Just a day after UCF football practice had begun, the new-look Knights faced a variety of questions during its media day. Questions loomed over the head of George O’Leary and his back-to-back American Athletic Conference champion-team, such as how gaps from last season would be filled and who would step up to fill them.
One area of interest that kept popping in and out of conversation was the team’s wide receiver core.
Last season, UCF combined for 3,059 yards through the air. But 2,757 yards were from players who have moved on from college ball, including the team’s top four receivers.
The returning receiving core combined for zero touchdowns and just 302 yards, with sophomore Jordan Akins compiling about half of those with 135.
“When you put the whole group together, I think we lose a lot of experience, obviously, but I think that we have enough talent to kind of overcome that,” said Nick Patti, who is a former quarterback and newcomer to the wide receiver position. “You have to start somewhere.”
Akins and Taylor Oldham, who is not expected to return from an injury until October, will lead the Knights out wide this season with help from former quarterbacks Patti and Pete DiNovo.
“These guys have something that we can definitely work with and that the country will soon see,” quarterback Justin Holman said.
DiNovo made the switch from under center last season, and Patti saw himself in a receiver role during the team’s first practice this season, which is a position he had never played before.
The two Knights said that knowledge of the playbook from a quarterback’s perspective may give them an edge and an opportunity to help receivers think from a QB’s point of view.
“Playing quarterback, we had to know everyone’s position. We had to know where everyone was on the field — motions, different things — and I think our knowledge of the game can really help this group grow,” DiNovo said. “We see they’re doing something that, from a quarterback’s perspective, we wouldn’t like, we tell them right away.
“Something that we bring to the room is just experience and knowledge of the game.”
The two former quarterbacks believe everything will translate to success on the field.
“I think the biggest lapse, and lost in translation kind of thing, is where the receiver thinks he’s going to be as opposed to where the quarterback expects him to be,” Patti said. “I think with us being in the room, being a part of the offense, we can kind of bridge that gap.
“Bridging that gap is important for us, I think. And that’s another reason why we were chosen to do that switch.”
Although the numbers from last season stack against them in the receiving game, everyone believes the new core will have no issues during the 2015 season.
The team will get to put its theory to the test Sept. 3 when UCF hosts FIU in its season opener.
“Our receiving core’s got a lot of talent,” Patti said. “I think it’s got a lot of promise.”
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.