Spring Season Used to Find New Leaders
George O’Leary always says a football team only goes as far as the strength of leadership they have. With a new squad forming every spring, this time of the year is when those players emerge to guide their teammates.
Cornerback A.J. Bouye says that soon to be seniors Jordan Rae, Theo Goings, Jonathan Davis, Kemal Ismael have stepped up to be vocal leaders. Last year, many cited a lack of leadership as a possible contributing factor in a disappointing 5-7 season.
However, O’Leary sees the veterans setting a different tone in 2012.
“I think the senior class is much like 2010,” said O’Leary. “It’s hard to find a leader today. There is so much peer pressure, but collectively your seniors have to lead your football team. I’m pleased with them so far, as far as taking charge and doing things they need to do to.”
While having vocal leaders is important, not every player needs to speak up to get their point across. Entering his fourth year, wide receiver Quincy McDuffie prefers to let his work ethic do the talking.
Showing younger players how to do things on the field is just as valuable as speaking up. It is especially helpful for McDuffie to be a role model for his fellow receivers like sophomores Rannell Hall, Josh Reese and freshman Breshad Perriman.
“It means a lot (to lead),” said McDuffie. “You need to lead by example. You have to go out there and do the right thing and be accountable. They look up to you. You have to just take them under your wing and look out for them.”
Perriman the Talk of Spring
It is not often a true freshman makes waves in spring practice. The adjustment to college life and the physicality of college football often proves to be too much initially. However, Breshad Perriman has been a standout performer.
Perriman was a grayshirt in the fall, but enrolled at UCF for the spring semester. Teammates have been impressed with the way he has quickly grasped the playbook.
Rarely does O’Leary heap praise on a freshman, but he believes that Perriman can play right away at UCF.
“I’ve been really pleased with him,” said O’Leary. “He’s a true freshman. I think he’s really going to be a good receiver. We’re throwing everything at him and he’s a big target out there. He’s learning to play to the speed of the game right now.”
Perhaps what has allowed Perriman to make such a quick impact is the knowledge he has accrued coming from a football family. His father, Brett, was a former star for the Miami Hurricanes and played ten years in the NFL.
The elder Perriman was a second round pick out of UM in 1988 and known as a dangerous threat down the field. It appears that his son carries some of those same traits.
However, while Brett was only 5’9”, Breshad is a tall 6’2” and gives the Knights much needed size among a smallish receiving corp.
It is that size and speed combo that has caught the eyes of many, including McDuffie.
“He has great size and he’s able to make plays on the deep ball,” said McDuffie. “He’s catching on pretty fast. He brings something different to the table. We’re lacking in size right now and that’s where he comes in. He can make plays on the outside, which opens up the run game as well.”
Young Tight Ends Show Potential
Adam Nissley was one of the most experienced Knights in 2011. The senior ended up with 46 career starts before concluding his college career in November.
Working to replace Nissley this spring is a duo of tight ends that have five total games of experience. Sophomore Justin Tukes and redshirt freshman Kevin Miller are both long on potential and have shown flashes of their ability this spring.
However, for an offense so reliant on the tight end to block, each has a lot of aspects of their position to learn.
“I think Tukes and Miller have an opportunity to come in and help us,” said O’Leary. “I think they’re both good sized athletes. They’re just young. There are only so many sunrises and sunsets as far as getting them reps out there.”
Tukes, in particular, has stood out in the passing game during practice. He has made several athletic grabs, found himself wide open at times, and even been lined up more like a traditional receiver in the slot.
While Nissley and tight ends before him under O’Leary have not been the biggest pass catchers, Tukes might be a valuable asset in that category. He has the chance to be a red zone safety blanket for quarterback Blake Bortles.
O’Leary clearly sees the tools Tukes possesses, but also acknowledges he has a ways to go to contribute.
“He’s a 6’4” 250 pound guy that has ability, the thing is consistency,” said O’Leary. “He can catch and he has pretty good explosion at the point of attack. You just have to continue to work with him. He’s a freshman.”