Knights open spring practice focused on improvement
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) UCF will be trying to pull off a rarity this upcoming football season when it chases its third straight American Athletic Conference championship.
But over the next month Knights coach George O'Leary is just focusing on making sure his team improves heading into the fall.
''Every day is a work day,'' O'Leary said after UCF's first spring practice Wednesday. ''I love the spring because it's pretty much fundamentals, you're not worried about schemes...You've got athletes out there, you've just got to coach them up. I never compare year-to-year. I think we've got a lot of returning players in key positions, and that's important.''
One of the biggest points of emphasis this spring will be on defense, where the Knights will have to replace seven starters entering the 2015 season.
The hardest hit unit is the secondary. UCF lost all four starters there, including sophomore cornerback Jacoby Glenn, who declared for the NFL draft after earning second-team AP All-America honors.
The offense doesn't have as many holes to fill, but will be looking to find three new starting receivers following the departures of J.J. Worton (graduation), Rannell Hall (graduation) and Breshad Perriman (NFL draft).
To help O'Leary has moved former quarterback Pete DiNovo, who started last year's season opener before losing the job to junior Justin Holman, to receiver. O'Leary likened the move to a similar one he made in 2011, shifting Rob Calabrese to receiver after he was beaten out by Jeff Godfrey.
The hope is that DiNovo and sophomore Jordan Akins will eventually be able to provide leadership for the rest of the group and give Holman some dependable targets.
Holman said his excitement level is high as he enters he enters his second season under center.
''And I can definitely see it those guys' eyes, too, because those guys are hungry,'' Holman said of the receiving corps. ''They want to learn and they want to get the best out of every day. They come to me for advice and I come to them for advice, too.
''A part of this is talking to them and seeing what they like. Seeing where they like certain balls and stuff like that. It's about us talking and communicating.''
O'Leary said the starting job is Holman's ''until something changes'' and hasn't set the rest of the depth chart behind him. For now junior Nick Patti is getting most of the second-team reps, followed by redshirt freshman Tyler Harris.
''I always give the kids that played the first opportunities,'' O'Leary said. ''Hopefully some of the younger kids can come on, because that means you're getting better.''
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower