Heupel: 'there’s been a greater sense of urgency, greater attention to detail'
ABOVE VIDEO: With a full year under their belt, the Josh Heupel-led UCF Knights completed spring season number two on Saturday with the 2019 UCF Spring Game presented by DEX Imaging. (UCFKnights.com Video)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – With a full year under their belt, the Josh Heupel-led UCF Knights completed spring season number two on Saturday with the 2019 UCF Spring Game presented by DEX Imaging.
This year’s game was the culmination of what Heupel believes was an extremely successful spring.
“There’s been a greater sense of urgency, greater attention to detail – and as much as anything – a greater trust between coaches and players of buying into the process that we’re trying to go through to become the team that we’re capable of being,” he said in a press conference following the game.
That’s certainly a positive sentiment, given that in year one under Heupel, the Knights only went a perfect 11-0 in the regular season, won the American Athletic Conference Championship and earned a berth to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
If after this spring the Knights are ahead of where they were a year ago, to be conservative, that’s a good thing.
“I thought guys competed,” Heupel said. “I thought we ran the ball pretty efficiently. Bentavious (Thompson) and Trillion Coles, who got the bulk of the carries today…I thought those guys ran with great pad level, finished their runs going north and south.”
ABOVE VIDEO: “I thought guys competed,” Heupel said. “I thought we ran the ball pretty efficiently. Bentavious (Thompson) and Trillion Coles, who got the bulk of the carries today…I thought those guys ran with great pad level, finished their runs going north and south.” (UCFKnights.com Video)
The young running back impressed with veterans Greg McCrae, Adrian Killins Jr. and Otis Anderson combining for only 11 total rushes.
Thompson, a redshirt sophomore, unofficially rushed 12 times for 110 yards, scoring once, and caught two passes for 36 yards. Coles, the redshirt freshman totaled 95 yards on 13 rushes and had two receptions for 19 yards.
“I knew to stay patient. I knew my time was going to come,” Thompson said. “We’ve got a great o-line, great coaching staff. Coach Tuck (Anthony Tucker), our running back coach, I just had faith in him. He told me throughout last year, the time’s going to come, and your time will come to shine, and that’s what I did.”
It’s just the spring game, but last spring was when Knight Nation got their first taste of what McCrae was capable of. He rushed for a pair of TDs in the 2018 Spring Game and then went on to lead UCF with 1,182 rushing yards and school-record 8.9 yards per carry in the fall.
The passing game saw success on Saturday as well, as all four quarterbacks vying for the starting spot saw action.
In fact, the first drive of the game was over in two plays as Darriel Mack Jr. hit Gabriel Davis down the sideline for 42 yards and then found Jacob Harris in the end zone for a 33-yard strike to score the first points of the day.
“I was focused on going out there, just getting better,” Mack said. “I’m not really worried about competition or anything like that. All I can do is be who I am and let the rest take care of itself.”
Mack finished with 171 yards and two touchdowns through the air, also finding tight end Alec Holler for a 13-yard score in the fourth quarter, and had 15 yards on the ground.
Graduate transfer from Notre Dame Brandon Wimbush had 92 yards through the air with a touchdown, also connecting with Harris for a score, and totaled 30 yards on the ground.
Redshirt sophomore Quadry Jones threw for 108 yards and a 75-yard touchdown to Rahsaan Lewis, while freshman Dillon Gabriel had 56 passing yards and 30 yards on the ground.
Lewis, who converted from defensive back to receiver this spring, totaled four catches and 101 yards on Saturday. Harris, a dominant special teamer a year ago, needed just two catches to score two touchdowns, finishing with 53 receiving yards.
“I put in a lot of work and it’s been a grinding, uphill battle to get to this point,” Harris said. “I’m just happy to see some light, but definitely not taking the foot off the gas.”
There were plenty of highlights on the defensive side of the ball as well. Senior linebacker Nate Evans led with six tackles, while veterans Nevelle Clarke and Shawn Burgess-Becker each got a pick for the Knight defense.
The team in black unofficially finished with 11 sacks, which in the spring means getting a hand on the quarterback. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Kalia Davis and freshman linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste each tallied two on the day.
“Overall, for the whole defense, spring was really good,” Evans said. “I was just impressed by how guys came in and were able to adapt with the culture and the playbook and just perform as well as they did. I’m just happy that (we) came out and handled the whole spring ball.”
Overall, for the whole team, spring was really good.
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