Notes & Quotes: UCF Football (3/21)

The University of Central Florida held its first practice of the spring on Tuesday.


March 21, 2017 at Wayne Densch Sports Complex

Availability: HC Scott Frost, RB Adrian Killins, OL Wyatt Miller, QB McKenzie Milton

HC Scott Frost

The University of Central Florida held its first spring practice on Tuesday.

First day was good. You could See ’em shaking the rust off a little bit, but we’re so far ahead of where we were last year. There was a lot of teaching last year, trying to get people familiar with our scheme on both sides of the ball. And the guys kinda picked up where they left off, so we’re gonna be able to detail a lot of things a lot more this year.

When asked what he thought was a successful spring workout, Frost said it was about improvement.

We want to make improvement. First and foremost, I think we need to be more aggressive. I want us to run and hit better on both sides of the ball. I want our technique to be better on both sides of the ball. Particularly on offense last year, we were in a hurry to get everything installed, and, when you’re in that big a hurry to get it installed, sometimes you can skip over some details. So, we want to make sure we’re fine [with] what we’re doing this spring.

When asked if his players were where he thought they’d be, Frost said his team looked like they knew what they were doing.

They’re in good shape. They’re strong. Liked how they ran around. They looked like they knew what they were doing this year instead of having to be herded to every drill. So that made practice go a lot smoother. It’s gonna be a different team. And this team needs to take on an identity just like last year’s team did. They need to come together as a unit, and spring ball’s a big step toward getting there.

Come fall, Milton will enter his true-sophomore season.

Well, quarterback’s the one position where you have to be a leader. There’s not really any choice. So, that’s tough for an 18-year-old to do as a freshman. But he’s gonna be in that role this spring, and we need him to take charge of the offense and get everybody else lined up and going.

Frost is looking to use Killins in more ways.

We want to find more ways to use A.K. So, the more he knows of our offense, the more places we can line him up, the more we can keep him on the field. And we’re gonna try to get him familiar with some other things this spring.

For Frost, having his team know all the technical ideas allows his staff to focus on physical improvement.

Last year, we were trying to have all the guys see all the signals, know what the signals were, know what the formations were, understand what the play concepts were. Now, for the most part, the guys know that stuff. So we can really dial into their footwork, their technique, their alignment. A lot of little details that were a little rough last year that we can hopefully smooth some of those edges.

With only Milton and redshirt senior Pete DiNovo on campus during the spring, Frost said walk-ons will have an opportunity for plenty of reps.

Well, a lot of guys are gonna get reps in spring. There’re several positions where we have depth issues as we continue to try to rebuild this roster and get it where a UCF team should be. Some positions that were strengths last year, we had a lot of guys graduate, and those are some of our thin positions this year. Some that were weak last year looked really good in Day 1. Quarterback’s one where we don’t have a lot of guys on campus right now, so there’s a couple walk-on guys that are gonna get a lot of reps and get their opportunity, and then we’ll get two new scholarship in the fall.

Like last season, Frost isn’t talking about goals in terms of number of games won.

No. We’ll never talk about how many games we want to win. We want every game to be important. Right now, we’re not even thinking about that. I want our guys to get as much out of spring ball as they possibly can, and their sites ought to be set on the next practice, not the games down the road.

For Frost, the offensive line is a primary focus heading into the 2017 season.

Well, offensive line’s one of the areas we really need to improve. I thought, at times, we played well last year, particularly early. Losing Tyler Hudanick certainly didn’t help. Getting Wyatt hurt at the end of the year didn’t help. We had to play a lot of young guys on that line. This spring is big for our offensive line. We need a lot of guys to step up, be more aggressive, come off the ball better, strike on the move and create some gaps for us. A lot of things are gonna run smoother. It’s gonna be a lot easier on our skill positions, in particular our quarterback, if we can be more solid up front.

When asked about Hudanick’s status, Frost was brief.

Tyler’s getting better every day.

Cornerback Shaquill Griffin will be the highlight of UCF’s Pro Day on Wednesday.

Once the guys graduate, we don’t have a lot to do with them anymore, the way it works. Those guys go off to trainers, and their agents pay people money to go get ’em in shape. I think they’re in pretty good shape when they were here. But we have several guys that I think have an opportunity to play after college. Shaquill, obviously, being the first one. Thought he had a great workout up there. And we’ve gotten a lot of calls since the combine when he ran that 40 to ask about him. So I have high hopes about him.

On Monday, the UCF men’s basketball team defeated the No. 1-seeded Illinois State University 63-62 to advance to the quarterfinals in the National Invitation Tournament.

So excited for Johnny [Dawkins]. There’s a bunch of sports and new coaches around here, and they’re all great people, with baseball and tennis and women’s basketball, men’s basketball. I think Danny’s [White] done an unbelievable job of hiring coaches in all those sports. And not just good coaches but good people. We have a strong bond with all those coaches, and I was watching the game on my couch last night and excited for Johnny and the guys. So hopefully they can keep it going.

When asked if C.J. Jones and Taj McGowan would be more versatile, Frost said they’re solely running backs.

No, I think C.J. and Taj are natural running backs. We go back and watch the cut-ups of last year. Taj McGowan did really good things when he had the opportunity. With Dontravious [Wilson] being gone, he’s gonna get plenty of looks this spring and look forward to seeing him continue to improve.

Redshirt junior inside linebacker Chequan Burkett is no longer on the roster. Frost said it was because of family reasons.

Chequan was one of my favorite guys last year. Loved him having him on the team. He was an important part of our team. He has a young child and another one on the way, and his wife is working. And I think he made a decision for his family to go be with them. He’ll always be a part of this family, and we’re sorry to lose him, but we’re happy, and we certainly understand his decision.

Frost was pleased with the flow of practice compared to last year’s first day of spring football.

We haven’t even had a chance to watch the tape yet. I was just pleased with the flow of practice, like I said, compared to 365 days ago. It just went a lot cleaner. And when practice is clean, then we can focus on fixing the little details and the mistakes that are made on the field.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Green, running back Otis Anderson and cornerback Antwan Collier are among the early enrollees for the Knights.

We got three freshmen. I thought they looked athletic. Definitely looked like the guys that we recruited, so I have really high hopes for ’em. Sometimes, when you throw ’em to the deep water, they’re gonna tread water, sink or swim, and they probably did a little of all three of those today.

Frost complimented the defense’s aggressiveness from last season. He said the offense needs to play with the “more edge.”

I think our defense was really aggressive last year. I think they played with an edge about ’em. Our offense needs more edge. That starts up front with our offensive line. The best teams I’ve ever been a part of had not just good offensive lines but culture-setting offensive linemen that really established the toughness on the whole team. We were young on the O-line, but I expect our leaders on that unit to really step up and get that done for us.

RB Adrian Killins

When asked about the first spring practice, Killins said it went well, despite the early-morning start.

First practice went well. Even though it was an early-morning practice, it gets your blood flowing and gets the energy throughout the guys. Been itching for spring. Today was great. We executed well on both sides of the ball, special teams as well. Looking forward to a great spring. It’s my first spring, so I’m just grabbing it all in and taking it day by day.

Killins is focused on learning more positions this spring.

Individually, I just want to get better day by day and learn each position on the field as I can so I can be on the field even more. Running back, slot and different positions on the field, so I’ll go from there.

When asked about his comfort level entering this spring, Killins said he’s more confident than before.

I’m very confident. In football, you can’t have no fear, and you can’t doubt yourself or anything. You just have to play balls to the wall on all of phases of the football field. That guy puts on his pads just like you do, and playing earlier as a freshman is a big, big thing because it gets the jitters out your freshman year, and it gets you going.

When asked if it was possible for him to be faster, Killins said it is even though he’s not doing track anymore.

It is possible. Each year, I believe I get faster. Even though I’m not doing track, I do things on the side to make sure my speed is up to par, and I believe you can get faster every year.

When asked about the tempo in Tuesday’s practice, Killins said he wasn’t surprised by anything.

I wasn’t surprised by anything. The tempo of practice, they—we slowed it down a little bit, and then we picked it back up. By us doing that, each person can get reps, and we can just be mentally sound, and we can go from there.

During the offseason, Killins spent time simply training.

My offseason, I just perfected my craft on like my footwork and my hands so that when the regular season comes, I’ll be crisp.

Killins said the whole team has gotten stronger and will continue to get stronger.

As a team, you have to get stronger, so, individually, you have to push yourself even more with your brother to your right and your brother to your left. Each year, you wanna make sure you gradually get stronger and get bigger and get faster.

When asked about Frost’s emphases during practice on Tuesday, Killins said it was about going full speed.

Coach Frost’s emphasis today was to be sound on offense and defense and special teams and know what you’re doing. And just do everything at full speed, technique. And have a great attitude and just have fun while you’re on the field.

When asked about how the first day of spring compared to practices last season, Killins said everyone know what they were doing.

Everyone actually knew what they were doing. No one was doubting [themselves]. Everything was full speed. And we had a lot of fun with the music and just being back out on the field with our brothers and just catching a football, running and talking to everyone. It was great.

Killins said the early enrollees impressed on their first day.

I think a lot of people is gonna surprise a lot of people. The early enrollees—Emmanuel Greene and Otis Anderson—they’re getting in there early, so they’ll know the plays when fall camp comes and when the regular season comes, they’ll be full speed, and it’ll be some exciting plays in Bright House Networks Stadium and away games as well.

OL Wyatt Miller

When asked about the first day of spring practice, Miller said the weather was nice.

It was good. It was cool. It wasn’t as hot as I was expecting it to be, which was good. And it was pretty long. And it went pretty smooth. So, getting out there early this morning was kinda shaky at first, but it was good to get out there and kinda get things going early.

Miller said he and the rest of the offensive line have made an effort to spend time together outside of football.

We’ve worked on hanging out outside of this place. As a team, you’re always together, lifting weights and doing stuff and things that we have to do. But once you get together outside of this, I think it brings you closer as a group and as a unit just to be together, whatever you’re doing. So we just tried to be together as much as we could.

Over the offseason, we would go play putt-putt, or we would go play bowling or whatever. Some different stuff to just get us together. We’d have cook-outs. Just something to get together. A lot of food, obviously, at the cook-outs. It took a lot to feed all of us.

Chester Brown was our cook last year, so, maybe, I might step up on the grill this year. I don’t know. I don’t want to disappoint, though. That’s the only thing.

When asked about the biggest challenge last season, Miller said it was having guys step into positions they weren’t necessarily completely familiar with.

It was just, like you said, every guy playing all those reps and nobody getting kinda to roll or getting some time off or whatever, but that’s something that we have to get used to, be willing to play and be ready to play all those reps ‘cus we need to ‘cus that’s what it takes to win.

For Miller, this first day of spring doesn’t even compare to last season’s.

Last year’s spring practice, I can’t even compare it to this year’s. We were moving smooth, and everybody knew the offense this year. Last year, it was kind of getting to know where we’re doing and getting lined up in the formations and what’s going on. And this year, it’s kinda rolling. We kinda can jump-start into it and get into some deeper things in the offense.

Miller said becoming more of a vocal leader is a big focus for him.

That was a big focus for me to kinda step up and take that role. We need that on offense, like Coach Frost said. We need more leaders to step up, and so I’ve been trying to do that. Kinda be more of a vocal guy and just take that role, and it’s tough, but we have to do it. If we want to be better as an offense or as a team, we have to have more leaders. So we have a lot of guys that are stepping up.

Miller has seen both Milton and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith become more vocal.

I’ve seen McKenzie Milton this offseason step up and start saying more and being more of a vocal guy, and we need that out of our quarterback. We needed a guy that’s gonna step up and say something that somebody’s doing wrong or just kinda step up. And also Tre’Quan Smith has been a little more vocal than he usually is. Tre’Quan’s always led by example, but he’s been more vocal this offseason than he has been. And I think that’s great. We need that out of him.

QB McKenzie Milton

Milton is becoming more familiar with the offense, helping guys line up.

I guess a little more, like, into the system now, I guess, showing, like, some of the new kids that are out here, some of the redshirts, kinda like helping them around, getting them lined up and stuff like that. Just, I guess, being more so like a teacher than a learner at this point.

Milton gained about 10 pounds since last season. Last season, he was listed at 170 pounds.

I had to let my hair go. It’s started getting a little hot last week, but a cold front came in. So I had to fit my helmet too. I wear a size medium, so I got a small head, so I had to cut my hair. I had to let the locks go.

I put on about I’d say 10 pounds from last season. So, I mean, our coaching staff, our strength coaches did a pretty good job of getting us right obviously up until spring ball, and now we got about a month of football, and it’s gonna be an exciting time.

Milton said he feels “a lot more comfortable” with a more-simplified offense.

I feel a lot more comfortable with the way that we’re trying to get the offense going. We kinda simplified some of our terminology to make us—I think we’ll move a little faster going into the spring, and I think our tempo’s gonna look a lot better, so we’ll get that going.

Milton has seen improvement in the offensive line.

I mean, our offensive line, I think they’re taking great strides, especially in this offseason with our coaching staff. I mean, our left tackle, Aaron Evans—I would say he put on about 30 pounds. He’s looking huge. They’re squatting heavy, they’re benching heavy. Just gotta translate to the football field now, and we’re gonna try and get after it this spring.

As a quarterback, Milton sees his responsibility as a leader almost as an inherent one.

I mean, I feel, as a quarterback, you have to take that role no matter where you’re at. A quarterback has to step up and lead their guys. I gotta get on my guys if they’re not doing the right thing, if they’re lined up right, so, I mean, I don’t know, I guess so, yeah.

I felt like Justin [Holman] and—they did a good job of helping me out, helping me, like, learn and stuff. But, yeah, definitely with a year of just learning, I just learned a lot in the offseason. We’ll have the summer, we’ll have the spring to learn even more, and I think if we keep progressing like that, if we keep progressing day by day, I think we’ll be solid.

Being so far from his native Hawaii, Milton feels like he’s adjusted to Florida quickly. That has a lot to do with the coaches, according to Milton.

I mean, I think our coaches do a good job of kinda making us feel like home. I mean, the weather’s similar to back home, so it’s not too bad. I don’t like the cold too much. Our coaches do a good job of making it feel like home. Our coaches are real supportive, and the teammates—it’s not too bad. I mean, I feel like I got adjusted pretty quick. And I feel like it’s just about just getting on our Ps and Qs and just tightening up all the little—just paying attention to details, I think.

Milton also thinks Killins can get faster.

If he keeps lifting heavy, he keeps getting stronger, so we’ll see. I think he can get even faster. I mean, he was a freshman last year, so there’s always room for improvement.

Smith was among some of the players that surprised Milton in Tuesday’s practice.

I mean, obviously Tre’Quan was doing his thing out there. Chris Johnson, our punt returner—he plays corner too—he was making some plays out there, but he’s been doing that. Chris has always been an even-keel guy, and he’s got ice in his veins. So, Chris Johnson, I would say, he’s a guy. Nate Evans, inside linebacker, he’s gonna be a sophomore. He played a little last year. He looked good on the defensive side of the ball. Some of our freshman looked pretty good. Emmanuel Greene, I think he’s gonna step up. I think we have a lot of redshirts that are gonna step up, to be honest. I think some young guys are gonna step up and open some eyes this spring. And then I think in the fall, it’ll reflect too.

When asked if there was a fraternal bond between himself and the other members of his class, Milton said that was natural but also credited the upperclassmen for helping the bond.

Obviously, with the freshmen, those are like the guys you come in with, and you get, like, acquainted with in the summer, but I think the older guys have helped us a lot, too, with just learning the plays, taking us under their wings. I mean, it’s not easy transitioning from, like, new coaches, and i would say the older guys have, like, really embraced it, you know what I’m saying? I feel good about, like, how our team is, like, where we’re at.

Milton said the top play at practice on Tuesday was Smith making a one-handed catch over Johnson.

Tre’Quan made a one-handed grab today. It was a fade ball. I would say Chris Johnson and Tre’Quan were like doing the best in one-on-ones, and Tre’Quan made a nice one-handed grab over Chris. And he was on his hip. Tre’Quan just made a nice play. It was pretty sweet.

Milton sees his coaching staff as one of the best in the conference, if not the country.

Even for myself, I was still learning throughout the summer, learning early, and I’m still learning. We got a lot of smart coaches. I think we have probably one of the best coaching staffs in the country and definitely in our conference. And if we just pick their brains, and we stay in our playbooks, and we do what they want us to do, I think—I mean, they’re not gonna steer us wrong. We just gotta trust our coaches, trust each other, and we’ll be fine.

For Milton, the biggest lesson he learned from last season is to play within the system.

Just probably play within myself, play within the system. Don’t try to do too much. Just take what the defense gives you, and I don’t really know. I don’t know. I feel like I gotta improve every day, so that’s what I’m gonna try and do.