Head coach George O'Leary discusses UCF football injuries at a press conference Monday. Left Domenic Spencer (LB) and right Tarik Cook (OL). Some photos by USA Today Sports Images. Video by: Caroline Glenn, Central Florida Future
UCF has begun the season just as it did last year: 0-2. But this go around, the Knights will be without key members throughout the field when they host Furman on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. during UCF’s annual Family Weekend.
UCF (0-2, 0-0 in AAC) last played Furman (0-2, 0-0 in Southern Conference) in 1984 and fell 42-6. Since joining the FBS in 1996, the Knights have compiled a 20-0 record against FCS teams, outscoring their opponents 792-231.
“They’re a solid team. They’ve got a bunch of starters back,” head coach George O’Leary said. “They do a lot of things on offense. The quarterback, I think, is really a good player. He does a lot of things with his feet and his arm. They have a bunch of experience back on offense and defense.”
To pile on to the loss of starting running back Dontravious Wilson in the season opener, quarterback Justin Holman will be out two to four weeks with a hand injury and center Joey Grant will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
True freshman Bo Schneider, who finished his first collegiate game 7-for-19 with 46 yards and an interception, will replace Holman. Junior Jason Rae, who started seven games last season, will fill in for Grant. William Stanback and freshman Taj McGowan will continue to take the reps in the backfield in place of Wilson.
O’Leary notes that the injury-laden leaders affect an already inexperienced team.
“The only veteran out there’s really 17, Cedric Thompson, when you look at the squad itself. We traveled out there with 23 redshirt freshmen out of 65 players, 67 players,” he said.
Offensive lineman Tarik Cook said, “Cedric Thompson, he’s always been a leader. He’s [only] in on certain packages, but on the sideline, he was making sure we were up and didn’t get down on ourselves.”
With the loss of 21 seniors from last season, who were known as being vocal leaders, O’Leary said the Knights need to focus on improving the wide receiving and defensive back cores. He also said the team may be overusing Jordan Akins, who leads the Knights in receiving, punt return and kick return yards.
“I think we got him probably in a bunch of positions that we’re trying to utilize him. But, I think, let’s settle down to two or three that he can be most effective at,” O’Leary said. “He’s a good athlete, but he’s making little mistakes.”
Much like UCF’s tough test against Stanford last week, Furman went up against Atlantic Coast Conference foe Virginia Tech, losing 42-3. The Paladins lost their first game of the season to Coastal Carolina, 38-35.
“They’re there to play football,” senior linebacker Domenic Spencer said. “They’re not going to come out here and just lay down because we’re a Division I team.”
Victor Ng is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.