Distractions must be avoided for historic run
Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011
Updated: Sunday, August 21, 2011 16:08
The Knights have had a rough summer.
The team has soldiered through: being associated with a public lawsuit; losing, then regaining, then losing one of its most highly touted recruits; the minor speed bump of having its leader, Jeff Godfrey, arrested and mentioned in the Miami allegations; recently receiving notification of an NCAA investigation into possible recruiting violations; and having its quarterback depth crushed in one day with the loss of DaMarcus Smith to academic ineligibility and Rob Calabrese to an ACL injury.
Like I said, it's been rough.
But in the midst of it all, the Knights are preparing to have their most successful season in team history.
And the ride to success doesn't admit any baggage.
We've seen it happen time and time again: college teams with high hopes fall short of expectations because of off-field distractions.
We saw it last year from the Florida Gators, who went 8-5 after starting the season at No. 3 in the USA Today poll. Overrated? Definitely. Distracted by the coach's retirement and return the offseason prior? Probably.
We saw it again last year with Georgia, who lost four out of five games to start the season after losing A.J. Green to a four-game suspension for NCAA violations. Hurt by losing their best offensive weapon? Definitely. Distracted by the highly public investigation? Probably.
The Knights may not be playing in the Southeastern Conference like both of those teams, but they certainly have SEC-sized distractions.
Now it's up to the players to show their mental toughness and win some games. A lot of games.
It's no secret that UCF is primed for a historic run. Conference USA's top defense returns two playmakers in cornerback Josh Robinson and safety Kemal Ishmael, while the offense poses an even larger threat than last season with a three-headed monster in the backfield and a more experienced Godfrey behind center.
Talent aside, the Knights have a schedule ripe for double-digit wins. None of UCF's opponents are ranked in the USA Today preseason poll, giving the team an opportunity to match or surpass last year's win total.
With the success of 2010, a year in which UCF teams made history in several sports, this summer has seemed even more disappointing because the athletic program had been at an all-time high. But UCF fans will forget more and more about the off-field issues as the football team wins more and more games.
As they say, winning cures all ills.
But to win, the Knights need to show some emotional resolve.
Everybody has heard the sports clichés spouted off by different athletes and coaches: "We are taking this season one game at a time," "The only thing that matters is what happens on the field" and "What's in the past is past." If UCF wants to truly be successful this season, those clichés need to become reality.
The cards are dealt. Now it's up to the players to overcome UCF's summer of disappointment to really seal the deal.