Insider: UCF Spring Football Notebook 3-22-12

Kicking to Find Consistency

Thursday’s practice for UCF ended like most of their sessions do: with field goal kicks.  However, the 47-yard attempts tried by a trio of soon to be sophomores Shawn Moffitt, Rodrigo Quirarte, and Sean Galvin did not did not send the team off the field on a high note.

Each kick was missed and the struggle to find one clear choice to knock the football through the uprights continues.

“I always put them in situations where they should be ready to go, just like a game situation,” said O’Leary.  “We bring them out at the end of practice.  It doesn’t count if they’re close, they have to make them.”

The job remains more wide open then it has in recent years due to the departure of senior Nick Cattoi.  Often a target of criticism, Cattoi had an inconsistent career, hitting just 39 of 60 field goals.

Moffitt, who drew interest from Florida before committing to UCF last year, got his fair share of preseason hype entering 2011 and was supposed to challenge for the job right away.  Despite that talk, he only kicked in six games, going 5-9 on field goals, but a perfect 17-17 on extra points.

While head coach George O’Leary has not been able to distinguish Moffitt above the rest in the spring, one gets the feeling he would like to see the Dr. Phillips product grab the position.

“He needs to show it on the field,” said O’Leary on Moffitt.  “Right now, I’m kicking three different guys so I haven’t set my mind yet.  They have a lot of days left.  I’ll make a decision.  It may not even be in the spring, it may have to go to the preseason.”

While O’Leary evaluates, each competitor will continue to try to strive for better results.  Kicking is a skill perhaps based more on confidence than any in sports, meaning that just a few makes in a row might get one of these Knights in a groove.

It is flashes of success that Moffitt has shown in games and the others have exhibited in practice that has their coach optimistic.

“I think consistency and timing,” said O’Leary of what builds a kicker’s confidence.  “The big thing is they have to get in and be consistent.  You have to get the same holder and snapper so the timing is right.  We are working with different snappers, and holders now too.  We’ll get that down and it will work out well.”

Fluidity on the Defensive Line

One position of strength for UCF in 2011 was supposed to be the defensive line.  Despite the loss of two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, Bruce Miller, the Knights were supposed to have the necessary depth to compensate.

Regardless, their ability to get to the quarterback was diminished and they finished with just 17 sacks.  The one sure thing that returns from a disappointing unit is Troy Davis, who collected five of those takedowns.

For now, Toby Jackson is slotted to come off the other side from Davis.  Jackson was a highly regarded junior college transfer, but did not register a sack and seemed at times invisible on the field.

With uncertainty at this stage in the spring, someone other than Jackson might eventually take more of the load when it comes to rushing the passer.

“The other spot I think remains to be seen who that will be,” said O’Leary.  “I’d like to see the inside guys come on and have the ability to play (Victor) Gray at both positions.”

Whether O’Leary has the luxury to move Gray outside at times is a significant question.  Following the dismissal of Jose Jose from the roster at the beginning of spring, options at tackle remain limited.

E.J. Dunston figures to lead the way in the interior, but Josh Wofford is the only other player with experience inside.  Adding depth to the unit might come this summer, when top recruit Chester Brown is added to the fold.

Still, O’Leary knows that if he is to get stronger defensive line play in 2012, he needs to find a rotation of athletes that can wreak havoc from the edges.

I think (Troy Davis) is starting to show out there a lot in different things,” said O’Leary.  “Gray has the same ability.  You would like to get your playmakers where they can make plays.”

News & Notes

  • Saturday’s practice will be from 1-3:15.  While the session might have been reserved for UCF’s first full scrimmage of the spring, O’Leary said that they have too much of the playbook to install and will instead scrimmage in segments.  The sixth practice of the spring is also Junior Day, and over 100 prospects are expected to be in attendance.
  • Two plays drew the cheers of the sidelines towards the end of practice.   Sean Beckton Jr., son of UCF’s receivers coach, has moved from defensive back to wideout this spring and he recorded an interception.  The second moment causing excitement occurred on a darting pass and catch over the middle from Blake Bortles to Quincy McDuffie that resulted in a touchdown.
  • One element that is unique to watch is how the bevy of new coaches on the sideline for UCF are gelling.  Coach O’Leary has been very positive this spring, saying his assistants have jumped right in to take control of their various positions.  From my vantage point, it seems to be a group filled with a lot more vocal and energetic voices then in years past.