ORLANDO, Fla. — The 2015 Spring Game did not carry with it the glamour of a totally wide-open quarterback competition, but did begin to answer questions about a team dealing with a tremendous amount of turnover from last season.
UCF’s first team players handedly took control of the exhibition and won the game by a final score of 20-6.
Justin Holman was given the reins to the first team with the expectation that this will continue to be his team moving forward and compiled 166 yards and two touchdowns while completing 14 of his 25 passes.
“I thought he probably was the most improved player in the whole spring,” said Head Coach O’Leary before continuing to assess that he believed it was an off day for Holman.
“I thought today he went back to errant throws, not planting his feet correctly.”
That being said O’Leary confidently referred to Holman as the best quarterback currently on the roster.
Losing their top four pass-catchers from a year ago means that instead of relying on the strength and experience of ‘Wide-Receiver U’, the passing game will fall on the shoulders of an extremely inexperienced receiving corps – Jordan Akins is the only returning receiver who has recorded more than 10 catches.
Even still the group shows promise, and 0ver the course of the spring Akins and Tre’Quan Smith have “separated themselves from the rest of the crowd out there,” according to O’Leary.
Akins hauled in six catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, clearly the most impressive physical receiver in the group, and Smith displayed game-changing speed with two catches for 56 yards.
Michael Colubiale made a few decent catches and actually managed to make an impression after Taylor Oldham, who was considered the No. 3 receiver in the group, was carted off the field. Colubiale was all over the field in the first half and recorded five catches for 61 yards.
The defensive line dominated on all fronts as both the first and second team were able to consistently wreak havoc behind the line.
William Stanback was held out of the game with a meniscus injury but still dressed in full pads. In his absence Dontravious Wilson led the pack with 14 carries for 53 yards.
O’Leary has made it clear that the receiving and defensive back positions will have the potential to field a substantial amount of playing time from freshman. Chris Williams should top that list for the defensive backs.
“The two freshman corners – Chris Williams and Kyle Gibson – I thought showed up. I like what they’re doing,” said O’Leary.
Williams had a 52 yard interception return to set up the game’s first touchdown, had ten tackles and a pass defended; Gibson had a tackle and broke up a pass of his own.
There is still months of growth left for the evolving 2015 Knights, but the identity of a team under an almost complete overhaul is starting to emerge from the unknown.