Monday, August 28, 2006

UCF Football: Pre Season Breakdown

You can smell it in the air, taste it on your lips, feel it in your bones...that's right, it's College Football season again. I've never been a big pro football guy, I feel the game has strayed too far from what makes it special. Too many flashy players, to much bling so to speak. Or, maybe it was the fact that my Detroit Lions didn't give me much of a pro team to root for most of my life. Who knows?

Anyway, I typically watched college football cheering on University of Michigan, or Michigan State, or any other Big Ten team that happened to be on. Hell, I've rooted for Notre Dame at times. But I never really had a team of my own. Then I went to UCF.

By no means a "football school," UCF has made great strides to change that in the past ten years. Quarterback Dante Culpepper is our greatest contribution to the Pros. UCF got serious on the coaching front two years ago bringing in George O'Leary, who took our team from 0-11 his first year to 8-5 last year, getting us to the C-USA Championship Game and the Honolulu Bowl (or whatever it was called, hey at least it was a bowl game).

This year the buzz on campus is high. With our brand new stadium being built to be ready for the home opener against Texas next year, people are excited. Can we do it again this year? Can we take the Conference title and get to a better bowl game? Could it be possible that we peek out heads into the top 25 once or twice (albeit at the 24th or 25th spot)? These questions will all be answered soon. We've got Villanova on the 2nd, and then it's off to Gator land on the 9th (yikes!).

Here's the breakdown of what to expect from UCF this year, care of USATODAY.COM:

INSIDE SLANT

Ever since Central Florida put the finishing touches on the nation's most impressive turnaround last season, UCF coach George O'Leary has been telling his players to forget all about it.

"Last year is over with. It is gone," O'Leary said after his team opened preseason practice on Aug. 5. "We have a new season and whatever happened last year is over. It is a new football team with new personalities and new chemistry."

Despite improving from 0-11 to 8-5, winning the Conference USA Eastern Division title in UCF's first season in C-USA and returning 18 offensive and defensive starters, the Golden Knights are showing every sign of buying into O'Leary's message.

"Last year was just one year," senior quarterback Steven Moffett said. "We enjoyed it, but we have a lot more to show everybody. We aren't finished yet."

The Golden Knights don't have to look very far for motivation. After all, 2004's winless finish isn't all that far away.

"Just the thought of having a bad season swirling around in our head is gonna make us continue to work hard," Moffett said. "We know what it's like to be down, and I know I don't want to go back to that."

The Golden Knights also know if they can start the season picked to finish fifth or sixth in their division and then win it, that other C-USA teams can do the same.

"We know we ain't gonna surprise anybody," fifth-year senior center Cedric Gagne-Marcoux said. "I would be worried if we didn't have a good offseason, but the offseason we had was incredible. We're bigger, we're stronger, we're just ready to get out there."

NOTES, QUOTES

KEY EARLY-SEASON GAME: vs. USF, Sept. 16 — A Sept. 9 game against Florida is big for the UCF program, especially following last year's success, but the Golden Knights often find themselves compared, for better or worse, to USF's rapid Division I-A rise. The winner of this game climbs another notch on the Florida football ladder.

THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS WILL SUCCEED IF: They continue to win close games as they did last year; they continue to run the ball effectively, take pressure off quarterback Steven Moffett, force turnovers and win the kicking game.

THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS WILL FAIL IF: The young players who played such a decisive role last year start taking success for granted; the Golden Knights forget what it takes to win close games; the defense struggles to fill holes in the front seven.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Last year, we felt good together. Coming through spring, I think we all improved together. Now it seems like things have come together even more. The first day of practice, we were out there communicating well. We know how one another are going to play and that makes it easier out there." — UCF right tackle Josh Sitton, one of five returning starters from an offensive line that has combined for 93 career starts.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

HEAD COACH: George O'Leary, third year at UCF, 8-16 with the Golden Knights

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: C Cedric Gagne-Marcoux — Gagne-Marcoux is the cornerstone of an offensive line that returns five starters and gives the Golden Knights a solid, physical foundation up front.

BREAKOUT STAR: FS Jason Venson — Venson did some positive things as a freshman in 2005 but an improved defense and the presence of cornerbacks Joe Burnett and Johnell Neal could allow Venson to get involved in more tackles and more big plays in the passing game.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH: WR Keith Houston — With the loss of starting receiver Brandon Marshall and the uncertainty surrounding starting Mike Walker's knee, Houston has a chance to come in and play right away this fall.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: Offense — QB Steven Moffett, TB Kevin Smith, FB Jason Peters, WR Mike Walker, WR Rocky Ross, TE Mike Merritt, LT Patrick Brown, LG Dominic Ignelzi, C Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, RG L.J. Anderson, RT Josh Sitton

Defense — LE Emeka Okammor, LT Leger Douzable, RT Keith Shologan, RE Chris Welsh, LB Jordan Richards, LB Cory Hogue, LB Ronnell Sandy, LC Johnell Neal, SS Sha'reff Rashad, FS Jason Venson, RC Joe Burnett

ROSTER REPORT: The Golden Knights came out of spring practice with some health concerns but entered the preseason with only one major concern, middle linebacker Steven Baker (knee). With Baker out for an indefinite period, senior Ronell Sandy is once again making the move from his more natural position at outside linebacker to the middle. The Golden Knights will also be looking for immediate help from freshmen Chance Henderson and DaQuwan McNealy.

Senior Mike Walker, the team's leading returning receiver, appears to be making a positive return from surgery after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in the 2005 season.

-Steve

1 Comments:

Anonymous Ryley said...

"I've never been a big pro football guy, I feel the game has strayed too far from what makes it special."

This is an idiotic statment. The NFL is the one professional sports organization with any class.

It's the only organization with an "actual" salary cap. The only with any parity. The only with a real drug policy. The only with any sort of accountability and/or code of conduct.

Sure you have your occasional TO, but in the NBA or the MLB, everyone is TO...and/or grossely overpiad and and/or roided out of their minds.

Fuck even cyclists are roided out of their minds.

There is a reason the NFL is by far the most popular American professional sport in the world (if you mention NASCAR, I'll murder you). There is a reason it's gained so much ground. Paul Tagliabue brought class and sanity.

Quit with your generalizations...Dickbag.

6:05 PM  

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