September 18, 2008

BC ready for UCF?

The University of Central Florida Knights are rolling in to the Heights this Saturday at 1:00 PM for a showdown with the Boston College Eagles. And while this is a first meeting for both teams, the similarities between the two teams are striking on a number of levels.

First and foremost is that both teams are 1-1, with both teams getting wins against weak out of conference opponents and losses coming against more apt opponents. Second is that both have first-year quarterbacks who seem to be seeking an identity, each looking to break out against the other this weekend.
The Knights first year starter is Michael Greco, who after struggling against South Florida, still has the confidence of his head coach George O'Leary.

"You always look at it from the first game to the second game, and I think that Michael progressed. Is he where you want him to be at? No, but like every other quarterback you see you are going to see some good plays and you are also going to see some mistakes," O'leary said. "The big thing is that I did see him make a lot of progress as far as his vision, and his confidence in delivering the ball.

"We have to protect him a little bit better in some situations. Hopefully each week it will be a steady improvement. He is really a true freshman playing. He hasn't played in two years, and I look at him as a true freshman with a lot on his plate. Hopefully the third game he will continue to progress."

Another similarity is that they do not have one defined starting running back. According to O'Leary, "We are rolling three in there this week. It depends on Tim Salem. The kid that is running the best right now is Ronnie Weaver, and Brandon Davis is having a good week. You are likely to see all four of them, but you will definitely see two in there."

Lastly, what the Eagle's defense will see coming at them is something very familiar to the bygone days of Dana Bible. The Knights run a power running game. That does not mean they're going to simply try to outmuscle the Eagles, as it's actually a style of offense that's not very creative but relies on double teaming everything at the point of attack and following with a lead blocker to attack the second level. That can either be a fullback or a pulling guard, which then makes it a G Power series.

So how do the Eagles feel about this? They are genuinely excited to get back to smash football. According to linebacker Brian Toal, "This is real football. We're getting back to basics and we've been waiting for two weeks to play this game."

Defensive lineman Ron Brace agrees.

"This is the type of offense we love playing against. It's very similar to what we ran before Coach Jags was here. It's their run offense versus our run defense."

The key to defending this type of offense is for the defensive line to play a very disciplined game. How is that different than what they see in practice and have seen this year? Well, the main difference is in how the offense attacks a defense. With a zone blocking scheme, the attack is to an area, such as inside or outside zone (which defines footwork, hand placement and target for running back) whereas in a power scheme, a hole or gap is defined and that's where the ball is going.

What that means for the defense, specifically for the linemen, is that they must be disciplined, know their responsibilities, stay in their gaps and get distance between them and the offensive linemen. For the linebackers, it means taking on downhill blocks from some large folks, usually a guard or a fullback. They as well have gap responsibility and must maintain that gap for the defense to be effective. Unlike a zone scheme, where the goal is to create multiple running lanes for the running back to choose from, the power game dictates the lane so it's critical all gaps are covered and the play is forced to the playmakers.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles will see a defense very similar to their own. A staunch, stop the run, beat us with the pass style of defense that will try to pressure Chris Crane, take away the run and short passing game and make Crane beat them with the long ball.

With concerns about the offense mounting, does Toal feel more pressure for the defense to deliver?

"Not at all. We know they'll get their job done this week and defensively, we're gonna play our game. This is our style of play so we are going to take it to them and will continue to create as many turnovers as possible."

On the injury front, the Eagles are a bit beat up on defense. Sophomore corner DeLeon Gause is listed as day-to-day with a foot injury.

"We were in pursuit and one of my teammates landed on my foot. I am not sure if I will start or not. That's up to the coaches and trainers< said Gause. "It's frustrating but it's part of the game. You have to be mentally ready to accept that part of the game and you have to fight through it."

Brace has also been struggling with back pain lately. How does he feel?

"Oh it's good. No pain lately."

But how does Brace feel the loss of Alex Albright will affect the defensive front?

"Yeah we'll miss him but we're a good football team and good football teams will always be able fill in where needed. We don't run a real complicated defense and the guys stepping up are mentally tough so we'll be fine"

It's clear the Eagles are not taking this Central Florida team lightly and if the recent past is any indication, this looks to be a slugfest and a fun one for the players and fans.



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