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August 23, 2013

UCF begins Akron prep

UCF's attention is now solely focused on Akron.

Having ended the camp portion of preseason earlier in the week, the Knights finished their second day of game plan work on Friday.

"There's a lot of stuff we're doing," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "We're getting enough reps at it and that's the big thing. They're working through the heat and they've got to be able to do that. I've seen that. We'll work through the weekend. We'll go with a Saturday night practice instead of during the day, then Sunday afternoon. It's one day after another.

"They have their ups and downs, but there's been more ups than downs as far as the kids understanding what we have to get done."


UCF's updated depth chart could be released as early as Sunday. No word yet if there's any surprises, but O'Leary said he's never afraid to make changes.

"I always keep it open," he said. "If there are some kids on the show team that are showing, great. You're not always right in some of the decisions you make. Some of the kids in white shirts that made the travel squad or game field have to keep their jobs. I'm constantly elevating guys. If we can do that, I think that's what keeps your morale going."

As it is at any camp, UCF wasn't immune from the usual bumps and bruises. The Knights didn't suffer any serious injuries during the 17 days of open practices, but a few players - including quarterback Blake Bortles and several receivers - missed a few days and were limited at times.

"We're 100 percent right now," O'Leary said. "The key to the passing game is timing and stuff. I think we're getting better now that everyone is getting back to full speed."

O'Leary indicated fans would see a running back rotation of Storm Johnson and Cedric Thompson against Akron. The third running back, if the depth chart at the end of camp was any indication, will likely be freshman Will Stanback.

"I'm going to roll the running backs," O'Leary said. "I want to see these running backs and who is doing the things I like being done."

Focusing on install - and keeping everyone healthy - UCF limited contact for most days of camp. Hitting was allowed during UCF's closed scrimmage last Saturday and afterward O'Leary expressed concern about poor tackling. That's been a point of emphasis this week.

"I think they're closing to the ball better and doing the right things when they arrive to the ball," O'Leary said. "It's just making sure you keep constant pressure on doing the right things as far as contain, fill and cutback on every tackle. As long as we do that, we'll be fine."

As for Akron, the Zips are coming off a 1-11 season with their lone victory coming against FCS member Morgan State. It's the return game of a series that began with last year's season opener in Ohio, a game the Knights easily controlled 56-14.

It's year two there for Terry Bowden, who last season returned to the FBS coaching ranks more than a decade after his stint at Auburn (1993-98). Former NC State head coach Chuck Amato is the Zips' defensive coordinator.

"They've got a bunch of transfers in I understand and right away that's going to make them better," O'Leary said. "They've got a great coaching staff there. I think the key is just going to be us going out and doing what we have to get done. Worry about your own football team and make sure we're doing the right things we need to do."

Bright House is the new location for weekly radio show: O'Leary encourages all fans to attend the weekly radio shows, which will be held each Tuesday of game week. This year, the program is moving into the recruiting lounge inside Bright House Networks Stadium. Sponsored by Greenway Ford, the $6 admission includes a meal provided by Collins Catering.

"This will be a chance for fans to ask questions and be part of audience," O'Leary said.







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