rookie of the Year. He’s known for making acrobatic, difficult catches. On defense, DL Trysten Hill is big, physical and has speed. He has certainly made the Knights’ line stronger along with Tony Guerad and Jamiyus Pittman.
TT: In general, what are the strengths of the team and what are the areas of concern?
SG: UCF has a stout defensive line and a deep group of running backs that are quick. Against Michigan, UCF held them to just 2.9 rushing yards per carry and as mentioned earlier UCF’s backs rushed for almost 300 net yards. Running and stopping the run has been solid for the Knights, but the pass game has been a different story thus far. UCF’s offensive line is still finding its way and once this group starts to clicking and working in tandem with the quarterbacks, this should allow the team’s talented receivers to make the kind of big plays they are capable of.