Friday, August 31, 2007

Here's To Football

(By the way: if you're looking for a way to watch the game on ESPN360, you might try this.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't Worry, Be CAPPy

I have been going back and forth on this first game for a couple of weeks. There is a tendency, at least in my case, to build up that first opponent into something more than it is. Combine uncertainty with a healthy dose of concern and suddenly I'm sandbaggin' like Lou Holtz. "We suck, but those guys are awesome!"

Although a lot of people in Orlando expect the Knights to right the ship and become the kind of team that can give a BCS program a scare on the road, they are not without some inescapable--and possibly crippling--red flags.

-- They have a group of linebackers who are light on talent, speed, and experience. We will be running the football at them a lot.

-- They have an alarming number of true freshman wide receivers on the two-deep (PDF). Javid James was unimpressive during camp, while Willie Thornton has been banged up, which leaves Rocky Ross as the lone returning wide receiver guaranteed to see significant time on Saturday. That's rather less than ideal. They may sort these WR issues out as the season progresses, but I think as far as the opener goes, this is going to be the death of them.

-- Most recently, there have been questions regarding the kicking game.

Some other final preseason notes:

-- If you missed them, my now-dated overviews of the UCF offense and defense are here and here.

-- Phil Steele thinks we're 14 points better than the Knights; between that and the line for the game, I've been feeling a lot better about Saturday.

-- While the fact that several mainstream media folk think we're going to be a "surprise" team this season makes me a little uncomfortable, the statistical indicators do agree with them. There's the turnover margin and close losses. Our expected record last year based on points scored and allowed, 5-7. CAPP and SDPI. The last time our record didn't accurately reflect our performance (2004), we bounced back with a winning season. So the moral is, and I write this really for my benefit as much as anyone else's: don't worry. We are not doomed to bad luck. And that will be immediately apparent.

-- Along those lines, I think the nightmare is over. We're scoring at least 27 on UCF.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Preseason BlogPoll Ballot

Full preseason BlogPoll is available at mgoblog. My ballot is below. (Also: look who's ranked two spots ahead of VPI on this ballot.)

1) Southern Cal
2) LSU
3) Michigan
4) Texas
5) West Virginia
6) Oklahoma
7) Louisville
8) Virginia Tech
9) Wisconsin
10) Florida
11) FSU
12) tOSU
13) Georgia
14) Nebraska
15) Oregon
16) Penn State
17) California
18) Arkansas
19) Miami (FL)
20) Tennessee
21) South Carolina
22) UCLA
23) Auburn
24) Rutgers
25) Iowa

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

That would have been weird.

Says Mike DeCourcy:

Former N.C. State PF Andrew Brackman, also a pitcher, had extra leverage in negotiations for a contract with the Yankees. Brackman, the team's first-round pick, considered transferring home to Cincinnati to play basketball for the Bearcats while his injured elbow healed.

Kenny Drummond's Future Academy: Yeah, It's A Scam

You might remember this post I made back in July highlighting an article in the Greensboro News-Record about Drummond's prep school. The article was plenty damning, but it gets better. Check out the comments.

This whole thing is a scam. My cousin was brought from out of town to be on his team. They lived on their on and had to pay their own bills. He said they only practiced once a day. They had games in a middle school gym and sometimes the teams never showed up. They only travled to 3 or 4 out of town games. They didn't have real uniforms. My cousin went back home after my aunt and uncle went to see him. They couldn't believe what was going on. They never had real classes or text books. He told them lies after lies. My cousin went back home and has not talked to any of the guys back in NC but he said the coach never put them in touch with any college coaches. They got put to shame when they played the famous prep school. He called home wanting to leave. Do your research. It's not hard to see this man took these people's money. From what we heard, he does not talk or know what's really going on with any of the guys. When my cousin came home he told us about how guys were getting upset because they didn't know if they were going to college or not.


I am a family member of a victim of this Con Artist...he not only takes people's money but steals these kids hopes and dreams. I can't believe he is not behind bars. Although he is pretty hard to find do to having no physical address and hopping from rec center to rec center before they found out the real deal.

One more:

I am a victim of this Con. Not only did he have a "so called" prep school team but he created a high school team as well for 2006/2007 which promises of that never came to be! Last all of 5 games of which we didn't even have enough players for the games. Never even got the so called uniform that we paid for. I notified Kenny Drummond myself for a refund and of course that would never come to be and couldn't even contact him after that because he conveniently changed his cell phone and address (which wasn't the correct one to begin with) and even took his website down for a while. Now it's back up and he's now soliciting more money.

Drummond, although he clearly does not have time for this shit, hears the criticism. An updated portion of his website states:

Due to a biased and racially motivated article printed in the Greensboro News and Record recently by Rob Daniels and Diane Lamb this website has received a number of comments in our guestbook that are malicious and fictitious.

Sorry, Kenny, I don't think the race card's going to fly in this case. He mentions "negative criticism" on two other site pages. Protesting a little too much, I'd say.

Above that on the main site page, he implores you to purchase a brick for $75 dollars, saying, "we need 10 million bricks to make a difference." Also, you can purchase naming rights to the buildings--buildings which are supposed to be built sometime around 2010. Needless to say, a lot of things are available for purchase/sponsorship. Even the website itself. It's for the children. (What do you get for your $500 dollar site sponsorship? About five visitors a day.)

As for whether Drummond's serious about academics or not, look here, people, books! Books! World books.

Asked how students could effectively learn from textbooks without the guidance of recognized experts, Drummond said, "I show them how to do the work. I'm a smart guy myself. I showed the guys. ... We talked about the work."

"We talked about the work." Cracks me up every time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Game week!

-- NC State released a depth chart for the opener, and you can find that here (PDF). Darrell Blackman is listed as 5-11 at receiver and 5-10 at kick returner. DeMario Pressley is questionable.

-- There's more fretting from the coaching ranks in a big Orlando Sentinel piece on the new kickoff rule:

"That part of the game is really going to be a weapon now," UCF Coach George O'Leary said. "I just don't see a lot of guys putting the ball through the end zone anymore. So kickoff coverage is going to become a dominant part of your team and kickoff return is going to be another big-time offensive play as long as the right guy gets the ball in his hands."

To boost the importance of special teams this season, the Knights coaches have instituted a special teams' hammer, which it will pass around to the top special teams performer of the week.

For your efforts this week, you've won a chance to perform amateur carpentry.

-- The phrase "sleeping giant" is thrown around a lot these days...

Sometimes all it takes to awaken the giant is a new on-campus football stadium with a touchdown siren that's like a police car siren--but louder!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Shame Quantified

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hoops Schedule Items

The schedule.

As a supplement to SFN's analysis, here are some tempo-free tidbits about our OOC opponents, including potential Old Spice Classic foes:
'06-'07          PomRk     Pace(Rk)     OffEff(Rk)      DefEff(Rk)
Michigan State 15 61.6 (317) 114.1 (38) 87.6 (14)
Villanova 19 66.5 (172) 114.2 (36) 89.1 (18)
Kansas State 50 66.5 (174) 110.2 (71) 91.1 (32)
Davidson 74 72.7 (12) 109.8 (76) 96.2 (83)
Seton Hall 81 71.2 (33) 109.3 (80) 97.6 (107)
South Carolina 102 62.3 (309) 109.5 (78) 101.3 (138)
Cincinnati 113 65.7 (207) 103.7 (138) 97.2 (98)
Penn State 119 63.8 (284) 109.2 (81) 102.9 (170)
William & Mary 184 63.4 (295) 100.9 (177) 104.6 (200)
New Orleans 233 65.9 (202) 104.3 (128) 114.9 (332)
WCU 246 68.8 (87) 97.4 (227) 109.4 (267)
Rider 255 68.7 (90) 98.1 (217) 110.8 (294)
SC State 295 65.1 (225) 92.5 (285) 109.4 (268)
ECU 297 64.6 (250) 89.9 (305) 106.7 (228)
Presbyterian N/A N/A N/A N/A
NC Central N/A N/A N/A N/A
(Stats courtesy Ken Pomeroy.)


-- We'll breeze past all of the teams listed below Penn State; those schools are so bad that what they're adding/returning is irrelevant. [/duh]

-- Michigan State looks to me like the best team in the Big Ten this season. They solve that TO% problem of theirs and they're going to be an elite team. They might be regardless. Like everybody in the B10, the Spartans were slow as molasses last year, and that plays to our advantage as the road dogs.

-- Kansas State loses Cartier Martin's efficient play, but with Bill Walker, Michael Beasley and other talented newcomers ready to contribute, I don't think they're gonna be too worried about it.

-- Only four schools allowed more points per possession than New Orleans did in 2007. Guard Bo McCalebb did just about everything offensively for UNO, leading the nation in possession usage and finishing second in %shots.

-- Cincinnati's Jamual Warren shot 39.4% in 2007. When is it a good time to stop shooting threes? When you are 9-60 (15%), that's when. You'll want to catch this one, as the Black Hole of Suck (which returns largely intact) is not to be missed.

-- The tallest player among Seton Hall's regulars last year was 6-7 (and he graduated). They were murdered by the Big East slate--utterly outclassed on the defensive glass and shot to death inside the arc. They also hacked the ever living Christ out of everyone. The only way they managed to piece together a decent defense was with quick hands--they forced a lot of turnovers. Unless they found a couple kick ass tall people, we should pulverize them with our front court just like the BE did. HULK SMASH!!!! GRRRR!!!

-- Rider's Jason Thompson compiled some impressive numbers in the MAAC. Like McCalebb, he's a one-man show.

-- What's this "field goal defense" people keep talking about?

-- East Carolina's offense was a special kind of awful last year. Odds that a Wolfpack player gets hit by a bottle/battery/bottle full of batteries when we're up 20 in the last two minutes: say, 3/1. So glad we're making this trip.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wolfpack Uniform One-Hit Wonders

In his uniform watch column today, Paul Lukas lists a slew of uniforms that were worn briefly and then scrapped. Among those, of course:

1989: On Jan. 7, the N.C. State basketball team takes the court wearing one-piece unitards, which are so embarrassing that the players wear shorts over them. The bodysuits are worn one more time and then scrapped, with Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano tactfully explaining, "The players complained that the unitards just weren't as comfortable as they think they could be."

Which got me thinking... what other short-lived uniform designs have we seen?

Peach Bowl vs. Mississippi State -- The "I sat down in wet paint" pants.

Basketball Game vs. Maryland, 2000 -- Black uniforms.

I believe this was the first time these were worn, and after the Pack blew a comfortable lead down the stretch, it was the last time as well. Might be wrong about that, though.

1999 Football Season -- Red helmets, silver pants, a.k.a. the "Georgia, Jr." look.

Out with the end of the Mike O'Cain era.

Any others?

[Update 8-24-07 11:30AM] Added a better photo of the '99 uniforms.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday Items

-- Tony Barnhart thinks NC State could be a surprise, just not a very big one:

Everybody (me included) is picking N.C. State to finish last in the ACC Atlantic. But there is a new sheriff in town in coach Tom O’Brien. There are some tough non-conference games in UCF, Louisville, and East Carolina, but O’Brien could get this team to six wins.

-- Who knew? Reggie Love is working for Barack Obama's campaign.

-- Denied!

-- Last night, as they do every year, ESPN analysts proved that knowing something about football doesn't mean you know anything about fantasy football. Partly because I'm starved for football discussion, partly because I enjoy a healthy portion of unintentional comedy, I watched ESPN's fantasy draft special even though it's counterproductive. Kind of like watching celebrity poker, it promotes knowledge decay. Take a look at the draft results. In a league with just eight freakin' teams, Michael A. Smith ended up with a starting RB tandem of Marion Barber and Adrian Peterson. I wouldn't have thought it'd be possible for that to happen.

As far as I'm concerned, the single most important fantasy concept is that of value, and as far as that goes, the ESPN guys don't have a clue.

-- Via EDSBS comes this link investigating the impact of the new kickoff rule. The jist: it's probably not going to be as big a deal as coaches are making it out to be.

The returns of kickoffs from the 30 averaged 3.12 more yards than from the 35, and the average change in field position at the end of the return was 5.13 yards. This can be accounted for almost exactly by the start of the kickoff being moved back 5 yards. So there was not great impact on field position — over and above the given 5 yards — by kicking from the 30. It is also notable that the percentage of touchdowns is close when comparing returns on kickoffs from the 30 and 35.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If we hit 1997, you can shoot me.

November 27, 2004. The weather was cold and dreary; the game, meaningless. But it was the last time NC State scored more than 24 points against a I-A foe.

Eighty-six million seconds and counting!

Monday, August 20, 2007

All I know is my gut says maybe.

UCF camp closed over the weekend with George O'Leary feeling "somewhat happy" at where the team stood.

Last Thursday, the Knights worked on red zone situations...

Defensive coordinator John Skladany, whose style is more often reserved than not, also picked up his volume and shouted for his unit to "Lock in! Every play. Every down."

It worked as the first-team defense forced the first-team offense into two consecutive three-and-outs inside the 20. The second-team defense followed suit, stopping the first-team offense on three straight plays. The D-line was active in both instances, with a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks.

Not quite what anyone wanted to read in re: that whole red zone scoring thing, but the offense did bounce back on Friday:

The offense controlled the first part of Friday's session, with the defense making some plays late in the session, including a nice interception by second-team CB Emery Allen.

While it was good to see the offense perform, watching the defense be exploited so much wasn't a welcomed experience for O'Leary with only two weeks left before the season opener.

And though they turned it on late in practice, the assistants wound up keeping them for a few minutes afterward for some extra calisthenics.

Knights beat writer Kyle Hightower offered his end of camp grades. He likes what he's seen, as every position gets at least a B. On the receivers:

Receiver grade: B++

I want to give them at least an A-, but considering that their success this season is probably gonna be dependent on at least one freshman having a solid year, I decided best not to make myself look like a complete dope if it doesn't work out.

Junior Rocky Ross had a strong camp, as expected. Fellow junior Willie Thornton and senior Javid James weren't bad either, but both will definitely get a lot of competition for playing time from four true freshman who made their presence felt.

The top pup is Khymest Williams, who saved his best practice for last Saturday, catching three TD passess in the Knights' longest scrimmage of the fall to this point. He'll likely be joined on the travel roster by Sidney Haynes, Kamar Aiken and A.J. Guyton. My favorite is Haynes, just because of his speed and open field ability. But I agree that Williams has the most complete package. But that is freshman complete. Let's all keep that in mind as the season starts.

Elsewhere, there's a brief UCF preview from something called The Sports Network that includes this end note:

OUTLOOK: The Knights return a plethora of starters on both sides of the ball, making them a legitimate candidate to win the C-USA title. The team should be able to solve its red zone woes this season and that alone could translate into a few more wins. If the defense can improve significantly, expect UCF to make a second appearance in the C-USA Championship game.

And that's a good nutshell assessment of the Knights, although I think they can expect to be in the C-USA title game even without significant improvement on the defensive side.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

We got a vote! ... We got a vote?!

The preseason AP Poll is out...

Others receiving votes: Missouri 128, Georgia Tech 94, Boston College 75, Oregon 73, South Carolina 69, Miami 68, Alabama 66, Oregon St. 42, Wake Forest 40, South Florida 28, Arizona St. 17, BYU 14, Southern Miss. 12, Notre Dame 11, Virginia 7, Clemson 6, Oklahoma St. 3, Texas Tech 2, Houston 1, Kentucky 1, N.C. State 1, Purdue 1.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Later on ESPN: Competitive Dishwashing

I turned on ESPN just now and found this airing:

Sport stacking?

Sport stacking (formerly known as cup stacking) is an individual and team activity played using plastic cups.


Participants of sport stacking upstack and downstack cups in pre-determined sequences, competing against the clock or another player. Sequences are usually pyramids of three, six, or ten cups. Proponents of the sport say participants learn teamwork, cooperation, ambidexterity, and hand-eye coordination.

A cup stacker in action:

I have a new favorite quotation.

From the N&O:

"I truly, firmly believe, I think, that we will clearly probably play certainly more than one quarterback during the course of the season," Davis said.

Jeez, Butch, that sounds like something I would say.

I'm incorporating this into all of my basketball previews this season. "I truly, firmly believe, I think, that we will clearly probably beat Rider certainly by more than 15 points."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The 2007 UCF Defense/Special Teams: Chopping Wood ... With A Hammer

Sweet Merciful Crap

DE:  Leger Douzable  (Sr.)
DT: Torrell Johnson (So.)
DT: Keith Shologan (Jr.)
DE: Emeka Okammor (Sr.)
WLB: Jordan Richards (Jr.)
MLB: Steven Baker (Sr.)
SLB: Cory Hogue (Jr.)
CB: Johnell Neal (Jr.)
CB: Joe Burnett (Jr.)
SS: Sha'reff Rashad (Jr.)
FS: Jason Venson (Jr.)
Returning starters in bold.

Dearly departed: defensive end Chris Welsh (4 sacks, 7 TFL in '06), linebacker Randy Dozier (4th-leading tackler in '06).

There is something to be said for experience, but when you return a lot of crap, it's still crap--just a little less pungent.
2006        Rk
RushD 81
PassD 111
PassEffD 98
TotalD 106
Crap crap crap.

Leger Douzable, who led the Knights in sacks last season with seven, is the likely standout along the line; there isn't another returning lineman who had more than three sacks in 2006. Rearrange the letters in Douzable's name and you get Eager Bulldoze, which strikes me as appropriate.

Replacing Chris Welsh at the other end spot is Emeka Okammor. He is supposedly a returning starter, but he only recorded 18 tackles last season and so probably didn't get a significant amount of playing time.

Torrell Johnson is going to be a kid to watch--the true sophomore is a 335-pound running-lane-cloggin' behemoth.

If O'Leary's defenses are going to stop the slide they've been on since he took the head coaching job--from 83rd in total defense, to 96th, to 106th--they're going to have to start by getting a lot more out of their linebackers. That unit was, by all accounts, terrible in 2006. In ranking the state's LB corps, the Orlando Sentinel placed the Knights fifth, ahead of only Florida Atlantic and Florida International. The Sentinel also thinks those UCF linebackers are the second-worst group in Conference USA, so ... yikes.

Are they going to be better this season? No, not really, no. If you can read this passage without hearing alarm bells, you are an indefatigable optimist and I commend you for your irrepressibly bright existence.

In 2006, a lack of speed, depth and tackling ability haunted the linebackers, and UCF's defense suffered because of it. The linebackers especially were a liability against teams that used a lot of underneath crossing patterns.

It hurt that middle linebacker Steven Baker was injured (knee); a group of sophomores and freshmen was used to try to fill the void. Though Baker returned in October, he wasn't healthy enough to make an impact.

Fast forward to this season. Though Baker is healthy, outside linebacker Jordan Richards, who made five starts and eight appearances before a season-ending ankle injury, injured his shoulder in the spring and is expected to miss this season. Two other outside 'backers, former Lake Brantley standout Kyle Fowler and true freshman Troy Kelly, have left the program. Kelly had enrolled in January.

"We've had to move people around," linebackers coach Dave Huxtable said. "We've got some young kids that we're working [with], but hopefully they can come in and give us some good balance, and we just have to fill the spots with them."

"We've had to move people around" is, as everyone knows, coachspeak for, "fuck, man, we are so fucking fucked." I wonder if Dave Huxtable goes home and cries every night. I would.

This is also not good: Central Florida returns four of five leading tacklers from a season ago, but all four are defensive backs. Johnell Neal and Jason Venson, a corner back and free safety, repspectively, were 1-2 in tackles last year; Burnett and Rashad weren't far behind. The Sentinel says they "struggled at times," probably because they had to do the linebackers' tackling for them.

At the least, Central Florida's defense can expect to improve in the takeaway department. The Knights finished 2006 tied for last in the nation with 12 turnovers forced--tied, incidentally, with us. They recovered 2 of the 12 fumbles they forced, and both of those came early in the year against Florida. After that, it was ten straight games of nothing. Central Florida, our brothers in arms. (Or brothers without arms, as the case may be.)

With A Hammer!

Motivational Techniques 101:

Last season during their near-BCS run, Rutgers' "chopping wood" talisman and philosophy became the talk of the Big East Conference when the Scarlet Knights upset Louisville.

Thanks to assistant Dave Huxtable, the UCF Knights have a similar motivation technique this fall for the special teams. Earlier this week a metal black and gold sign stamped "Hammer Down" was hung just inside the gates at UCF's practice fields, complete with a mallet-style hammer resting on two hooks.

Huxtable said the sign is to remind the special-teams unit of the importance of "hammering down" and maximizing their role.


Huxtable said the hammer would be presented to the special-teams player of the week after each game.

"It'll be his for the week and he'll carry it out to the field, put it on the sign and after practice he'll take it off the sign and he'll have it for a week."

Thanks, coach, I guess.

One of the players vying for the hammer will be Michael Torres, the UCF place kicker; Torres hit 17-of-24 field goal attempts last season, including a long of 51 yards. Despite a strong finish to 2006, his starting spot isn't assured. Elsewhere, Central Florida will have new players handling kickoffs and punts.

George O'Leary has made kickoff coverage and returns an area of emphasis:

Knights Coach George O'Leary has hinted at it all preseason about his intense focus on it and now he's really starting to show it wasn't lip service. Whatever am I talking about? You guessed it, kickoff coverage and return.

If you haven't heard, he is really concerned about the new rule that has moved kickoffs back to the 30-yardline. He thinks it's going to be a weapon with not many kicks reaching the endzone anymore.

The team spent a good majority of the afternoon Sunday after individuals working on it and came back to it just before the end of practice.

UCF ranked 75th in kickoff coverage and 76th in kickoff return yardage last season.

One Other Thing That Didn't Fit Anywhere Else

Touchdown sirens

The crews at Bright House Networks Stadium tested the touchdown sirens for each of the past two days. They sound like police-car sirens, only louder.

Hey, I'm sure that won't get annoying.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Afternoon Notes

-- A lengthy piece from the USA Today spotlights the Arizona Cardinals and Adrian Wilson:

Wilson was on his cellphone, talking with a buddy, when he got word that the three-time Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowler was ready to sign a five-year, $33 million extension, including $15.3 million in signing and roster bonuses. Polamalu is not only the game's highest-paid safety but its black-and-gold standard, along with his Baltimore Ravens counterpart, Ed Reed. Polamalu has raised the position's profile as the key to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's swirling, 3-4 unit, a group that helped win Super Bowl XL.

Talk about a shutdown safety. Wilson shut down his vacation four days into a planned 17-day retreat and returned home in a bid to raise his game and finally reach the playoffs this season in Arizona.


"My first year here, Adrian was more of a loner. Now he wants to win badly," [Darnell] Dockett says. "He's better than Troy Polamalu, if you're asking me. Both of them are great players. But Adrian hits like a horse, and he's the total package.

"He's definitely made me up my game. Every day I come out here, he's asking, 'So you getting better today? You knockin' people back? What are you doing today?'"

-- The new went live today. It's about a thousand times more visually interesting than the old site.

-- Mike Greco is finally getting involved in UCF camp. Although I think Kyle Israel will be starting on September 1st, O'Leary hasn't ruled Greco out:

"Next week, early next week he'll be set," O'Leary said. "We just wanted to get him some action under center and stuff and we'll continue from there. We're working with two quarterbacks right now and Greco obviously will be in the mix."

Monday, August 13, 2007

The 2007 UCF Offense: "Dude, I feel like we should be scoring more."

Of Puzzle Pieces New And Old

RT:  Josh Sitton   (Sr.)
RG: LJ Anderson (Jr.)
C: Kyle Smith (Sr.; starting LG in 2006)
LG: Jeramy DeVane (So.)
LT: Patrick Brown (So.)
QB: Kyle Israel (Sr.; split time with Steven Moffett in 2006)
RB: Kevin Smith (Jr.)
FB: Shane Smith (So.)
WR: Rocky Ross (So.)
WR: Javid James (Sr.)
TE: Mike Merritt (Sr.)
Returning starters in bold.

Dearly departed:
Quarterback Steven Moffett, wide receiver Mike Walker.

Mike Walker was far and away Central Florida's leading receiver last season, catching 90 balls for 1178 yards and 7 touchdowns. That was 30 more receptions than the team's second- and third-leading receivers had combined. The good news is that those two--Rocky Ross and Javid James--return.

Also back are the Knights' top two tight ends; however, neither was much of a factor in the passing game in 2006. Merritt caught three passes all season.

In the wake of Walker's graduation, then, UCF is left with a modicum of returning experience at receiver and a wealth of possibilities. Ross is the most obvious choice to step into Walker's shoes; James and sophomore Willie Thornton could surprise as well, and you can expect those guys to be lined up with Ross and the first string more often than not. Ross and James are well-equipped physically (6-2 and 6-3, respectively), while Thornton is more your typical slot receiver--great speed but not a lot of size (5-10, 175 lbs).

It's behind those three where the myriad possibilities lie. George O'Leary finds himself with a lot of youth among the 13 players he's working out at receiver during fall practice, and the depth chart remains murky.

Receivers coach David Kelly, who likens the youthful group to newborn "babies," said the potential-filled group has been hard to distinguish.

"With all the babies that I've got, it's all been one blur," he said. "Obviously anytime you're dealing with a group this young there are a lot of things you have to teach. And when I say teach, I'm talking about tying their shoes to tying up their shoulder pads and everything else. There's a challenge in that No. 1, but No. 2, and most importantly, it's exciting.

"It is hard to individualize because one day it is one person, then, the next day they are having a tough day, but someone else is stepping up."

Javid James foresees a more collective effort in 2007:

"The thing about this is seeing a team succeed; that's the bottom line," said James, who made four starts and 12 appearances last season. "The likes of Brandon Marshall and Mike Walker are inevitably gonna be a memory and a big part of the building blocks of UCF. However, in the case of finding a reliable and dependable target for Kyle this year, I think it's going to be a more of a core and not a singular player.

The serious questions for the offense, I think, begin and end at receiver. What was one of Conference USA's best offenses in 2006 should find itself near the top again in 2007.

Quarterback Kyle Israel replaced the faltering Steven Moffett halfway through 2006 and has been atop the depth chart ever since; I had been curious if perhaps former NC State quarterback Mike Greco could supplant Israel in practice, but Greco's reps have been limited by an injury. It's been Israel's show and he hasn't done anything to shake the coaching staff's confidence. When he took over last season, he gave the Knights the passing efficiency they'd lacked. Highlights of his 2006 include a 27-42, 327 yard, 3 TD/1 INT performance against Rice and a 19-22, 270 yard, 2 TD/1 INT performance against UAB. As long as the receivers sort themselves out, the Knights' passing game will be fine.

The offense's biggest weapon might be junior running back Kevin Smith.
        Car    Yds    YPC   TD
2005 249 1178 4.7 9
2006 206 934 4.5 7
Throw in his track record with the fact that four of five OL starters return and there are no doubts here. The UCF running game will provide a serious challenge for NC State's green linebacking corps.

One way in which to mitigate the limited experience at receiver is to get Smith more involved in the passing game, and the Central Florida coaching staff is going to do just that:

The Knights are missing just three starters on offense from last year's team, but are playing with a few new wrinkles this fall, including finding other ways to get the ball to junior RB Kevin Smith.

Wrinkles that, among other things, include seeing an increase in Smith catching the ball out of the backfield.

Smith hasn't done much pass-catching in his first two seasons--he has 31 career receptions. Expect him to eclipse that total in 2007.

Of Efficiency, Total Offense, And Strange Outliers

2006         Yds     Rk
RushOff 139.4 55
PassOff 233.8 30
TotalOff 373.2 34
They didn't have too much trouble moving the football; helping them along the way was a 3rd down conversion percentage that ranked 25th nationally. Thanks to mgoblog's fine research, I can offer a picture of that 3rd down efficiency:

Above average in all situations save short yardage.

But here's where it gets strange:
TotalOff 34
Sco_Off 90
You wanna talk about getting Mazzoned; if that wasn't the largest discrepancy in yardage/scoring in college football last season, it surely was among the largest.

This appears to be some single-season weirdness, as the 2005 squad saw no such gulf between yards and points (40th in total O, 47th in scoring O). Were turnovers a factor in the slide? In terms of defensive TDs making a difference in scoring, the answer is no--they had none in either year. Offensively speaking, it's hard to say for sure, but last year's offense actually gave the ball away one fewer time than did the 2005 offense.

Let's look at red zone production:
       RZ_Opp  RZ_Sco  Sco%  TD  FGMade  FGMiss  TO_Dwns  Fum  INT  End_Half
2005 56 44 78.6 27 17 6 3 0 2 1
2006 50 36 72.0 20 16 5 6 2 1 0
Their scoring percentage dropped in 2006, as did the percentage of their red zone opportunities/scores that were touchdowns. They also, be it because of game situation or because O'Leary felt like rolling the dice, left more points on the table by turning the ball over on downs more often.

(The Wolfpack, by the way, scored on 80.6% of its red zone opportunities in 2006 but had a meager 31 RZ trips.)

Getting back to turnovers for a second: in 2005, UCF's defense had 32 takeaways; in 2006, ... 12. Twelve. I would imagine that translated into a lot of good scoring opportunities/short fields lost. With more ground to cover, they could go 30-40 yards and still end up having to punt.

Here's the other thing: of the 44 TDs scored by UCF in 2005, 27 (61.4%) came from inside the opponent's red zone. Last year, that percentage jumped to 76.9% (20 of 26 total TDs came from inside the opponent's red zone).

I suspect that 2006 was a confluence of lower red zone scoring and touchdown percentages, fewer big-play TDs, and less table-setting on the part of the team's porous defense. In general, the Knights had to work harder for points, and while that gave them chances to pile up yardage, it was, not surprisingly, detrimental to their scoring. That's my guess, anyway.

Coming up: a look at the Central Florida defense and special teams.

I... starting to get a little bit really concerned.
          Comp  Att  Comp%  Yds  TD  INT
Scrimm1 16 29 55.2 186 2 4
Scrimm2 17 31 54.8 293 1 4
Total 33 60 55.0 479 3 8
I realize you're not going to continue to throw four INTs per 30 attempts, but come on, guys, show me somethin'.

The yds/att number was much healthier this time around, so there is that.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thursday Items

-- Terrence Holt and Adrian Wilson, reunited:

Holt compared playing with Wilson like playing with a brother. The two know each other’s tendencies, they know each other’s moods. They can communicate without words on the football field, which can be an invaluable tool.

In camp, they are often among the last to show up for team meals, hanging out at a table when most of the players are long gone.

“Because they go so far back, they know each other’s tendencies, but they also can be critical of each other,” defensive backs coach Teryl Austin said. “I think that makes them better because they don’t have to soft-shoe anything.”

They even have mirrored 24/42 uniform numbers.

-- Manny Lawson's got a new video available here. He interviews some fans who showed up at Niners practice.

-- ESPN compiled stories about cheating/gamesmanship in college basketball. Jay Bilas relates:

"NC State used to use a different ball for warm-ups than for the game. It was nothing more than a minor annoyance, and I have no idea whether it was done intentionally or simply chance," Bilas said. "I did not consider it cheating, rather, just gamesmanship."

Meanwhile, former NC State star Cozell McQueen tried to gain an advantage during the introductions. "Cozell McQueen used to take a wild swing at your forearm during pregame alternating intros," Bilas said. "You would have your hand out to shake, and instead of slapping five, he would slap the hell out of your forearm, and it left a big mark and stung like crazy. I hated that."

"How's it going, Jay?" [smack!]

-- UCF practice notes.

-- This week in Hawk Harrelson calls! Actually, yesterday in Hawk Harrelson calls:

On a shot to right-center by Cleveland's Victor Martinez: "Ball hit...come on, Jerry, Jerry...YES!" Jerry is White Sox center fielder Jerry Owens--here Harrelson was imploring him to use those speedy little legs of his and get to the ball. As usual, Hawk paints a beautiful picture of the action.

Later, on an AJ Pierzynski fly ball down the right field line: "That ball hit deep! Stay fair! Stay fair! ... Dadgummit!" I had a similar yet more profane reaction; of course, I ain't the play-by-play guy.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


From GoPack:

Three quarter backs - Daniel Evans, Justin Burke and Harrison Beck – took turns rotating with the first and second string during the scrimmage as Evans and Beck both tossed touchdowns passes. Evans went 7-of-10 for 61 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown to Toney Baker. Beck tossed a 25-yard touchdown to Matt Kushner and completed 3-of-6 attempts for 54 yards, including an interception. Burke was 3-of-7 for 23 yards and a pair of interceptions.

Freshman Russell Wilson also saw action, primarily with the third string, completing 3-of-6 passes for 48 yards and a pick.

Andre Brown, Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene combined for 103 yards rushing on 22 carries, with Baker leading the way with 38 yards and a 13-yard touchdown run on seven carries. Brown rushed seven times for 33 yards, while Eugene chipped in eight rushes for 29 yards.

Find more here, here, and here ($).

A quick comparison between the spring game and today's scrimmage...

           Comp  Att  Comp%  Yds  TD  INT
Spring 42 88 47.7 536 4 4
Fall 16 29 55.2 186 2 4

           Car  Yds   YPC
Spring 49 449 9.2
Fall 22 103 4.7

Silence, Peasants!

Stewart Mandel apparently is a huge fan of hate mail. He's divided the BCS schools into tiers using only his vague notion of their respective prestige levels.


Arizona, Baylor, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Duke, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Northwestern, Rutgers*, South Florida*, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt.

We're in the "Knights" tier; it gives a whole new meaning to lording yourself over Tar Heel fans. As Duke and Wake also fall into the peasant category, NC State is by extension the feudal lord of North Carolina. So, you know, they really should stop beating us. It's disrespectful. What's a benevolent overseer gotta do to get some appreciation thrown his way?

One Last Bit Of MOE

Might as well post this. Sans drops, here are our MOEs in each game last year:

         Plays INT  Fum  Drops  Sacks  Pen    MOE   W/L
AppSt 57 1 3 ? 1 3 14.0 W
Akron 64 1 2 ? 1 3 10.9 L
USM 56 3 0 ? 2 6 19.6 L
BC 55 1 0 ? 2 5 14.5 W
FSU 59 0 0 ? 1 5 10.2 W
Wake 65 1 0 ? 0 3 6.2 L
UMD 64 2 1 ? 4 7 21.9 L
UVA 64 1 0 ? 2 5 12.5 L
GT 74 0 0 ? 1 6 9.5 L
Clem 70 2 0 ? 1 1 5.7 L
UNC 68 3 1 ? 4 3 16.2 L
ECU 57 1 0 ? 0 3 7.0 L

"They called me Kid Gorgeous. Later on,
it was Kid Presentable. Then Kid Gruesome."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Penalties And More Penalties

Yesterday I said I wasn't going to do this, but after stewing on it for a while, I ended up too curious to not do it. What follows is a breakdown of the penalties committed by the team (and, more specifically, the offense) in 2006.

First, the breakdown by offense/defense/special teams:
        Pen     %Tot
Off 50 58.1
Def 25 29.1
SPTms 11 12.8
As you can see, the offense committed twice as many infractions as the defense; highlights for the O include 7 of 9 total penalties against Maryland and 6 of 9 against Georgia Tech.

The offensive penalties are divvied up like so:
                        Num     %Tot
False Start 21 42
Holding 14 28
Subst. Infraction 4 8
Personal Foul 3 6
Illegal Formation 2 4
Illegal Shift 2 4
Illegal Motion 1 2
Illegal Forward Pass 1 2
Off Pass Interference 1 2
Facemask 1 2
Not all of the penalties are attributed to an individual player in the box scores--only 64 of the Pack's 86 penalties were attributed. Based on those attributions, the positional breakdown (defense included) looks like this:
      #Pen    %Tot
OL 25 39.1
DL 15 23.4
DB 7 10.9
TE 4 6.3
WR 4 6.3
FB 4 6.3
RB 2 3.1
LB 2 3.1
QB 1 1.6
The most-flagged players on the team were (including offense and defense):
Leroy Harris (OL) 5
Kalani Heppe (OL) 5
Jon Holt (OL) 5
James Newby (OL) 4
Tank Tyler (DL) 4
Three of Tyler's four penalties were of the moronic variety: one personal foul, one roughing the passer, one unsportsmanlike conduct (and subsequent ejection). Holt, as I'd alluded to, is Mr. False Start (committed four times). Heppe was caught holding three times and he also threw in a facemask infraction just to spice things up. What, no clipping, fellas?

James Newby goes back-to-back against East Carolina:
N 1-10 N14   NC STATE drive start at 02:23 (3rd).
N 1-10 N14 Evans, D. pass incomplete to James, G..
N 2-10 N14 PENALTY NCS false start (Newby, J.) 5 yards to the NCS9.
N 2-15 N09 PENALTY NCS holding (Newby, J.) 4 yards to the NCS5.
N 2-19 N05 Brown, A. rush for loss of 1 yard to the NCS4 (TEAM).
N 3-20 N04 Brown, A. rush for 14 yards to the NCS18 (PARKER, Pierre).
N 4-6 N18 Deraney, J. punt 44 yards to the ECU38, WILLIAMS, Trvs return 13
yards to the NCS49 (Bedics, P.;Jones, E.).
A team effort against Virginia:
N 1-10 N28   NC STATE drive start at 09:58 (1st).
N 1-10 N28 Brown, A. rush for 5 yards to the NCS33, out-of-bounds (Chris Long),
PENALTY NCS holding (Dunlap, J.) 10 yards to the NCS23.
N 1-15 N23 1st and 15.
N 1-15 N23 Evans, D. pass complete to Barrett, L. for 4 yards to the NCS27 (Clint
Sintim;Jon Copper).
N 2-11 N27 PENALTY NCS false start 4 yards to the NCS23.
N 2-15 N23 Baker, T. rush for 2 yards to the NCS25 (Jon Copper;Jermaine Dias).
N 3-13 N25 PENALTY NCS false start (Holt, J.) 5 yards to the NCS20.
N 3-18 N20 Brown, A. rush for 13 yards to the NCS33 (Nate Lyles).
N 4-5 N33 Deraney, J. punt 36 yards to the UVA31, Mike Brown return 0 yards to
the UVA31 (Bedics, P.).
You might call that the "NC State hat trick of flagitation." I especially like how Andre Brown ran for the exact amount of yards we needed for a first down prior to the third penalty.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Uncle MOE

An interesting entry over at Blue-Gray Sky highlights a tool used by Ralph Friedgen called "Major Offensive Errors" (MOE). Basically, MOE is: Mistakes / Total Plays. Friedgen adds up all of his offense's interceptions thrown, fumbles lost, sacks allowed, penalties, and dropped passes and then divides that total by the number of plays in the game. The Fridge wants his team to keep MOE below 12%, and when the Terps are able to do that, they win just about every time.

I wondered what our MOE has looked like over the last few years; unfortunately, as BGS notes, drops aren't included in box scores, and if I were going to sort out the offense's penalties from the overall total, I'd have to comb through all of the play-by-plays. I tried running through them, but I saw "PENALTY NCS false start (Holt, J.)" so many times that I started going cross-eyed.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Seein' Stars

-- As you probably know by now, Terrell Manning committed to NC State this afternoon. I continue to be amazed by how well TOB and his staff have recruited right off the bat. More on Manning at SFN.

-- Now might be a good time to send an assistant coach on a "recruiting trip" to Orlando for, oh, a couple of weeks or so.

-- The Coaches' Poll is out.

-- I needed this. (Hat tip: Deadspin.)

-- A useful item for your fantasy football draft preparation: Football Outsiders evaluates the hardest and easiest fantasy schedules.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gavin's In The Clear


An immigration judge's ruling Wednesday in Atlanta will allow N.C. State basketball player Gavin Grant to move forward with his application for permanent resident status, Grant's lawyer said.

Coach wants to have a few thousand words with you.

Darrell Blackman, bless him, continues to say interesting things.

Two days before N.C. State played at Southern Mississippi last season, former Wolfpack football coach Chuck Amato assembled his players after practice and addressed them for 19 minutes.

Many players began the monologue upright, on one knee and attentive. Many ended the talk with both legs under their thighs and slumped over like kindergarteners uninterested during a boring, pre-naptime story.


"It's a lot different," senior wide receiver Darrell Blackman said. "To sit there and listen to Chuck talk about the things he wanted to talk about, it was kind of redundant because he kept going over the same thing, the same thing, same thing. It felt like people after a while lost focus in meetings."


Blackman said Amato's talks lengthened as the losing mounted and drove away some players. And as time wore on, the team divided. Players went their separate ways, arguments became commonplace and Amato's long-windedness became a metaphor for a program that lacked organization, cohesion, and in the end, direction and victories.

"Amato's talks lengthened," and this is from a 19-minute baseline established early in the year. I wonder how long his Carolina-week spiel was. If they wanted to listen to a 40-minute lecture, coach, they'd have gone to their Bugs & People class that morning.

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this football team. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm football emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest game since Terrence Holt tap-danced with Wynn fucking Kopp. And when Bunting squeezes his fat white ass into our locker room, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse."

(With apologies to Christmas Vacation.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tommy West Not Interested In Touchbacks

From a report on Conference USA's media day:

Among the rule changes for the upcoming season is the movement of kickoffs from the 35 to the 30-yard line. C-USA coaches believe that will mean an increase in returns and an overall shift in kickoff and game strategy.

“We’re bringing every one of them out,” West said. “I don’t care how deep they go, because the coverage can’t get there. There are always holes in kickoff coverage.

“I really think it’s going to have a huge impact to where I see offenses starting at the 35-40 yard line. That’s points right there. We’re going to try to be really creative with sky kicks and squib kicks.”

Interesting idea, bringing every kickoff out of the end zone, but will he hold to it once the season starts?