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August 16, 2009UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe admits they made a few mistakes during Saturday's scrimmage, but overall he's been pleased with the team's progress now that they've passed the halfway point of preseason camp. Following Sunday's practice, Taaffe spoke about the state of the offense, including the competition at quarterback, running back and who has caught his eye so far in camp.
Click here for the audio of this interview with Coach Taaffe
Is the offense making good progress in your opinion?
"Yeah. Overall, I think you look at the big picture of things. One, we've thrown a lot at them installation wise and a lot of different concepts we'll use at some point during the season. Yeah, I think they've made real good progress. Yesterday was their first full, live scrimmage, 11-on-11. There were a little nerves, butterflies and we weren't quite sharp throwing the ball. Overall in camp, we've made a lot of progress.
"One thing I mentioned at the (pre-camp) press conference the other day is that I was interested in the retention. Retention has been good. We haven't had to go back and start over. So yeah, I'm happy with their work. They're really working hard. Their attitude is very good and they're eager to learn. There are always going to be mistakes, but we've just got to try to coach out the mistakes and keep the mistakes to a minimum. I think everything has been very positive to this point."
Coach O'Leary said yesterday about 60 percent of the playbook has been installed. Is that about where you hoped to be?
"We're probably going to slow it down a little bit until we get a lot more confidence in what we're doing at this point. I think we hit the wall a little bit. We didn't put in anything today. We just tried to correct the mistakes from yesterday and polished some of the things we already have in. We've got enough offense in right now. We'll continue to add some things, but probably at a slower pace than what we've done. We've got one more week before school starts, so we'd like to get more stuff in this next week. Once we get into classes we won't have as much of their time. Then we'll be getting ready to develop a game plan."
How is Rob Calabrese progressing at quarterback?
"I think good. Yesterday was obviously a little bit of a setback for him. He didn't throw the ball exceptionally well in the scrimmage. I think he's been good in the skellies and half line stuff we've done. In the 11-on-11 yesterday he didn't handle that as well. That's his first scrimmage. I'm more interested in now they've seen the film, they know where they are, so this week is critical that we make strides with the scrimmage next Saturday. I'll have a better feel after next week, but again in the overall picture of things he's had a lot of good practices throwing the ball well. He didn't throw it particularly well yesterday or as consistently as I would have liked to have seen, but that's why we practice. It's a first week's work. This week we need to step it up."
Now that you've had a chance to work with Brett Hodges, how is he developing?
"Good. He's very poised. He's really kind of unflappable. He doesn't get shaked and doesn't get excited. He's a little more mature from that standpoint right now. He's played four years of major college football. His mechanics are good. His throwing mechanics appear to be very accurate. He does not have a huge arm, but it's good enough as long as he's on time in his throws. I think he's making progress. He's certainly going to be right in the mix here over the next week. It's going to be big for all the quarterbacks."
What are your early thoughts about the true freshman quarterback, Nico Flores?
"He's a great athlete. He's got really special skills. He has a strong arm. He needs a lot of work on mechanics. He's just a really good athlete. He is instinctive. He throws the ball to the right spot. He probably doesn't know why, he sees the right guy open. He is instinctive. He is an exceptional athlete with a big arm. It's going to be a time process with him. I expect it's going to take him a while for him to develop and come along, but there's certainly talent there that we thought we saw in high school."
Has anybody caught your eye on offense in general?
"Brynn Harvey, I think he has a chance to be a very good back in this league. He's a really good player. I think Adam Nissley is coming along. He hurt his ankle a little bit and has been slowed by that, but moving him back to tight end, I hope he's going to give us the kind of blocking tight end that we need. Cliff McCray is coming along and getting back to his form in '07. Ian Bustillo has done a great job. I see a lot of progress in him and Jah Reid. Rocky Ross is having a solid camp.
"Of the young guys, there aren't too many right now. Quincy McDuffie obviously can run. He's an exciting player. Maybe we can develop a package for him as the season develops. Those guys are doing a good job. I'm really pleased with the offensive line development. I think they've progressed nicely. We have some bigger, stronger guys with McCray coming back and Abre Leggins. Both Jah and Nick Pieschel made nice strength gains in the summer. You can see it on the field. Those are all positive things."
Behind Brynn Harvey, what's the competition looking like at backup running back?
"I think Ronnie Weaver is really steady. He's very dependable, a solid back. Jonathan Davis is one of the young guys that's showing some things. We're going to take a good look at him this week because he's got legit speed. I think he ran a 10.4 in the 100 meters in high school track. We're going to try and accelerate his development a little bit. He does some things and has good speed acceleration."
What have you thought about the receivers?
"I think Rocky has had a great camp. I think Kamar Aiken has played well. I think Jamar Newsome has been solid. Those guys have come back, and Brian Watters, those four guys have all been solid. A.J. Guyton is coming back from injury. He's a little bit slower coming on, but he's made some plays. Those guys are the core of our receiving group and they're experienced. They've had a very solid camp to this point. Not nearly as many drops. Even from the spring I've seen improvement."
Coach O'Leary decided to continue with afternoon practices for this next week of camp. Has that schedule helped things?
"I think it's been a really good learning progression because we can teach in the morning on the blackboard, watch the tape, then go in the indoor and walk through it at a slow pace, a teaching pace. Then, come out and practice the same thing in the afternoon, so it's a very good teaching progression. I think it's really helped them keep up with the installation."
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