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August 27, 2012UCF coach George O'Leary, fullback Billy Giovanetti and safety Kemal Ishmael appeared at Monday's weekly press conference to preview Thursday's season opening game at Akron.
Video: George O'Leary Press Conference
Audio: George O'Leary Press Conference
Video: Billy Giovanetti & Kemal Ishmael Press Conference
Audio: Billy Giovanetti & Kemal Ishmael Press Conference
Transcript of Coach O'Leary's statements
"Obviously, your first game, even after all the years I've been coaching, you're always anticipating that first game and seeing what's going on. Hopefully you've covered everything with your team offensively, defensively and special teams. It's the unknown in the first game that you get concerned about. You don't really have any film on current opponents. It's a game of where you're fortunate to go into a game with a team that has some experience, so you can make adjustments.
"That first game, in my experience, is always a game of adjustments where you have to be able to make some adjustments based on what people are doing. It's a lot easier when you're not counting on any freshmen. Right now, I don't think there's a freshman in the two-deep. I'm pleased from that standpoint. We do have a lot of good, young freshmen. They may see some time before the year is out, but they're currently not involved in that first game."
On whether there's positives or negatives to beginning a season on the road.
"If you have an experienced team, you always like to play the first game at your home stadium in front of your home fans. I don't know why we're going up to Akron to be honest with you. I think it should be a home game. But it wasn't.
"Other than that, when you have a young club and they're traveling, everything is new. That's some issues there. When you have some experience and the kids have been on the road before. When you go from the south to the north obviously you're looking at a weather difference, but in a positive way really. Other than that, I think the kids understand what's supposed to happen from a format standpoint and from an itinerary standpoint. You continue to move from there."
On playing road games, given last year's 0-6 road record.
"What happened last year on the road? We lost? That hurts. Those games you've got to finish. You've got to win the fourth quarter and we didn't do that. When I say we, football is a we game. It's so easy to say me or whatever. Football is a we game. There's a lot of reasons why we didn't finish games, but when you take the six games, the losses there, by seven points or less, those are games you have a chance to win. You've got to finish the play. That's something that's been stressed by the players this year. Finishing, and every play is an important play.
"The difference in a game when you break it down is about six plays in the game that make a difference in the game. You don't know when they're going to come. That's the beauty of football. It could be the second play of the game. It could be the 49th play. Again, you have to play every game like it's the last play because it may be. I think there's about six plays. If you can pick out the six plays, I think you would be a heck of a coach, but it doesn't work that way.
"I think the kids understand the importance of every game. Obviously, the first game is one that I don't care how long you've been coaching or playing, you always go into it with a pit in your stomach. That's what should happen. I get concerned about games when our players aren't concerned about them. Our players, you always respect everybody and you fear none, but I think right now they're treating each game as a big game and that's the way it should be."
On whether they look at Akron game film from last year or North Alabama game film, Terry Bowden's most recent stop.
"That's the only film we have on Terry is when he was at Northern Alabama or Auburn. You go back and see what... When you go into that first game you're as good as your base defense and base offense and have the ability to make adjustments from there. Again, I think the key to any first game is just having enough experience on the field where you can make some adjustments if you need to. Then, move from there.
"We're basing it on what we saw at Auburn and Northern Alabama as far as our defense is concerned. Obviously, offensively, when they're on defense, Chuck (Amato) has been around whether he was at North Carolina State or Florida State. So it's a mix there. It's a lesson learned on each side I think as far as adjustments."
On acquiring Auburn game film from 15-plus years ago.
"We have a video department led by John Kvatek who doesn't miss a beat. He's on top of everything. Once you're on film, you're on film for life. Someone has a copy. That's how it works."
On whether he's familiar with Terry Bowden.
"Not very. I know Tommy fairly well because Tommy was in the ACC. Obviously I know his dad because we played against each other. Terry, I knew when he was in Orlando. He lived here for a while. I'm closer to the other Bowdens, just game relationship with them."
On what unit he was most pleased with in preseason camp.
"The video department. They didn't miss a play all preseason. I told John Kvatek, gave him a boost, he's down today, a little depressed with the weather. Really, when you look at the team, I only ask for two things in preseason: effort and enthusiasm every day. And that's what the kids brought every day. Did we do everything perfect? No. But I think they worked to get things right. I was pleased there. I was pleased with the coaches and the positive approach to things.
"Obviously, with some kids you have to get on. They don't understand, they treat kindess as a sign of weakness, so you have to be a little bit louder with those players, but I think for the most part the kids have been in and doing their work as far as tape evaluation and the things you need to do to win games. I think that's what it takes at this level to do things right.
"Again, we're fortunate to have 21 seniors that have been through it before. I think they've given great leadership to the younger players. Not just on the football field, but off the field as far as how we do things in the classroom. How we do things in the lunchroom. How we do things in the dorms. Lesson for a lot of these young kids how to do things right."
Whether this year's veteran leadership reminds him of the 2010 team.
"A little bit like it, yeah. Very similar to 2010. They weren't afraid to speak up, right or wrong. I worry about the ones that don't say anything because I don't know if they have an opinion or what they're doing. I do think this senior group will come in and say, 'Coach, what about this?' or 'What about that?' We have dorm check with the coaches once a week just to make sure everything is correct there. Some of the seniors wanted to do it themselves which I think is a great point as far as taking charge and taking ownership of your team. I think that's how you get the respect from your teammates. Again, it keeps everybody on the same page."
What's he looking to see from starting quarterback Blake Bortles.
"He's still young. I understand that thorougly and I don't think we can put too much on his plate. Most of the book is in. I think we still have to watch he doesn't become so filled with information that he can't process it. I think that's my concern with him. Because obviously he has the athletic skills to throw it and to read defenses, but we just have to limit what we're trying to get done with him. Nuture him along each and every game. Make quick decisions. Right now he's made good decisions in preseason. That's what I look for in the quarterback. When you have a chance to make a play, make the play. Don't miss plays you can make. I think obviously the turnovers. I think that's very upsetting if there are some out there and he knows that.
"Other than that, I think he's growing up as far as leadership, fieldmanship on the field, he commands the huddle better than he did last year. I think he knows more about defenses right now than he did all last year as far as where the weakness of a defense, weakness of the front is, and why you're attacking things and not just calling plays."
On whether there's a plan to get backup quarterback Tyler Gabbert some game action.
"I'm always looking to get the second string, and he'll go in as second team quarterback, some work. You're an ankle away where he has to maintain a win or try to get a win for you, so if we can get him some playing time on Thursday night we'll do that. Again, we're going up to win a football game. I'm not overly concerned about how many reps different people get. I think that will determine as far as how we're playing, as far as the game itself."