Aug. 29, 2005
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ORLANDO - For the fourth consecutive season, the UCF Golden Knights open the season on ESPN in front of a national television audience. The Golden Knights visit South Carolina in primetime on Thursday, September 1 in the first college football broadcast of the season on ESPN.
UCF makes it ESPN Thursday night primetime debut in a game featuring two of the top coaches in the nation in George O'Leary and Steve Spurrier.
Mike Tirico will call the action on ESPN while Kirk Herbstreit provides the color commentary and Erin Andrews patrols the sidelines. The UCF ISP Sports Network begins pregame coverage at 5:45 p.m. The radio broadcast is also available at ucfathletics.com.
UCF is 0-2 all-time vs. South Carolina, with both losses coming in Columbia. The Golden Knights lost 33-14 in 1996 at South Carolina in UCF's first season as a Division I-A member. The following season, the Gamecocks survived a scare from the Golden Knights, holding on for a 33-31 victory. Daunte Culpepper threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the two-point loss.
George O'Leary has faced Steve Spurrier three times, but never as a head coach. The two met when O'Leary was the defensive coordinator for Bobby Ross at Georgia Tech from 1987-89 while Spurrier was the head coach at Duke. The Blue Devils won 48-14 in 1987, 31-21 in 1988 and 30-19 in 1989.
UCF is 1-9 all-time vs. SEC schools, with the lone win coming in 2000 at Alabama (41-38). The Golden Knights have lost four games by five points or less to SEC competition, including two games by one point.
UCF on ESPN
UCF is 0-4 all-time on ESPN, including last season's 34-6 loss at Wisconsin to open the season. George O'Leary has coached 10 games on ESPN Thursday night primetime telecasts, going 6-4 when he was the head coach at Georgia Tech.
UCF in Season Openers
UCF is 14-12 all-time in season openers in 26 years of football. Over the last six seasons, the Golden Knights have faced some of the top teams in the nation to start the season, including No. 21 Wisconsin in 2004, No. 9 Virginia Tech in 2003, No. 24 Penn State in 2002, No. 19 Clemson in 2001, Georgia Tech in 2000 and No. 22 Purdue in 1999.
George O'Leary is 5-3 in season openers as a head coach. O'Leary missed UCF's season opener last season to attend the funeral of his mother.
UCF is third in the nation with just six senior starters entering the 2005 season. Only Rice (3) has fewer senior starters than the Golden Knights.
Fewest Amount Of Senior Starters
1. Rice 3
2. Cincinnati 5
Kansas State 5
5. UCF 6
Wake Forest 6
Fresno State 6
Florida State 6
11. Tulsa 7
Turning Things Around
George O'Leary is no stranger to turning around the fortunes of a football program. Inheriting a team which posted a 1-10 record in 1994 at Georgia Tech, O'Leary put together the second-most improved team in the nation in 1995 as the Yellow Jackets finished the season 6-5.
The Foundation Begins
George O'Leary and his coaching staff have begun to lay the groundwork for a strong foundation at UCF. The transformation has started in the classroom, where UCF has established several new academic records.
Over the summer, the football team posted a grade point average of 3.012. Eleven players earned a perfect 4.0 GPA over the summer while 66 percent of the team earned Athletic Director's Honor Roll status (3.0 GPA or higher).
The Golden Knights, who do not have a single player on academic probation, improved their overall cumulative team GPA to 2.810.
Better Than People Think
Even though Steven Moffett was a sophomore in 2004, the Winter Park native put up decent numbers in his first year as a full-time starter under center. After spending the first nine games of the 2003 season as UCF's scout team quarterback, Moffett was rushed into action as UCF's starter for the final three games of the year after then-senior quarterback Ryan Schneider was suspended for the season.
In comparing Moffett to UCF all-time great Daunte Culpepper, their numbers were very comparable in their first year as a starter. Culpepper, the starting quarterback for UCF during his true freshman season in 1995, averaged 188 passing yards per game in the Golden Knights' final season as a I-AA member. Moffett averaged 172 passing yards per game and completed 64.2 percent of his passes, the third best single-season mark in UCF history last year.
Moffett also totaled two 300-yard passing games to one for Culpepper.
ESPN's 50 States in 50 Days
The UCF-South Carolina game is part of ESPN's "50 States in 50 Days" on SportsCenter. The network will broadcast parts of SportsCenter from Williams-Brice Stadium.
Each SportsCenter across America segment will originate from a mobile SportsCenter set with an anchor and a live audience at a sporting event germane to the state. These daily segments will include event action, historical notes, factoids and vignettes about each state's contribution to the national sports scene, as well as "Best" lists compiled from ESPN research and ESPN.com voters, and several long-form features.
Ready for Action
UCF head coach George O'Leary will have one of the nation's youngest teams in 2005. UCF's current depth chart features 23 freshmen or sophomores listed among the team's top 44 offensive and defensive players.
Nine true freshmen dot the depth chart, including one starter. True freshman Cory Hogue is the projected starter at weakside linebacker.
UCF Depth Chart Breakdown (offense and defense)
52% Freshmen or Sophomores (23/44)
20% True Freshmen
George O'Leary did not hand out a most valuable player award for the Golden Knights in spring practice, but if he did it would most likely have gone to junior quarterback Steven Moffett. O'Leary noted that Moffett was the most improved player on the field for UCF during spring practice and the junior quarterback has a firm grasp of the offense heading into the season.
UCF Single-Season Completion Pct.
1. Daunte Culpepper .736 1998
2. Ryan Schneider .690 2003
3. Steven Moffett .642 2004
4. Daunte Culpepper .625 1997
5. Ryan Schneider .619 2000
Running Back by Committee
How do you replace UCF's all-time leading rusher in Alex Haynes? The Golden Knights will look to several players to fill the void of Haynes, who graduated last December and is now in training camp with the Baltimore Ravens.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of preseason camp has been the play of freshman tailback Kevin Smith. The Miami native has been sensational, showing excellent athleticism and the ability to break the long run in camp. With terrific agility and speed, Smith has shown he can run in-between the tackles and also break a run to the outside. Even more shocking, Smith did not play tailback his senior year in high school at Southridge High School in Miami. Smith played defensive back as a senior, but rushed for 1,125 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior for Southridge.
Junior Dontavius Wilcox is the starter at tailback after a solid spring and preseason camp.
Jason Peters is another running back who should see significant time. Peters is the starter at fullback entering the season. He was ranked by some media outlets as the No. 3 tailback in the junior college ranks last season.
First in the State of Florida
UCF is the first school in the state of Florida with an indoor, 120-yard football practice facility. The 4.5 million dollar Nicholson Fieldhouse features field turf and is located directly behind the Wayne Densch Sports Center, UCF's 44,000-square-foot football facility.
The fieldhouse has saved seven practices in preseason camp from being cancelled or delayed due to thunderstorms in the Orlando area.
Last season, UCF missed parts of over 10 practices in preseason camp due to inclement weather.
Proposed On-Campus Stadium
UCF is considering plans to build an on-campus football stadium, adjacent to the Wayne Densch Sports Center and Nicholson Fieldhouse. The proposed stadium would seat approximately 45,000 fans in a bowl shaped configuration and feature a state-of-the-art scoreboard, video board, luxury boxes, natural grass playing surface and a large club lounge and press box. If approved, the stadium is scheduled to be completed by 2007.
In the Month of September
Since joining Division I-A in 1996, the Golden Knights are 10-27 in the month of September.
UCF in September
Totals 10-27 (.270)
First Time for Everything
UCF faces four opponents for the first time in 2005. USF, Southern Miss, Houston and Rice are newcomers to the UCF schedule.
The Golden Knights are 5-10 vs. the remaining seven teams in 2005, including a perfect 2-0 record vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and UAB along with a 1-0 mark against Tulane.
UCF has one South Carolina native on its roster, redshirt freshman offensive tackle L.J. Anderson. Part of George O'Leary's first recruiting class at UCF, Anderson grew up just 45 miles from the South Carolina campus in Sumter, S.C.
Anderson played just two years of high school football at Sumter High School. His team went 14-1 and lost in the state championship game in his senior season.
Anderson is close friends with USC offensive tackle James Thompson, a former high school teammate.
UCF defensive backs coach Miles Aldridge is a native of Columbia and coached at South Carolina from 1990-93. He was the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach for the Gamecocks.
Scouting South Carolina
The Gamecocks of South Carolina begin the 2005 season with the return 39 letterwinners from last year's 6-5 team. The Gamecocks welcome back 11 starters - four on offense, four on defense and three on special teams - as head coach Steve Spurrier begins his first season at the helm.
The 2004 season ended with a 29-7 loss at arch-rival Clemson in Lou Holtz's final game as the USC head coach.
South Carolina sophomore rover Ko Simpson was named a first-team preseason all-conference honoree by the Southeastern Conference coaches.
Simpson was joined on the preseason all-SEC squad by offensive tackle Na'Shan Goddard, who was a second-team selection, offensive tackle Jabari Levey, who was recognized with a spot on the third team and kicker Josh Brown, who also garnered third-team honors.
Widely recognized as one of the top safeties in the country this preseason, Simpson comes off a freshman season in which he led the SEC and ranked third nationally with six interceptions. He also recovered three fumbles and scored two defensive touchdowns in 2004.
USC Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Steve Spurrier, who has coached a national championship team, won seven Southeastern Conference titles, and won nearly 78 percent of the college games he has coached in, begins his first season as head football coach of the University of South Carolina. Spurrier was introduced as USC's 32nd head coach on Nov. 23, 2004, before an overflow news conference crowd in the south end zone of Williams-Brice Stadium.
Spurrier has compiled a 142-40-2 (.777) won-loss record during his 15 seasons as a major college head coach. He led the Duke Blue Devils to the 1989 Atlantic Coast Conference championship, before returning to his alma mater, the University of Florida, as head coach in 1990. During his 12 seasons with the Gators, Spurrier's teams won seven Southeastern Conference championships, one national championship and finished ranked in the top 10 nine times. His record at Florida was an amazing 122-27-1 (.817). Spurrier, who won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as a quarterback for the Gators, most recently was head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins (2002-03). He returns to the college ranks after a one- year absence from the sidelines.
Darcy Johnson will have plenty to talk about when UCF faces South Carolina. Johnson's older brother, Willie Offord, played for the Gamecocks and is currently with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL.
Offord was a four-year letterwinner at USC from 1998-01.