It’s about to begin. UCF Football starts fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 4. Today, meanwhile, UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn discussed his first team as the leader of the Knights.
It’s a unique squad with questions about a star signal caller, transfers, a new strength program and accountability. Here are some important topics selected from Coach Malzahn’s first fall camp press conference.
Coach Malzahn discussed quarterback Dillon Gabriel and his work ethic.
“He was out there a lot, just uh, you know, always around the (football) complex,” Coach Malzahn said of Gabriel. “You can tell the urgency was really high for him. I was very impressed with him in spring like we talked about. Really looking forward to him leading our team.”
Thoughts about Coach Dawson, the new head strength and conditioning coach.
“We need to get stronger. . . We are really looking forward to seeing which guys progressed. Not just strength-wise, but speed-wise also.”
What does Dillon Gabriel have to do to hit the ground running in your offense this fall?
“We have some new guys around him. Some transfers, some freshmen guys, just seeing who we can count on. You know, he’s a guy that, honestly, we are going to keep developing, he’s improved. We kind of know what we’ve got with him pretty much from the information from the last two years and spring. So, just getting the pieces to the puzzle around him, that’s probably what’s important.”
Thoughts about the offense developing during the first year under Coach Malzahn.
“Yeah, of course we want to play fast. We want to play around our quarterback’s strengths. He can flat out throw it. He’s got great pocket awareness. We need to be balanced.”
Regarding Big Kat Bryant.
“Yeah, Big Kat has fit right in, which I expected. He’s stepped right in for leadership. He’s kind of one of those guys that’s respectful. He’s got leadership abilities, he’s a hard worker. I believe he’s earned the respect of his teammates, and that didn’t surprise me at all.”
Who can you count on?
“Who you can count on before you get to the games. So as a coach, you put them in as many pressure situations (as possible). How they respond to success and adversity. Their teammates, it’s so important, when I say who can you count on, what about the teammates? Who can you count on?”
Practicing inside the Nicholson Athletic Complex versus outside in the heat.
“Yeah, yeah, I think as much as you can to be outside. It’s a little easier on their legs with grass. Get used to the heat, especially if you have to keep playing early games, early in the season. We will be outside as much as we possibly can.”
Talking Dillon Gabriel and the run-pass option aspect of the offense.
“He’s very good when things break down. He’s got very good pocket awareness. He throws a great deep ball. You know, just letting him do his thing. Like I said earlier, what stands out to me is his accuracy. That’s really what stood out in the spring. As a play caller, it gives you a lot of places to go.”
Is there anyone on the roster that can do a Gus Malzahn impression?
“I don’t know. Nobody’s done it yet to me, but they probably have (done an impression of me) behind my back.”
Thoughts about wide receiver Jaylon Robinson.
“He’s special. He’s been very impressive. He’s had a great summer working with Coach Dawson. He impressed me this spring, too. Really looking forward to watching him.”
Final Thoughts and Comments
**The heat here in Orlando is intense. Practicing in the heat while Boise State practices in Idaho, where it's not nearly as humid or hot, will aid the Knights when the two teams meet on Sep. 2. Coach Malzahn made it clear that his first UCF team would be outside as much as possible, and there’s a reason for that. It will likely pay off during the fourth quarter when the Broncos invade the Bounce House.
**Coach Malzahn was candid and comfortable throughout the press conference. That’s a good sign for this upcoming season. It’s usually easy to tell when a college football head coach is concerned about his team, and Coach Malzahn, while still wanting more clarity based on fall camp, looked at ease. From that, a couple of notes about positions and players.
**There’s just something different about communicating with Coach Malzahn about Dillon Gabriel and Jaylon Robinson, his quarterback and star wide receiver. Both players proved themselves already, but Coach Malzahn does not historically applaud young men just to give them a public vote of confidence. He’s bottom line. When he went into detail about each player’s skills on and off the gridiron, that was a tremendous sign.
**It was also apparent that Coach Malzahn is really expecting big things from the incoming transfers. It’s a well balanced group from a position perspective, and there’s no reason to believe that players such as Big Kat Bryant and Jordan Johnson, just as two examples, couldn’t be big-time performers this fall. Besides Bryant, a player that Coach Malzahn recruited to Auburn, there are a few other transfers with Auburn ties. Perhaps those players help out quickly, but it’s a unique group of transfers no matter how one categorizes it, and should help UCF immensely this fall.