UCF plans Frosty reception for FIU
Team expects gains in coach’s second season
The 2015 UCF Knights were a broken team.
The group suffered through a disheartening winless campaign, with veteran coach George O’Leary retiring midway through the worst season in the program’s history. But salvation was on the way in the form of new coach Scott Frost.
Frost and his coaching staff would sift through the rubble from the previous season to begin building the foundation for the 2016 team. UCF bounced back to win six games last season.
“It’s a different coach and it was a different team, one that you could consider broken but coach Frost brought us back together,” Shaquem Griffin said of the transformation. “That’s a feeling any team would want. You want to be together. I’m so grateful for it and I’m blessed to have coach Frost and our teammates.”
As the Knights prepare to kick off Year 2 under Frost against FIU on Thursday night at Spectrum Stadium on national television, the coaches and players say this team is different from the one that took the field a year ago against South Carolina State.
They players remember the winless season, are grateful they clawed their way to six wins last year and are hungry for so much more this season.
“We know everything now, so now we don’t have to focus on learning a new thing,” sophomore tailback Jawon Hamilton said. “Now, we can just go out there and play.”
Redshirt junior Jordan Akins, who led all tight ends with 347 yards on 23 receptions last season, senses a big difference between the start of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“Last year, everyone was trying to get a feel for who could play and who couldn’t play,” he said. “This year, everyone’s in shape. Everyone’s ready to go. Everyone knows their assignments. Now it’s just about going out and executing.”
Frost said this year’s team is much farther along than last year’s was at this time.
“The players are more comfortable with schemes. I think they do a better job communicating, they understand what we want better. They were quicker to pick up the game plan this year because of their understanding of what we want to get done on both sides of the football,” he said.
Frost also believes this team has become a tightknit group, with much of the credit going to the players, who took it upon themselves to spend the offseason getting to know each other better.
“This year, we’re closer than we ever were,” Griffin said of the family atmosphere around the program. “We went bowling, we hung out, we watched movies, we did everything together.”
Hamilton believes this offseason helped deepen the bond among his teammates.
“We did a lot of things on our own and Coach Frost didn’t have to ask,” Hamilton said. “We would call each other up or get together as one big group and plan something out and go make it happen.”
That familiarity not only with the playbook, but with each other, has led to a smoother preseason camp.
“Guys are moving around. Guys are flying around and doing their jobs correctly and paying attention to the minor details and this time last year, we weren’t at that point. It’s a thing of beauty,” said quarterback McKenzie Milton, who will open the season as the Knights’ starter.
UCF senior defensive lineman Jamiyus Pittman said the changes are a relief.
“I feel like right now there’s no pressure,” Pittman said. “Everybody knows what they are doing and I feel like we’ve been executing throughout camp and I think it’s going to show on Thursday.”
UCF head coach Scott Frost says this year’s team is much farther along than last year’s was at this time.