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UCF kickers seek cure for wobbly days

By IZZY GOULD
Published September 1, 2006


UCF coach George O'Leary has typical concerns entering Saturday's game against Villanova, especially if the outcome depends on the Golden Knights attempting a late field goal.

Two juniors have battled to replace Matt Prater and John Brown.

Their practice efforts have sent O'Leary in search of water and aspirin more than once. Massachusetts transfer Michael Torres appears to be the frontrunner, followed by Tulane transfer Nick Beucher, a Howey-in-the-Hills native who played at Orlando Lake Highland Prep. Both transfers sat out last season as required by the NCAA.

Leg strength isn't the problem. It's their accuracy and the agony of watching midrange field goals sail wide.

Not good considering the Knights were 3-1 in games last season decided by three points or fewer.

"Some days they're very consistent, other days they're not," O'Leary said. "You can't have that in the kicking game."

O'Leary said Torres is probably more consistent. The Bronx, N.Y., native was 11-for-20 in two seasons at UMass with a career-long 46-yarder.

Beucher was 4-for-9 in his one season with the Green Wave with his longest kick 53 yards.

"Michael's probably kicked the ball more consistently as far as on the pipes," O'Leary said. "That's what I'm looking at. I think they both have strong enough legs. They just have to be more consistent in the middle-range field goals. That's what we've been working on."

HOME IS GOOD: The Knights played seven of 11 games on the road in 2005 and still managed to win a Conference USA division title.

Hostile crowds are one reason O'Leary is happy to have seven home games in 2006.

"After we had our perfect season I think it was probably good we were home four and away seven," O'Leary said referring to 0-11 in 2004 as "perfect." "I do think having seven home games is big because it's the surroundings. Everything you do in a football program's based on time management.

"When you have to change the geography, the locale, I think things change. The more you can keep things the same for young kids and coaches, the more comfortable they feel about things."

REPLAY, BAD? The NCAA's decision to implement a uniform instant-replay system didn't irk O'Leary as much as the system it chose.

"I thought Conference USA had the best method last year," O'Leary said. "I'm annoyed that we gave it up so easily to conform to everybody else."

O'Leary was satisfied with C-USA's similarities to the NFL in terms of an official in the press box notifying an on-field official of a reviewable play.

The official would then look at a monitor on the sideline, review the play and make the final call.

"I think that's the way to go myself, because I think the referee's in charge of the game and that's his responsibility, not the guy up in the box," O'Leary said. "Now we went the other way so there's more uniformity around the country. ... The way we had was the best way. It kept the guy who was running the game in charge, which I think is the most important thing in the game."

TIME TO PLAN: Florida A&M second-year coach Rubin Carter has had plenty of time to prepare for Saturday's rematch against Delaware State. That wasn't the case last season. Carter was thrown into his first game after he was hired just weeks before Game 1. The Rattlers fell 21-17.

"We got in as much as we could," Carter said. "There was no film exchange, and we had no idea what Delaware State would run offensively or defensively."

Now, even with a summer to prepare, the feeling hasn't changed all that much entering the game in Detroit.

"I don't feel comfortable at all to be honest," Carter said. "We lost so many seniors, and we're trying to replace people on both sides of the ball."

LONG ROAD AHEAD: Florida Atlantic begins the first of five consecutive road games Saturday against No. 18 Clemson. The Owls then travel to Kansas State (Sept. 9), Oklahoma State (Sept. 16), South Carolina (Sept. 23) and Louisiana-Monroe (Sept. 30).