Monday represented UCF's seventh overall practice which is just about the halfway point. It was also UCF's first full scale scrimmage complete with officials.
Afterward, Scott Frost addressed the media.
"I was pleased," Frost said in regards to the scrimmage and overall progress. "We're a mile ahead of where we were last year. I'm seeing some good things. Some playmakers are really standing out. I think just overall our willingness to go out and compete and be tough has improved tremendously. It's fun to watch the guys enjoy the competition."
Typically the team will be on the field for two to two and a half hours, until around 11:15, but they ended at around 10:40 once they finished all the plays they intended for the scrimmage.
"It was a shorter practice than normal, but we got the work we needed to in," Frost said. "So we cut it off. Last year we felt like we needed more work so we kept going. This year I thought the guys responded well and came out ready to go and we got our work done quickly."
Where has Frost seen progress on the offensive side of the ball?
"First and foremost, we're coming off the ball and moving the ball in the run game better," he said. "It's against a good d-line. We've got some good guys in the front seven on D. Our offensive line has done a lot better job. Tight ends have done a lot better job, receivers, of blocking and moving people. If we can get the run game cranked up, everything else is going to come along with it on offense."
Today's line of questioning was o-line heavy. Frost was asked about specific areas of improvement at that position.
"I thought we ran the ball well in the first half of the season last year, then we didn't," he said. "We had one injury, but in general we need our backs to have seams to run through. We need more protection and more time so we can get whoever is playing quarterback more comfortable in the pocket. Definitely an area we need to improve this spring. I think more than anything it's a mentality that needed to improve. Our guys needed to continue playing with a desire to excel with no fear of failure, coming off the ball and being aggressive. If we can get that mentality right, we'll be a lot better team."
What's Frost's "ideal rotation" when it comes to the lines?
"I think we got to a point pretty quickly on the d-line where we trusted a lot of guys in the game," Frost said. "I think it made a big difference. We definitely had a first unit, but there were a lot of other guys that came into the game and played 10, 20, 30 reps a game. They played well in their reps and that helped the starters. We need to get there on the offensive line too. I'd love to see us play seven or eight guys during the course of the game on the o-line."
Jordan Johnson played offensive guard as a true freshman and has now slid over to first team center.
"Jordan probably is a center," Frost said. "We pressed him into service at guard last year. It's tough for an 18-year-old to come in and play well when you're playing against a bunch of 21, 22-year-olds that have had four years in a college football system and the weight room. I thought he had a really good freshman year. He's starting to be more aggressive. He's starting to come off the ball and want to whip people instead of just hoping that he just gets the job done. Getting that mentality shift is what we need to see from the whole o-line."
Johnson is also a bit taller than the player he's replacing at center - Jason Rae.
"I love J-Rae, but I think everybody has more height than J-Rae," Frost said. "Size matters up in the trenches. We want athletes first and foremost and we want tough guys first and foremost. But still, if you're trying to move a 6-4, 320-pound nose, size helps. Jordan not just a bigger kid, but he's really strong. He came into this program strong and has gotten a lot stronger. We see quite a few odd fronts during the course of the year and you have to be able to handle a nose one-on-one."
Is Frost seeing a more "confident" offensive line group?
"I see it coming along. There's definitely big improvements so far I'm seeing out of a lot of guys. But we're only part way there. If we can get those guys hyper aggressive in coming off the ball and thinking they're not just going to win, but they're going to whip somebody's tail on every play. Running backs are going to have a lot more fun carrying the ball."
Then Frost answered a general question about the "importance" of strong offensive line play.
"First and foremost, any good offense runs the ball well. I thought we did at times last year, but there were times we couldn't get anything going. We need to be able to establish the line of scrimmage. We were young on the o-line and not very deep and it showed in the second half of the season. Those guys have taken the challenge and ran with it this spring . We're a lot better on the o-line than we were, but it needs to keep improving."
Are any position groups standing out, either in today's scrimmage or through the course of spring?
"It's hard to tell until I watch the tape as far as position groups," Frost said. "There are some guys that stood out. We sort of limited some of it. Tre'Quan (Smith) had a great day. He's looking like a real guy out there. A special player. Trysten Hill made some plays. Obviously Shaquem Griffin stood out. Some of the other guys on the o and d-line in particular you probably need to watch the tape to see it. We've got some playmakers on this team and they did their job today."
Lastly, Frost addressed what he wants to accomplish the rest of the way. UCF will practice Wednesday and Saturday.
"Usually this is about the time of spring ball where the enthusiasm is gone, the excitement of being back out on the football field is gone and a lot of people put it into cruise control," he said. "We've gotten a lot better through the course of seven practices here. I don't want our guys shutting it down. Where we are now should be our new standard. Every day we should look to set up a new standard. If we can keep improving from where we are right now, we should be in a good spot."