2012 Season Preview with Head Coach George O'Leary

GO KNIGHTS Head coach George O'Leary discusses his senior class, keys for the preseason and several other topics.
Head coach George O'Leary discusses his senior class, keys for the preseason and several other topics.

July 23, 2012

Twitter Logo Facebook Logo UCF Athletics Social Media Directory

By John Denton, Knights Insider

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - If George O'Learyhad his way, football practice would already be underway and the start to the 2012 football season for UCF would be just a couple of weeks away.

That's just how excited the veteran head coach is to get started working with a Knights team that he feels is filled with vast potential.

``I wish we could start tomorrow. The playbooks are done, the schedules are done and I hate seeing things get dust on them,'' O'Leary said. ``I really am excited about working with this group because I've been very pleased with their attitude.''

UCF opens practice on Aug. 1 and Media Day will be held Aug. 2. The Kickoff Luncheon will be held at 11 a.m. on Aug. 16 and the Knights will be in camp mode through Aug. 18. Those practices will be open to the public.

The Knights open the season Aug. 30 at Akron. A week later the Knights travel to Columbus, Ohio to face Ohio State and new coach Urban Meyer. The home-opener at Bright House Networks Stadium is Sept. 15 against FIU. And the Knights will close the non-conference portion of the schedule on Sept. 29 with a marquee home game against Missouri.

UCF football season tickets are currently available for as low as $140, while away game tickets are also on sale. For more information and to place an order, call the UCF Ticket Office at (407) 823-1000 or visit UCFAthletics.com.

O'Leary was extremely pleased with the progress the Knights made during the 15 practices in the spring, and he said the group has followed that up with more beneficial work in the weight room and on individual drills over the summer. With several key starters back on both sides of the ball, O'Leary is excited about the prospects for this team.

UCFAthletics.com writer John Denton sat down recently with O'Leary for a question and answer session about the upcoming season. Here is a transcript of that session:

  • QUESTION:You have said for years that teams often win games with the work that they put in during the offseason. How pleased have you been with the progress your team has made since the end of last season?

    COACH O'LEARY:``I thought we left the spring in great shape as far as effort and enthusiasm and maximizing our abilities. Nothing is ever perfect, but we're continuing to strive for that. We're fortunate to have everybody in summer school, so academically and athletically, we've done a lot to get ahead. And when the freshmen joined them in Session B (of summer school) we have pretty much our whole football team here. People ask me when they report and I laugh. Times have changed and they don't really report anymore because they are already here. But I've been pleased with the progress kids have made this summer in trying to maximize their opportunities.''

  • QUESTION:In the spring you stressed that you were still looking for leaders to develop from this team. What have you seen that tells you this team has the leadership needed to be successful this season?

    COACH O'LEARY:``Collectively the senior class reminds me of the 2010 class. Leaders are hard to find individually, but collectively they are doing a good job. I've always said you're only as good as your senior class. They don't have to be your best players but they have to understand that football is a `we' game and not a `me' game and react when things don't go right.''

  • QUESTION:What are some of the keys that you will be looking for early in training camp and early in the season that will give you an indication as to how good this team can be this season?

    COACH O'LEARY:``The key for us is always having competition at each position. We have some good depth coming back at all of the positions. I don't think anybody can be assured of a spot. Competition is what gets people better. Kids have to be out there knowing every day if they do what they are supposed to that they have a shot to get on the field and win a job. There are no appointments made regarding positions here and they have to earn it every day. That just makes us better as a team.''

  • QUESTION:You have a ton of experience returning at key spots on offense. How dynamic do you think the group can be?

    COACH O'LEARY:``This is the first year since I've been here that the two-deep is already pretty well set. We want it to be a competitive two-deep where you can put all of those guys in and sustain the game. I'm very comfortable, more than ever, now that we have more people who can get on the field and not have a major falloff from the first game.''

  • QUESTION: Blake Bortles showed tremendous promise last season with his ability to hang in the pocket and deliver the ball down the field in the passing game. How confident are you that he can be the leader of the offense?

    COACH O'LEARY: ``I've always believed in one quarterback and it's Blake's job. I haven't had a chance to watch Tyler Gabbert yet with the NCAA rules, but I understand that he is doing very well. You just need that competition at all positions. You need to make sure you are doing the things to maintain your starting job. I've been very pleased with the progress that Blake has made, but you still understand that he's a sophomore and there's still a lot of learning to take place with him.''

  • QUESTION: What kind of role to you envision Jeff Godfrey having after he made the switch from quarterback to wide receiver?

    COACH O'LEARY: ``From my understanding, he's doing an outstanding job at receiver. We have both Jeff and Rob Calabrese who can play receiver and go in and give us downs at quarterback if needed. That really helps us for traveling purposes and gives our offense some more versatility. They are both receivers and that's where they will be this season. But there will be packages in for them to attack defenses.''

  • QUESTION: You have several returning players back along the defensive line and secondary, but the linebacking corps is still relatively young. How can the presence of a four-year starter like Kemal Ishmael make a difference on defense?

    COACH O'LEARY:``Kemal is a very, very good football player and really you have three of the starters back. And with the addition of (cornerback Jordan) Ozerities, who probably would have been the starter back there but didn't play because he was injured, I think we'll be OK in the secondary. I'm also eager to see how much our young players can help us back there in the secondary.''

  • QUESTION: You made several changes to your defensive coaching staff because you were unhappy with the lack of big plays made last season on that side of the ball. How much will you be stressing quarterback pressure, interceptions and stripping the football in this training camp?

    COACH O'LEARY:``To me, our two problems last year was our ball security on offense and we didn't get any takeaways on defense. You can't turn the ball over and expect to win. On defense, we didn't always have good contact speed and we played freshmen at some key positions. A year of experience is going to help those players. Those two areas - ball security and causing turnovers - are going to be heavily stressed during preseason drills. Those are the kinds of things that win ball games and help you with field position.''

  • QUESTION:You have a long-standing habit of writing what you think the team's record will be before the season and placing it in your desk. I know you keep that prediction a secret, but what lets you know that this team can be successful and compete for a Conference USA championship?

    COACH O'LEARY: ``The attitude of a team is one of the first things that you recognize. Sometimes I don't even have to hear them; I can just see them because body language tells you a lot about a team. So I think it's going to be a good group and I can't wait to get started with the season.''

    -UCF Athletics -



Fox 35 Reliable One