ORLANDO, Fla. – The UCFastival is quickly approaching, and with it an entirely new set of questions in the second year under Head Coach Scott Frost. Saturday’s exhibition under the lights at Spectrum Stadium will be just the first step in clarifying what to expect from the season-to-be.
In retrospect to last season, when the coaching staff was just getting to know their roster by name – let alone ability – the team has been able to focus more on growth than installment in round two.
“I thought we had a really good spring. We made a lot of improvements as a team, we’re a lot farther down the road than we were last year at this time,” said Coach Frost.
“We were able to focus more on details and execution and technique rather than just talking to them about the x’s and o’s. That’s going to give us a big chunk on next year.“
Watch for a glimpse of what Mackenzie has learned over the past few months, but don’t expect a world of difference or tangible results form a non-quarterback contact game. His offensive coordinator, Troy Walters, mentioned that going into this game it would be difficult to get a read on where the quarterback’s progression translates into live action results.
Quarterbacks are off limits in spring ball, and as such the whistle will not be a true indication of those Magic Milton Moments that sporadically dominated his freshman highlight reel. Even still by all accounts he has had a tremendous off-season growing into a smarter, more vocal and mechanically sound football player.
That being said, they are going to let him play a little bit. Option plays will be called, and Milton will be free to leave the pocket if the play is closing in around him; coaches don’t want to handicap their gunslinger.
“We don’t want to take his creativity away from him, we just want him to react. We’re not going to take the creativity away from him, and we’re going to allow him to be a dual-threat quarterback,” said Coach Walters.
He hasn’t been alone in standing out over these fourteen practices though, with a supporting cast that has taken their game to the next level as well. Players and coaches alike have raves about Tre’Quan Smith’s “All-American” spring, Jawon Hamilton put on 13 pounds to compliment his stellar rookie season, and home-run hitter Adrian Killins has been moved into a more versatile wide receiver position.
Killins move may turn out to be a huge under-the-radar transition. When teams began to key on his running style last season his production ran off a cliff, but moving him to a slot or screen-receiver will allow a less predictable way to get AK involved. It makes defenses account for him even when he isn’t there to make a play, and opens up the field for Smith.
Though last year’s offense proved to be equal parts maddingly inconsistent and explosive, most of the unit is returning this season and are expecting to take a huge leap forward. The defense that held an entire conference in check, however, will have some significant production gaps to fill in.
The entire secondary has left the building, leaving new starters at both safeties and corners. Frost raved on Wednesday about his safety play, heaping confidence all over the play of Tre Neal and Kyle Gibson; even continuing on to say that the entire position group is “shining”.
At corner? We’ve got a different set of circumstances.
“Corner I think is still a little bit of a question mark,” explained Frost. “We’re going to be young there, we’ve got some young players that have a ton of talent – they just need to expedite figuring it out and get up to speed as soon as they can.”
It will be an easy test in the first half when the first team squads up against their backups, but expect this to be a position of contention for a while to come and not just in the spring game.
There will be some questions answered and more likely vague indications of the full 2017 potential, but Saturday will be the first meaningful look at what a full season and spring can do for a Scott Frost program.