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August 27, 2012

UCF-Akron a family affair for Flemings

They will always be father and son.

But this Thursday night when UCF opens the season at Akron, Knights defensive coordinator Jim Fleming says his second-oldest child Will becomes "just another number."

Will Fleming happens to be Akron's starting fullback.


Click here for the audio interview with Coach Fleming

"(My concern is) remember where that number goes, make sure the linebackers are fitting where they're supposed to be and the defense is fitting on him," Fleming said. "I'm expecting our guys to win the battles."

Naturally, each side has been doing their part to gain a little bit of intel. It hasn't been successful though.

"I try to probe him and he tries to probe me," Fleming said with a smile. "But we're both smart enough to figure out we're not giving anything up. The conversations have been father-son. We talk about how the team is and those kinds of things. I think he's excited about their season and knows we're excited about ours."

Fleming guesses his son will probably enjoy the opportunity to go head-to-head against his old man.

"He's always been on the other side of the coin in any competitive situation," Fleming said. "When he was about five, he'd ask me who I was rooting for. And whoever I was rooting for, he was for the other team. This is pretty similar."

And how does 'Mom' feel about the matchup?

"Mom is mom," Fleming said of his wife, Leslie. "Moms are always on the side of their children more than they are their husband. She's fully supportive of UCF and it's difficult for her to sit there and go through this deal. Quietly, she's probably hoping we win the game and he scores the only touchdown."

Will, 22, is one of four kids for the Flemings, who also have an older son Jimmy (23) and two daughters, Kate (20) and Meg (17).

Fleming, who is entering his first season at UCF, worked at Akron from 2004-09 as the program's defensive coordinator and he coached Will as a true freshman in 2009. The younger Fleming was a linebacker then, playing in 11 games and making one start.

At the end of 2009, which was the Zips' fourth consecutive losing season, Akron parted ways with head coach J.D. Brookhart and Fleming was out of a job. Will Fleming could have transferred, but chose to stay at Akron and play for new head coach Rob Ianello, who was a noted wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Notre Dame.

Will Fleming redshirted in 2010 due to injury and last season made the transition to tight end. He saw action in seven games, including one start, ending the year with four catches for 51 yards.

But after posting a 2-22 record the past two seasons, school officials felt it was time to pull the trigger on the Ianello era at Akron.

Looking to reinvigorate the program with a splash hire, Akron tabbed Terry Bowden, the former Auburn coach and television analyst who had broken his decade-long coaching drought in 2009 by accepting the North Alabama job. He posted a 24-9 overall record in three seasons with the Division II program.

Jim Fleming says Bowden, known for his likeable personality and players' coach persona, has sparked optimism at Akron.

"Will has been through three different coaching staffs since he's been there," Fleming said. "The last two years were very difficult for the whole group. I think Bowden did the smart thing and has really breathed some life and energy, and a little bit of fun back into the game. The kids are more excited than they were the last couple years. I think that will probably be positive for them.

"I think (Bowden) has done a really good job getting those kids believing and hoping. They're hoping for a big season, just like we are."





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