Fall camp is great, but college football players across the country are ready to lay into the shoulder pads of players wearing a different colored uniform. With Boise State coming to UCF one week from Thursday, the Knights are now in what UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn called “Game prep for Boise” during his Tuesday press conference.
That means UCF fans should be in their own version of game preparation, and that starts with knowing how the Knights will start practicing for Boise State, as well as specific areas to watch for within the Knights home opener. Here's the video discussing the Boise State preparations:
Will UCF Establish an Identity and Stick With it Throughout the First Game?
The first game will include a ton of mistakes. That would be the case if fall camp was twice as long. Simply put, there’s no way to truly simulate a game. The energy is different, there are no opportunities to run a play again if there’s a mental error, and the Knights will have to fight through any difficult moments in the game just like any other college football team. All of that said, one course of action needs to take place next Thursday above all else.
UCF must play football in the manner it desires. The Knights must dictate the pace of the game, whatever it may be, to Boise State. That’s a detail oriented and mentally prepared course of action. That’s creating an identity.
Trying to be in sync as much as humanly possible, then just build upon that momentum throughout the course of the game against Boise State and throughout the entire college football season. Creating an identity all starts with Boise State.
Will the Knights come out focused? Play calls aside, how do the players react and perform from the outset of the game?
With a new coaching staff, those types of questions are very important. Every little item -- body language, hustle, the number of penalties, the continuity on both sides of the football -- needs attention. Whether or not UCF can accomplish this first-game goal will be a critical aspect of whether or not the Knights come out victorious.
Position Group to Watch: Offensive Line
The Knights are an experienced group up front. With five returning starters, there’s a good chance this will be the best overall position on the football team this fall. More importantly, it should be a group that helps UCF get off to a fast start.
As discussed on this site several times, Coach Malzahn’s offense starts with the inside zone and read-option play calls that stem from that inside zone. Having five big horses up front to lead the way should enable the running game to kick into high gear, and it should also help the Knights move past any difficulties that first games often encounter for an offensive unit as a whole.
Once the ground game starts to roll, that’s when quarterback Dillon Gabriel will be presented with more one-on-one matchups to throw the football. Considering Gabriel shredded defenses the past two years that played man coverage, it’s all the more reason to get the offensive line in a groove early in the game.
Simulating a Game, Recovering from Mistakes, and Repetition
Coach Malzahn referenced game simulation several times during his press conference, whether directly or indirectly. Bottom line, he wants to provide UCF players with as many possible scenarios as possible that could be taken for granted.
Whether its’ working on punt protection, field goal team, operating the offense at a fast pace without any turnovers or penalties, Coach Malzahn wants to keep his players focused on being in a live game during the practices leading up to Sep. 2. With Boise State bringing in a new coaching staff like UCF, there’s bound to be some interesting moments (think botched snaps, dropped passes, etc.) as both teams’ players attempt to make big plays for their new coaching staffs. How the team that makes a mistake recovers, however, will be the best bet to actually win the game.
That’s why Coach Malzahn wanted to simulate a game atmosphere during practices leading up to the Boise State contest. As many reps as possible, just ingraining situations and techniques into the minds of UCF players. While that might sound boring to UCF fans, it’s quite possibly the difference between winning and losing.
Another form of repetition will be back in play for Coach Malzahn, and it’s one that he's quite used to handling.
Coach Malzahn Calling the Plays
As an offensive mind, it’s not surprising that Coach Malzahn will call the offense this season. He’s called plays for the vast majority of his coaching career. It’s nothing new for him. Will the Boise State Broncos be ready for Coach Malzahn?
It will be shocking if there are not a few tricks up Coach Malzahn’s sleeve for the Broncos. Maybe it’s something he’s never even called before. Hard to say. UCF will certainly attack Boise State, but also look for at least one unique play call. That’s a Coach Malzahn trademark.
Depth Chart Taking Shape, Freshmen to Play?
Coach Malzahn did not want to illustrate which players made the two-deep depth chart just yet, but he did mention competition was still in place for a few positions. Maybe a freshman can jump in and make the two-deep depth chart? There’s no specific indication of a freshman player that’s ready to break into the rotation, but it’s something to watch for next Thursday.
When a freshman can make the rotation right away, it’s generally a good sign when a young player has figured out his role on the team, and he also understands the playbook fairly well. Inside The Knights will certainly be looking for freshman contributors during the first game, and UCF fans should be paying attention to them, too.