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Random Spring Thoughts: U.C.F.

Using a combination of various computer programs and the Internet — a task nearly beyond my limited computing skills — I selected 25 F.B.S. teams at random. Teams lucky enough to have been randomly selected will be reviewed with several random thoughts as we enter the heart of spring practice. Up next: Central Florida, with a coach who bucked his own mathematical trend.

Way to buck the mathematical trend, George O’Leary. You’ve heard it before, in this space and elsewhere: O’Leary wins in odd-numbered years and loses – or used to – in even-numbered years. Heading into last fall, the former Georgia Tech coach was 54-33 in the former and 32-41 in the latter; after last fall, O’Leary is 43-44 in even-numbered seasons. So that little tidbit, one used to great effect in 2008, 2009 and 2010, is no longer. Though perhaps I can recycle it for one more year, 2011, and hope the mathematical universe realigns. More random U.C.F. thoughts come below:

This transfer is getting ugly. We can see both sides of the argument. We can see that DaMarcus Smith clearly wants out his Letter of Intent to U.C.F., and we can perhaps even see why. Smith believes he made a mistake, and at this point would rather cut all ties with U.C.F. and play for Louisville, close to home. We can also see why O’Leary refuses to release Smith from his L.O.I., since, you know, he doesn’t have to.

We all made silly decisions at 18, so let’s commiserate with Smith – to a degree. He still needs to honor his obligation and honor the fact that there are two individuals involved in this relationship, and U.C.F. has just as much a right to deny his request as he does to file that request in the first place. Let’s also not throw O’Leary under the bus for some of his remarks, even if he might want to reconsider a few of his statements:

“I met with him a month ago and he basically talked to me about that situation, and he left me saying he was 100 percent a Knight,” O’Leary said in an interview in late March. “But every time he goes back to the Louisville area, it seems to be questionable what’s taking place there.”

It’s a situation to watch, even if U.C.F. might need to write Smith’s recruitment off entirely. That would be unfortunate.

Second year strides. There are two quarterback transitions to watch. The first, should the player fit this category, is between his freshman and sophomore season, when the game first begins to slow down. The second is between his junior and senior campaigns, when a multiple-year starter often becomes the centerpiece of the offense – if he hasn’t already. I’m interested in watching Jeffrey Godfrey’s development as he enters his sophomore season, both in terms of his progression as a passer and his comfort level in this offense.

That new-look front seven. The defense must do some rebuilding along the front seven, particularly at linebacker. Derek Hallman is a big loss, as is Lawrence Young, meaning Josh Linman will have to continue to produce while taking on a leadership role. There’s also the matter of replacing Bruce Miller’s ability to get to the quarterback; that situation could be ameliorated should Darius Nall return from his spring absence in time for fall practice. All in all, what was a huge strength might not be so in 2011, though U.C.F. hasn’t struggled on defense as a whole since 2007.

The running game could be scary. U.C.F. returns three players who rushed for at least 566 yards and at least 10 scores a year ago: Godfrey, Ronnie Weaver and Latavius Murray. Throw a healthy Brynn Harvey into the mix – 1,109 yards and 14 scores in 2009, did not play in 2010 – into the mix and you have Conference USA’s best backfield. In fact, this might be one of the top non-B.C.S. conference backfields in the country. Long story short: U.C.F. is going to run the ball, run it again and run it again all year, which should play in what O’Leary wants to achieve offensively and the mindset he wants to install in this team.

Remember 2007? Dave Huxtable made the surprising decision to take a position as Bret Bielema’s linebackers coach at Wisconsin, leaving U.C.F. in the market for a new defensive coordinator. It wasn’t surprising to see O’Leary promote from within, as he had done in the past: the new coordinator is former linebackers coach John Skladany, who held this same position at U.C.F. back in 2007 – the last time the Knights struggled to get stops defensively. Between his two stints in Orlando, Skladany spent two seasons at Houston; in the decade prior to his arrival, Skladany was the Iowa State defensive coordinator. So he has the experience, even if his one prior season calling the defensive shots at U.C.F. didn’t go so well.

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  1. M Meyer says:

    I just don’t get the rationale in trying to force a player who doesn’t want to be there to stay. It doesn’t work in college, and it doesn’t work in the pros (see e.g., Albert Haynesworth, Derron Williams, Carmello Anthony, and countless others.) I get the instinct in not wanting to give away talent, but isn’t a poisonous locker room situation much worse?

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