UCF coach George O'Leary, running back Brynn Harvey and linebacker Ray Shipman appeared at Tuesday's weekly press conference to preview Saturday's home game vs. Missouri.
UCF is coming off a bye week and enters the game with a 2-1 record. Missouri is 2-2 after dropping last Saturday's road opener at South Carolina, 31-10.
This is the first meeting between the two schools. Missouri, a first-year SEC member, will be the first team from that conference to play a home game at UCF. The Knights will make the return trip to Columbia, Mo., with a game in 2014.
UCF coach George O'Leary
RB Brynn Harvey & LB Ray Shipman
Transcript of Coach O'Leary Press Conference
On the what a win vs. Missouri, an SEC opponent would do, and if it carries more weight:
"Well, I think any of the first four games, obviously people have found out Akron and FIU are a little better than people thought. I think the big thing is that you play Ohio State and you play Missouri. They're SEC, Big Ten teams and you've got to win those games if you want to get any notoriety. The players understand it's the fourth game and it's an important game. I think any time you bring the SEC into your house it should be a big deal with your fanbase and everybody else concerning the game, but again it's important. To me, it's important because we start our conference right after it in four days with East Carolina on Thursday. It's always a better Sunday when you get a win on Saturday, especially with a short week."
On how much it helps having faced spread offenses previously:
"Everybody we faced is no-huddle. I think they ought to pass a rule, myself, in college that on third down you can tackle one receiver. I'm serious. To even the game up. Everything is geared towards offensive rules. It would be fun. If they're really that good a receiver they'll make you miss anyway. I think it would change the whole outlook of the game as far as what's taking place.
"Everybody is in spread now. I still like to see contact in the box and stuff like that. The good teams, even though they're spread, are running the ball better than they're throwing it when you break it down and look at it. I think Missouri is that kind of club. I think they have big receivers out there. They run the ball extremely well between the tackles. No. 4, their running back, is the fastest kid on the team. And No. 6, the backup, is second fastest. They've got some juice at running back that can hurt you especially with the type of offense they run. You're trying to defend everybody else on the field. It breaks down to where your front five or your front six, they've got to make plays. They've got to take a gap and a half, not just their own gap, have to play another half a gap to make up for the people in coverage. Missouri is that way.
"I think Missouri is a team that when you look at them, the Georgia game, I think the score of the game is not an indication of the game. I think they're right into that game and then they had a couple turnovers occur, which broke the game open, but they were right into that game the whole time. Arizona State, they were up 24-7 or 6 or something like that. Arizona came back on them. I just think looking at them, I thought they were a little out of sync against South Carolina.
"But they're a very, very good defense. They've got a bunch of guys back who have played a lot of ball for them. I think they've got some outstanding players on defense.
"Offensively, they have weapons out there. Obviously, it starts with the quarterback making the right plays and right reads in the passing and run game. They're a talented football team. They really are. They have everything they're supposed to have: Athleticism, size and speed. We'll have our work cut out for us."
The importance of putting pressure on Missouri QB James Franklin:
"It bothers most quarterbacks when you put pressure on them. I don't know too many that don't unless they're in that yellow bus riding to school. I think the big thing in this game is when you have the opportunity to make a play, you cannot miss it. You've got to make the play. Whether it's in the open field, attacking the quarterback, whatever it is, you can't have missed assignments or missed plays when you have the opportunity to make a play. That's the difference in the game I think."
On the status of running back Latavius Murray, who has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury:
"He's practicing this week. He got okayed by the doctor last Friday to go out. He's still in a yellow shirt out there which means all he can do, but he's taking hits and stuff of that sort. He's in the game plan on the offensive side of the field. Now how much he plays, I don't know. We'll see how the week develops as far as where he's at. He missed three weeks. He definitely won't start in the game unless he shows something really tomorrow and Thursday that says whoa. But I think he has to play this weekend. Yeah. I think he will play."
The important of ball security vs. a team that forces a lot of fumbles:
"They really do. They're a big CPR team. We've been preaching that. We've had our show teams, the scout teams, do all the CPR drills and stripping them every chance they get. Ball security I think is very important, especially if you get down field, the back side guys are coming in and they're looking to strip. We've mentioned it to the players. We're working on it in practice. Again, the heat of the game they've just got to remember to high and tight.
"As I tell them, you don't have to worry about it if you've got hats on hats. This is a big week for BOB. Body on a body. You don't worry about CPR if you've got body on a body in the run game. Pass game is the one I'm concerned about where receivers catch it, put it away, because someone else is coming."
On Blake Bortles and what he needs to do vs. Missouri to avoid the interceptions like had at Ohio State:
"I don't know if it was (a lack of) poise as much as he was staring guys down (at Ohio State), which was a lack of experience. I think the picks he threw, two were tipped, so that basically means the defense is getting a jump on you so you must be staring down. That's a matter of experience. You've got to be able to look stuff off. I think he's done a better job of that, looking stuff off.
"I think the picks he's been involved with, one he should have ate the ball in the Akron game. He panicked and tried to make a play when it wasn't there. In the Ohio State game, two of them were tipped because he was staring down. Again, you can't do that. That's just the amount of experience and how many snaps you have.
"He's had three games behind center as a starting quarterback. I have no problem with Blake. I think he basically has the ability to make a play. I just think he can't have bad plays. He still has the ability to take a bad play and make a good play out of it, which is a sign of a quarterback that's developing."
On punter Jamie Boyle:
"I think Jamie Boyle has really done a great job for a first-year punter coming through. He had five inside the 20 and three inside the 10 last game, which keeps the offense on a long field which is what you're looking for defensively. He's done a great job in some tough situations too. I've been very, very pleased with him. Their punter averages about 47 yards a kick with 33 net. So sometimes you outkick your coverage too. All I want is 38.6 and no return and you'll be in the top 10 in the country."
On the identity of this year's defense:
"I'm hoping it's the identity that was in the first half vs. FIU. That's what we need to see for 60 minutes. I think it comes down to consistency. I'm still disturbed by some guys out there. Football is a contact-speed game, whether it's contact-speed in tackling, contact-speed in blocking. We've still got some areas we need to improve on. It's very hard to hide a guy that doesn't want to mix it up on defense or offense.
"We've got to get better at the wide receiver position as far as blocking and contact speed. We just can't be sticking our hands out. You have to be able to deliver a blow. I think we've got to improve on that. That leads to long run plays when you get those second-level guys blocked. We've got to do a better job of that.
"Again, the identity, I don't know defensively. I think we have some big-play potential guys, but we've got to get more out of them. Put them in situations that can help them as far as where they get some one-on-ones. Again, we've got to get our hands on more balls from an underneath coverage standpoint. That's the other thing. I looked at deflected balls. That tells you your underneath coverage is going to the ball. We've got to pick up there.
"Again, I think it's going to be a whale of a game Saturday. I think Missouri is a good football team. They played two tough teams in the SEC. Again, I think both games they showed enough talent to concern me as far as what they can do offensively and defensively."
On linebacker Terrance Plummer:
"He needs to play better in my opinion. He may have all those tackles, but when you look at defense I'm looking for how many tackles for loss does the defense have. That's the one item that we're missing I think on defense right now after three games. We've had some sacks and all that, but it's the tackles for losses that put the offense behind the chains a little bit. That's where we need to improve. That goes with your front mechanics and your linebackers. I've got a lot of linebackers who can make a tackle 10 yards down field. I'm looking at who makes them on the other side of the line of scrimmage. That's where we need to improve.
"I think Terrance, for a young kid, a sophomore, has done a good job. But I expect more in each game from him."
On being physical this week:
"The SEC is that kind of conference. They run as much spread as anybody else, but their spread is a little different than the other conferences. They pass it just to see how much run they've got. I think you've got to be able to bone up and get off blocks and make plays. When they have the ball in space, you have to secure tackles. What I see and what I'm impressed with with this Missouri team is the hidden yardage after a catch. That's what has to be eliminated."
On the impact of fans in a stadium:
"Big. Big. I think the fanbase is critical at a home game. Any home game. I think players react to it. The players get excited to it. Football is a game of momentum and that starts from the stands a lot. A big play on defense or offense and the fans get all excited. That's what generates a lot of enthusiasm. That's what the game is about. Fanbase Saturday is going to be critical, yeah."
On how close they are to having depth to competing with SEC schools:
"We compete with everybody. I think we can line up and hold our own throughout the country. I do. I think the big thing is we've got to get more productive plays and more chunk plays out of our offense. That's the one I think has to improve. You can't grind it out against equal personnel all the time. You've got to be able to make a guy miss and make some chunk plays. I think Charlie has done a good job of trying to tag stuff, so certain guys are involved in certain plays."
Whether he keeps an eye on the future Big East in light of the fact three of those teams are ranked this week:
"Until you get there I don't care what they do. I'm worried about Conference USA. That's the conference we're in. Right now I'm worried about Missouri. Again, it's the fourth non-conference game. You want to always end the non-conference season on the win side of the ledger. I don't worry about the other conferences at all. I worry about who we're playing and what we've got to do to win."
On the state of C-USA, with five winless teams and some down teams:
"I don't even look. I worry about what East Carolina is going to do. I always look at the team we're playing and the next team. I don't worry about other people. I'm worried about my own football team. Maybe it's not right. It's the only team I can control. I can't control those other teams. I just worry about the team I have to work with. If I start doing it, the kids are going to start doing it, then somebody is going to sneak up on you. They understand the next game is the most important game. I don't even mention who the next opponent is until that game is over. That's how I've always dealt with people."
On how much he loves noon games:
"I am excited big time. 12 o'clock. Either 12 or 1, I love those games. It gives me a chance after, especially this week because we have a game on Thursday. I'll grade the film right after the game, sit down and grade it, so Sunday morning is strictly based on the next game, East Carolina, because we play them in three days. That gives us a chance to really get Missouri game out of the way, get it all graded and get the corrections down, so Sunday we're pretty much geared right into the next opponent instead of having to wait to do that game. I'm pleased. I always like playing in the afternoon, or daylight. I think it's great to get up in the morning. Kids love it too. They don't have to sit around the hotel all day."