Jan. 8, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Every time the calendar switches to a new year, the UCF baseball team switches into high gear. The Knights returned to campus this week and immediately set their sights on the upcoming 2008 season by beginning conditioning drills at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.
"Our guys are back and we had our first team meeting yesterday," said associate head coach Craig Cozart. "We are pleased to see that they have maintained a tremendous amount of focus and intensity about what we were trying to accomplish last fall. We had our first day of conditioning today and they performed very well. So they are eager to begin full-blown practice on the field Feb. 1."
UCF will have eight hours a week to spend with team conditioning and lifting in the weight room. The Black and Gold also will hold individual workouts in the batting cage and the bullpen.
The Knights' season-opener typically has been held during the first week of February or earlier. But with the new NCAA rule changes, the first day UCF can hit the field as a team is Feb. 1 and its first game is slated for Feb. 22 vs. Florida A&M.
"They know what has to be done," admitted Cozart. "They know what it takes to get themselves into shape. This is actually a luxury that we haven't had in the past to basically have a three-week lead-up period before we start a full practice. So when we hit the ground running Feb. 1 these guys will be ready to go and get into the nuts and bolts of what we need to do to prepare for opening day."
One focal point that Cozart, who serves as the UCF pitching coach, will be looking at is who will step up to form a five-man rotation. In early March, the Knights will play at least five games a week until the week of April 14. However, that will not affect the team's workouts in January.
"I don't know if we have to get any more innings out of our starters than we typically got, we just have to have more starters than normal," said Cozart. "Now you have to have a five-man rotation and four solid middle relievers that you can count on to give you two quality innings. And with the way things set up you probably do need to develop two closers. Obviously we know we have one but we have to come up with another one.
"But our approach is the same during these conditioning drills. I think we are fortunate enough to have quality depth this year with the way things have worked out. So our conditioning approach isn't different from last year at all. It's just that we are going to have to go 10-12 pitchers deep. We have had weeks in the past where we played five games but now we will see how that plays out during the length of an entire season."
UCF will open the year with four home games in four days, taking on Florida A&M Feb. 22-24 and No. 15 Missouri Feb. 25. Season tickets can be purchased now by calling 407-823-1000.
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