George O'Leary discusses UCF spring game Ryan Gillespie, Central Florida Future
Fifteen practices under the blazing Central Florida sun culminated in the annual UCF spring football game. While UCF did in fact defeat the Knights, the 20-6 score ultimately means nothing looking ahead to the team's fall campaign.
Throughout the month, players battled for starting jobs and opportunities, and had one final chance to showcase themselves to fans and coaches before a break until the team returns for preseason camp.
Here are the three telling storylines from Saturday's spring game:
This is clearly Justin Holman's team
While Justin Holman didn't exactly shine on Saturday, he was clearly the best of the bunch under center for the Knights.
"I thought he was probably the most improved player in the entire spring," head coach George O'Leary said. "But I think today he went back to errant throws and not planting his feet correctly."
Much like his 2014 season, Holman had impressive moments Saturday. He found a leaping Jordan Akins in the back of the end zone for a red zone touchdown. However, he also saw his fair share of erratic passes that, luckily for him, fell harmlessly to the turf.
"I think the biggest thing we need to improve is tempo and execution," Holman said. "You can always execute better as an offense."
The junior completed 14 of 25 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns against UCF's second-team defense. After utilizing a hard count and drawing a defender offside, Holman hit diving wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith down the sideline for a 50-yard gain.
Ever since his arrival in Orlando, Holman's talent has been evident. However, now in his junior season, it's time for consistency.
Offensive, Defensive lines in very different places
Throughout the spring, the strength of the UCF team has been revealed: its defensive line. The Knights have a six-man rotation that they heavily rely on to create havoc for opposing offenses, including a trio of defensive tackles that tip the scales north of 300 pounds.
The unit was dominant Saturday. Defensive end Thomas Niles had three sacks, and the defensive line tallied seven sacks on the day.
"I think we made a lot of growth," Niles said, "People haven't really played that much, it's a lot different when you go from not playing and going to the ones or the twos in the amount of reps and responsibilities. And that is what this program is based on: accountability and responsibility."
Where the defensive line shined, its offensive counterparts faltered. UCF struggled to find continuity along the offensive front in 2014, and it appears they have yet to find a unit that can consistently open rushing lanes and keep its quarterbacks jersey clean.
"I thought the offensive line needed to establish the line of scrimmage better," O'Leary said.
But to be fair, the offensive line may have faced the best defensive front it will see all season.
A lot to like in UCF secondary
The UCF coaches knew it would have a lot of defensive turnover following the 2014 season. However, it likely didn't expect to lose standout corner Jacoby Glenn.
On Saturday, the fruits of its recruiting labor appeared to be ready for a big 2015 season. Chris Williams, a 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman, shined in a starting role across from junior Shaquill Griffin. A team-high 10 tackles, the game's lone interception and a pass breakup left a positive impression on O'Leary.
"The two freshmen corners, Chris Williams and [Kyle] Gibson, I thought really showed up; I like what they are doing," O'Leary said. "We've got some young kids back there that are athletic enough; but again, you've got to be able to tackle people."
Ryan Gillespie is the Editor-in-Chief at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byRyanGillespie or email him at RyanG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.