The UCF football team held it’s annual media day Thursday evening, introducing the 2013 squad. The Knights are now just days away from beginning the inaugural season as members of the American Athletic Conference.
Media day began with head coach George O’Leary answering questions for over a half hour. Among other topics, he spoke about the new conference, UCF’s competitive schedule, the rivalry with USF and the leaders on the team.
The American Athletic Conference recently released its 2013 preview, ranking UCF as the fourth best team this season.
“We play 12 one-game seasons, and we line up one at time. I don’t really look at rankings or media predictions,” said O’Leary. “But I think them ranking us fourth, knowing what went on last year in the conference, is probably accurate.”
Also recently released was the USA Today top 25 preseason coaches poll. Amongst the 25 teams listed in the poll, the Knights will face two top-10 teams this season in South Carolina and Louisville. O’Leary answered a questions about the strength of this season’s schedule:
“I think this is probably the most competitive schedule we’ve had,” said O’Leary. “I always try to schedule a tough out of conference schedule, and I think we have one of the better ones in our conference — as far as the opponents.”
One of UCF’s new conference-rivals is the University of South Florida. Naturally a big rivalry due to proximity, the Nov. 29 home game against USF is one of the more anticipated games of the season.
“When you look at the other teams in the conference, everyone is a state away. [USF] is a natural rivalry,” said O’Leary. “Those are the games you want to be playing Thanksgiving weekend. Those are the games that draw national attention.”
The Knights lost a majority of starters on defense from last year, leaving some questions marks, specifically amongst the young defensive backs. Defensive tackle Demetris Anderson, who sat out last season after transferring from Western Michigan, says just because the defense is young doesn’t mean they don’t have skill.
“I’m excited to get the pads on tomorrow,” said Anderson. “It should be a great season. We have two ranked teams on our schedule. We’re just trying to go out there and shock the world, and show them what we can do.”
The offense, on the other hand, is expected to be one of the strong points of the team this season. The Knights are returning nearly all of the offensive starters from last season, with the big exception of Latavius Murray. Now the Oakland Raiders in the NFL, Murray led the team with 19 touchdowns last season.
Quarterback Blake Bortles will have the responsibility of leading the offense, something he feels much more comfortable with this year, after a long offseason working with his wide receivers.
“To have those guys, being able to throw with them all summer and offseason. Just knowing that they can make plays, and makes moves after the catch is huge. They’re all playmakers, and great guys. We’re all friends and I look forward to having the opportunity to let them make plays,” said Bortles.
One of the receivers, J.J. Worton, showed up to camp with a different look — peroxide bleached hair. Worton, now in his redshirt junior season, knows how stressful training camp can be, and just wanted to lighten the mood amongst his teammates.
“It was a spur of the moment thing. It’s just for fun and games right now,” said Worton. “It’s really just to ease the tension with the other players. They walk around and see me, and they have some smart remark to say. I keep getting people singing quotes from Eminem songs to me.”
The Knights will open their practices to the public for the duration of the summer. Starting Aug. 19, the beginning of the fall semester, practices will be closed to the media.
The team will hold two big events prior to kickoff on Aug. 29 against Akron:
8/15 – Countdown to Kickoff Luncheon @ CFE Arena
8/23 – UCF Football Fanfest @ Bright House Stadium
For photos from Media Day, check out @Bryan_Levine on Twitter.